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Re: [school-discuss] Homeschooling & FLOSS

On Mon, 17 Mar 2008, Joel Kahn wrote:
{this is more rambling and negative than I would like.  Sorry)

As some background:  I am the father of 5 chilren, whom my wife and I
mostly home schooled through high school graduation.  I say mostly
because we sampled both public and private schools along the way, and
the 2 youngest finished up with the OHDELA charter school here in Ohio.
In Ohio, the charter schools basically get the $$ per student that is
allocated by the state, and try to do a better job with it than the
brick and mortar government schools.  They have had mixed success.  Our
youngest finished up almost 2 years ago, so my info is a bit dated.  In
the late 90's, my wife and I were the leaders of a large (150+ family)
Christian home school support group, and in the early 00's my wife helped
found and lead a smaller 'eclectic' group in central Ohio.

I have used Open Source/Linux since 1995, and am currently the technical
lead for the global Linux engineering group of a large (profitable) US bank
that was in the news over the weekend.  (We were doing the buying).

It seems to me that we are at a good point to
start asking some Bigger Picture questions:

How broad is the involvement of homeschooling
families/groups with FLOSS, and vice versa?

Not much that I have seen though it seems like a natural fit.

Are there any especially noteworthy patterns to
FLOSS usage by homeschooling families/groups?

Nope.  Probably because most of it is Mom driven.  Alot of families
concentrate on book based, at least when we were doing.  They are
shareable and portable and non breakable.  I used thin clients with Lynx
and Pine, but we were definitely the odd balls.

Are there any particular kinds of software
that still need to be written to help with the
special needs of homeschooling families/groups?

I think everything I would have ever wanted is available.  Content would
still be the big issue.  And when you get into home schoolers, there are
almost as many niches as there are families, so the content generation
is really diluted.  Lots of materials from small publishing houses,
privately held concerns or small businesses.  Once a family gets started
on a method, most don't want to change and stick to it with religious
ferver. Think vi vs emacs as to style, topics, lesson plans, etc. The extremes range from the eclectic (what do you want to learn today?) to the classic (teach them Latin and Greek as young as possible, and go from there). From the 'crunchy moms', to the 'Jesus spoke in King James English' outlooks. The only really widely adopted 'curricula' are the ones from
various Christian groups (Abekka, Bob Jones, etc).

Should a dedicated homeschooling section be set
up on the SchoolForge web site?

I doubt that it could get the critical mass necessary.  And the tools
are really the same regardless (roster, group learning, collaboration,
grade book).

And here's a query that may not be quite so
Big Picture--in fact, this is my own personal
Ulterior Motive question:

Would any collection of homeschooling groups be
willing and able to pool together some money and
hire a telecommuting geek to help out with
tech support, special projects, and the like?

The best place to start would be state organizations.  The Christian Home
Educators of Ohio have a week long yearly convention
(http://www.cheohome.org/) .  I'm sure some of the other large groups do
as well.

As a starting point, the group we led had 150-200 families, each
with 1-6 school aged kids in a rural county.  There were at least 6
other groups of at least 50 families in the county, though some of them
were very 'closed' (ie, you had to be Baptist, or NOT Baptist, etc).
Some quick googling will find you lots of lists.  Biggest problem is
lots of 'yes, we would like that' and not very much follow through.

I have no idea if these groups have gotten bigger or smaller in the last
decade (can't imagine they've gotten smaller).

The Charter schools (at least in Ohio) would seem to be an obvious fit
(having to do more with less), but they do not have the time/money to
develop content, so they have to be able to buy it.  OHDELA's support
infrastructure (chat, mail, etc) was a horrible kludge of MS based asp
apps, so it would be an obvious target for replacement with any of the
opensource collab tools.

Heck--it never hurts to ask. :-)


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Jim Wildman, CISSP, RHCE       jim@xxxxxxxxxxxxx http://www.rossberry.com
"Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best
state, is a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one."
Thomas Paine