I’ve been mulling over the issues raised in the comments section of my recent post on homeschooling. I even typed a couple pages of incoherent notes in an attempt to flush out the key points of the conversation. Finally, I’ve settled on a few main thoughts that I think are relevant and worthy of sharing, but there are so many more. For now, anyway, these are what you’ll get.
Best I can figure, I think people are mostly concerned that homeschooled children will be behind the schooled kids. People worry that homeschooled kids won’t learn things in time (or not at all) and that when they do leave home and try to make a go of it in the big bad real world, they will fail in a big bad way. We’ve all heard the horror stories of inept parents who took their kids out of school under the pretext of homeschooling them and then let them run wild with nary a care to their physical well-being, let alone their academic success. Or, more commonly, we hear about the homeschooled kids who get to college and totally freak out, unable to handle the stress of term papers and dorm life. And it’s true; those things happen. They also happen with schooled kids.
More often then not, though, homeschooled kids do amazingly well, testing higher academically then both their public and privately educated peers. There are screw-ups and success stories on both sides of the fence, but, sadly enough, research shows that there are more screw-ups on the school-side of the fence. Our public school system is not doing so hotsy-totsy.
I didn’t decide to homeschool my children because of flaws in the public school system, but considering that our country’s students’ test scores are substantially lower (in this study, off-the-charts lower) than other country’s, it intrigues me that so many people clutch the measuring stick provided by our mediocre school system as a means of holding homeschoolers accountable. There’s a boatload of irony there.
If we can, just for a minute, step away from comparing ourselves to the school system—away from fact regurgitation, away from the standard time table for learning set by some unknown (and unknowing) being, away from the focus on one or two types of intelligence instead of the multiple intelligences that we, the human race, have been gifted with—we can start to figure out what it is that we really want for our children.
Here’s what I want. I want my children to know how to learn. I want them to be able to go after what they want and to be able to master whatever skills they need in order to accomplish their goals. Beyond that, I want them to enjoy life. I want them to feel comfortable in their own skin and to be confident enough that they can gracefully embrace the differences of others.
That sounds pretty lofty, no? Do you want more? Alrighty then—here you go: I want my children to know how to listen, to really listen. I’m not talking about do-what-I-say-right-this-very-minute listening, though that is quite nice and has its place—I’m talking about learning to listen for the rumblings below the surface, to listen for understanding, to listen with compassion and love, to listen to the spark of goodness in each person that, when understood, can then be appreciated and bring us closer together. Now that’s lofty!
How can we expect our children to listen to other people, to accept their differences and idiosyncrasies, if we have not listened to their—our own children’s—individual needs, instead choosing to cast our children into a societal mold that fits only a small fraction of the population? When we ignore our children’s different learning styles and emotional and physical needs, we are teaching them that differences aren’t acceptable. Without meaning to, we are teaching them to discriminate, judge, and be close-minded.
Oh my. That was quite a little speech. I’m suddenly exhausted.
But wait, I’m feeling some mental gurglings. Oh no! There’s more! Hold onto your seats!
Ponder these random points:
*Everyone’s goal in life is to find pleasure, so says my mom. And she’s right! If learning doesn’t have an element of pleasure (or joy), we shut down.
*You know how some parents are obsessed with making sure their children know their colors as early as possible? Well, guess what! Kids will learn their colors at some point and if they don’t, then they won’t, not for lack of teaching, but because they are color blind. If parents want to spend oodles of time drilling pink, green and purple into their children’s bald noggins, then more power to them—as long as both parties are having fun. If learning is a means by which you connect and bond with your child, then play teacher all you want. If you don’t like those games, then give them up—go read books, pick potato bugs, or make brownies together. Your child will learn the (basics: their colors and the three Rs) information anyway. Which leads me to the next point…
*We are not as important as we think we are. Yeah, yeah, parents are extremely important in many, many (many, many, many, many) ways, but really, our kids are capable of doing more then we think. They don’t need us to point out every birdie that flies by or to structure every minute of their day with educational experiences. They are quite capable of figuring out that stuff on their own, and a little boredom (or a lot) is a crucial part of the creative process.
*On the whole spelling issue: The best teacher of spelling is good literature, and a dictionary or spell check. If a certain teaching method works, then go ahead and use it, but by far and away, a love of words will be the best teacher and that is only acquired by firsthand enjoyment. So read, read, read and write, write, write. (And remember, I am a by-produce of private and public education, with three years of homeschooling thrown in, and somehow, even though I’m weak in spelling, I still ended up receiving the English award at my highschool graduation—a Webster’s Dictionary that sits on the shelf directly above my computer!) Spelling is not an indicator of smarts or ability or anything, really. And I think the Bard would agree with me.
*Conformity does not equal getting along. Getting along is much more complicated (and rewarding) than being in the know about the latest video game or fashion styles.
*Remember, I’m still in the early years of growing up my kids. As my children become more advanced, more will be required by way of in-depth study. I’m not going to blithely say, “The US Constitution? Wha-a-at? You want to know about that old thing? Huh. You know where the library is—go figure it out yourself.” But then again, I might. I think I can go either way on this one, and I’ll probably end up doing a bit of both (as I am already). I’ll tell them to go figure out what it is they want to know if they really want to know it, and I’ll introduce them to, and make them learn, some of the less interesting things just because I think they hold merit. And when it comes time for the SATs (if they’re not already in school by then), they’ll put in some good hours of study, just like their peers in the public school system. And like any parent, I’ll cross my fingers and hope they do well.
So there you have it. Did my ramblings serve to answer your question and ease your minds, or did they only bring more bothersome questions bubbling to the surface?
Whatever you do, don’t keep your questions and concerns quiet because, like lies and dirty socks that are kept buried down deep away from light and fresh air, they will fester. And festering questions give off a killer stink. I know this for a fact.