I have been trying to write this post for a while, but literally frightened of the backlash that could ensue. So, I would like to preface this post with the fact that I really am not intending to bash homeschooling in general and that I know homeschooling is a terrific option for a great many people, so obviously demonstrated by many talented and dedicated blogging moms around the Net. (That’s me meekly declaring: don’t taze me, bro!)
But the seeds of this post started on a really personally level, as I have watched someone close to our family use homeschooling as way to manipulate the system. Essentially the child gets no schooling at all (and no friends as an extra special added benefit) and the parents have the freedom to travel as they please. Sure, that is the extreme example of what can go wrong with homeschooling and I realize the bulk of homeschooling is not like that, but it is really hard to not walk away with a bad taste in your mouth.
Then, a few weeks ago at SXSW, I was sitting at a round table discussion about games for kids, and the group was filled with ideas and the juices where flowing. We were talking about the the problems you encounter teaching kids with activities (and of course I was shooting my mouth off since we make a bunch of health ed sites for kids). The lady sitting next to me really impressed me because she was a stay-at-home mom who was only attending the conference because building web sites had become a hobby and she came to that particular session solely because of her kids and wanting to learn more about how making games for them worked.
But then, she kind of killed me when she earnestly and self-righteously said, “Well, you all are saying this and that about all these things that don’t work with teaching children, why doesn’t everyone homeschool their kids??”
Talk about a question out of left field.
The whole group stared at each other for 5 full seconds, wondering if she was serious with her question? What exactly did she mean? Did anyone think a few hurdles in education were a reason to just give up and homeschool?
And then I realized she was dead serious.
And of course I opened my big fat mouth.
“Well, first of all, to homeschool or not is really a whole ‘nother discussion, but let me just quickly say in the context of this meeting here, there is a lot to be learned in a group forum. Just look at all we have learned today. [leaning forward, whispering] And also, I am a big fan of public school.”
But it really goes beyond that for me. Not that I want my child to learn to serve “The Man,” but there is a mastery of politics that comes along with being in a public school setting. Both within their peer set and their elders. Much like what happens in an office later.
And I have to admit (and please remember I do NOT apply this broadly to all homeschoolers) but the sense of arrogance gets my goat. I have met some homeschoolers who think they should be the only ones who mold their kids precious minds. That no. one. else. can touch that lump of virgin clay, and the school system will taint it, and goddammit, THEY are going to mold it into a pristine sculpture that has only seen butterflies and mountains and happy fluffy clouds!
What happens when those kids get a job with an asshole boss? They may be brilliant and creative, but will they be tough enough to stick it out? Will they have enough experience and depth of education to deal with it on a daily basis?
I know my child is only in Kindergarten and been in his current school for 2 years. And I know all schools are different. But I am impressed as hell. The things these teachers think of? I could never come up with.
Did you know my 5 year old son came home from school last week and announced that Alfred Nobel invented dynamite? And that they had a project in class where they broke up into groups and devise their own Nobel prizes and present them to the class. Then they all voted on them. Declan’s group won with the “Love Prize.” (Collective awwww.)
My point being, I am thrilled to have these other people shaping my son’s virgin clay. And sometimes I don’t even agree. But I keep a close eye and we (meaning us and Declan) talk about it.
Would I ever homeschool? If the situation presented itself and it was the best option for our family, sure. Which is what I know the talented and dedicated homeschool bloggers are doing.
But not as an easy way out, and not as a way to avoid the bad stuff.
Because you learn from the bad stuff too.