Warning: This entry is a little off of the usual nptech topic. Feel free to skip if you only come here for the geeky thoughts!
The decision to homeschool our kid wasn’t a slam dunk, but it was the right one. We made it after thoroughly investigating everything — our son’s learning style, both through the school system and via our local Children’s Hospital; every public, private, and non-public school within about a six town radius; and conversations with educators, administrators, parents and other experts. Given what we now know about how our son learns and what options are out there, we aren’t guessing that this is the best route. We’ve verified it.
But we are constantly questioned about the decision.
We are conscientious, aware parents who value our son’s education and happiness highly (just like you!) and we have identified and followed the path that will work out best for him.
There is no need to be offended if your child’s best environment is a different one, like a public school.
There is no need to be panicked about his psychological well-being: He has lots of friends, makes new friends easily, and is well-behaved, polite and happy.
There is no need to worry about our qualifications: We know what we can teach him and we know where to find museums, extra-curricular programs and classes, qualified tutors and other external resources in order to get him what he needs.
Do we have opinions about public schools, and what they’re like under the testing-obsessed No Child Left Behind act, in a system where the key educational decisions are made by the middle-management bureaucrats and local politicians? Sure. But our opinion isn’t that children can’t succeed in those schools. It’s that children who are conducive to that learning environment do well, and we have it on good, credentialed authority that our kid won’t.
Do we think our curriculum, which mixes standard K-12 materials with lots of trips, history and science classes, arts, gymnastics (circus school!) and hands-on activities is, in many ways, superior to the brick and mortar experience? Of course! We can do a lot of training that is targeted to our son’s learning style, as opposed to mostly desk-bound training generalized for a 20 to 40 child audience. We appeal to his creativity, and let his interests guide an appropriate percentage of the curriculum. Schools can’t afford to provide this level of individualized attention and responsiveness to their students.
Are we sheltering and insulating our child from a heathenous, corrupting culture that would steer him away from the path of God and righteousness? No, we own a TV and he watches it. And we rest pretty heavy on the heathenous side of the scale in the first place. We are protecting him from a lot of character-building bullying, peer pressure and anxiety, but we are extremely reassured that he has plenty of character all the same. My friend Jane has a joke about this: “Yeah, in order to give my homeshcooled kid the school social experience, once a week I take her into the bathroom, beat her up and steal her lunch money.”
I think that last one is the big one — I think a lot of the well meaning questions about socialization (a word that every homeschooler has ample reason to simply loathe) boil down to a concern that our child won’t be able to cope as an adult because he missed out on the sheer brutality of spending five days a week with a slew of other children, experiencing all of the social confusion and frustration that they experience and inflict on their peers. Our kid experiences self doubt and frustration. He knows what it feels like to be criticized, and he can be critical of others. He might not get kicked and ridiculed with the intensity that we were when we went to public schools; he might remain a quirky, individual who doesn’t take fashion cues from The WB; but homeschooling him has not resulted in some sort of avoidance of human doubt and discomfort. In that, he’s a lot like every other kid. And he’ll deal with it, learn from it, and become an adult that shows no external signs of having been homeschooled.
It’s just getting to be a bit much, being constantly questioned about something that we did the work to identify as the right thing for our child. It is not an affront on society. It’s what’s best for someone who we not only care incredibly about, but are actually responsible for. So, please, if you know us, have a little faith — we show pretty good judgment and intelligence in the other things we do, why would we be any different about something as important as this?