Ha. The age old question – or….you know, the question I get whenever I see someone who I know, a little or a lot, who doesn’t quite…get…homeschooling or how it’s done or why we do it or how I can possibly MANAGE since I have more than 1.5 children. And my answer is generally, “…….um, well….we, you know, have a math program we do and uh, we read a lot….and work on writing and stuff. Our History is audio mostly and the kids like that….”
So a totally intelligent answer that inspires all around me to pull their kids out of school and start them on the homeschool path to success.
I’m not an idiot – I swear. And I am totally capable of teaching my children. Why, just this weekend Jack learned all about exponents and practiced his multiplication facts by doing longhand problems like 6 to the 8th power (no, I don’t know how to make the little tiny number to denote exponents. sorry.). And Rebecca, all on her own, designed and created a functioning backpack out of duct tape that includes a special carrier for her new doll. And Helen, without any prompting has decided that we need to practice reading every night and is using the 1st grade reader that Jack and Rebecca used previously. And Jude is a menace that cannot be tamed. HEY, I said I could TEACH, not that I could work MIRACLES!!
But that isn’t what people want to know, is it? They want assurance that my children are learning precisely the same things that their public or privately schooled children are learning. And either succeeding or failing in the same way they would be in a traditional school environment. And there is a big part of me that wants to reassure them that YES! ABSOLUTELY! They TOTALLY are! But the truth is, they aren’t. Because we don’t approach learning that way here. We could, but it would defeat the purpose of keeping them out of school. We don’t WANT them to have that kind of education. Trust me, there are many days where I would just love to give my kids a kiss and put them on the bus while waving good-bye. I could have a moment of quiet (shhh, Jude!) and even bake a gluten-free cookie for their snack when they get home. I really don’t need the stress that comes with having your child’s entire educational future resting on your shoulders. Sometimes I wish I had never heard of homeschooling so that I could go through life believing that school is where my kids belong. Period. End of story. I did hear about homeschooling, though. And even before having children, even before I was married, I knew that it was the right thing for me and for my (potential) children.
So, why? What about homeschooling speaks to me and why do we “do school” the way we do? The current educational model in 99% of schools today [not a real statistic] is designed to streamline the population into a hierarchy of sameness. Leveled classes begin as early as late elementary school where promising students are put on a track of “accelerated” or advanced academics. This arrangement of classes prepares* students to enter highly ranked Colleges and Universities in preparation for professional careers as Doctors, Lawyers and CEO’s. Average students are encouraged to pursue moderate academic success in less challenging classes in preparation for careers as office workers, managers and high level vocational jobs. Below average students are often placed in place-holding classes or shuttled off to vo-tech schools where academics are limited and practical skills are emphasized. What is wrong with this? Well, a lot.
For one, how are they determining what students fit what level? In my experience, it was only all around high achieving students that were able to stay on the advanced track. Where were the students whose language skills might not have been above average but who could solve math problems like nobody’s business? Oh, right, they were in the “average” track. Sorry – no advanced math for you. And what happened to the late bloomers who, for whatever reason, didn’t achieve in elementary school but broke out in middle or high school? Sorry. You’ve already been tracked. [Schools will argue that based on future results, they were right in their tracking systems. I contend that their tracking systems created the future results.]
And two, how is this model of education working for us as a nation? Not well. Where are our innovators? Where are our thinkers? The true artists? Creative people who create rather than regurgitate what they have already been spoon-fed? They are not coming out of our current school system, that is certain. I do not believe true success for our children lies in this path. Our children need to look outside the current societal model to create the kind of future that will allow them to not only survive, but to thrive as adults.
What does that mean? What is the educational model I follow? One that plays on the strengths of each individual child, that encourages their God given talents and one that accommodates, but does not excuse, their weaknesses. It is different for every child. I cannot educate Rebecca the same way I educate Jack and what works for Helen will undoubtedly not work for Jude. What I can do is strew their paths with greatness. Ideas, art, literature worth reading, time to explore their own interests, exposure to the interests others have, conversation, big questions. This is not going to happen with an out of the box curriculum. I cannot tell you, “Oh we do Seton or Calvert or Sonlight.” and if it makes you uncomfortable, then I am sorry. But I am sorrier that it makes me uncomfortable. I’m working on it, though.
*I question whether this actually prepares students to do anything other than compete, cheat, and become unwitting slaves to the system. (I was one of those, by the way, so I should know.)