Thursday, August 12, 2010

The STEM Program and Secular Homeschooling

My friends that have children in the public middle schools are always talking about the STEM program in which their children will be able to participate once in high school. They make it sound like it's the best thing since sliced bread. Maybe it's because I can't eat bread, but I was doubtful from the get-go. The schools around here do not offer much by way of honor classes or AP courses. They do not offer much by way of matriculation rates either, by the way, so I suppose that for college-bound kids in a rural area the STEM program is probably the best option. I knew that STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. I didn't quite get what the difference was between STEM and taking classes in science, technology, engineering and math.  So I read up on it. Actually, I read quite a bit - from documents in my public school system to reviews and reports by the federal government. This is what I've taken away from all the research...

  • STEM means science and math every year in high school. Okay... shouldn't that be what is happening anyway?  Regardless - as I know that we will do science and math every year, I can see that we are on our way to being homeschool STEMers. 
  • STEM claims to have a more personalized education. One Seattle school claims that by limiting participants to 250 students they can facilitate this. Huh. I guess by limiting participants in my homeschool to 4 students, I'm complying with STEM. 
  • STEM students will still take courses in language and the arts. Uh huh. Yup - we'll be doing that, too. Oh - and they make sure to point out that there will be classes "for every child" - meaning they'll have remedial through advanced. Yes, we cater to the individual student here as well.
  • STEM students will have the opportunity to take lab and project based classes. Yes, yes - here, too. Come on, throw something big my way!
  • In my county, the schools can't handle these lab and project based classes, so the kids are sent to the community college to take science with a lab, math with a lab, etc. NO WAY!! Whenever people ask me how I'll handle high school science, I always say that I'm sure we'd be just fine doing it at home, but that in my opinion the kids will probably benefit from taking the classes at our local community college. I was STEM and I didn't even know it!!
  • And lastly, and this one really is my favorite, STEM students will be taught in an Alternative Learning Environment. Check, check, check! We are definitely an ALE (to use the special and nifty educational jargon). 
Okay, I should probably apologize for the heavy sarcasm, but seriously - this STEM isn't all that impressive. It appears to be basic educational preparation for college (or life after high school if the student chooses not to go to college). It's actually less than what I will expect my kids to do in high school. I'm sure if my child were in public school I would want her to participate, but I'm also fairly certain I wouldn't talk about it as if it were the bee's knees. This sound very similar to the magnet school program where I grew up (back in the day) and to my high school experience (college prep school). In fact, it sounds exactly the same. I think they just gave it a new name. 
The good news is, when I have to endure listening to parents go on and on about the STEM program (which, really, in my county is nothing like the STEM programs in more urban locations) I can join in the conversation - I can say that we, too, will be part of the STEM program. I'll call it the HS-STEMer Program. Really confuse 'em. ;) And I will thank my lucky stars that as a homeschool parent, I didn't waste millions of dollars and hundreds of hours to come up with all of the jargon for it. The government did that for me.


  1. Public school advocates are always looking for ways to make the government system of schooling look effective or that it's the best and only option for students.

    And they also create "programs" supposedly designed to prepare high school students for college. Studies have proven that homeschool students are actually better prepared for college over those students in government schools.

    I totally agree. If you're a homeschool parent and you'd like to see how well prepared your student is to either earn dual credit or go into college you might want to take this quick survey, it's excellent --

  2. Matthew - thank you so much for the link - what a great resource. And thank you for your comment!

  3. It's like how surveys often find that people think "the schools" are horrible, but that "their school" is great. Really? I mean, it does look like a decent program, but nothing special or it shouldn't be anyway. Yet these days, half-decent passes for amazing by comparison.

  4. Hi there,

    I'm passionate about STEM for homeschoolers and am sorry that the offerings in your area are stinky. It sounds like you are doing much to bridge the gap. I teach STEM at a homeschool co-op and blog about it. I think it needs to be described and oriented differently for homeschoolers. I'd love for you to let me know what you think.