|Julia with her nemesis, Math. See how she draws, to make it more tolerable?|
I've always defended homeschoolers. Even when I was a high school English teacher vigorously defending the rigors of the classroom, I supported their right to homeschool. I'd admit that some homeschoolers did rather well, and that excellent homeschool parents probably produced the best students around.
Lately, I've voiced a kind and moderate opinion: "Homeschooling works for some families (or even many) but not for most." Penelope Trunk says this is a mean-spirited, classist statement by homeschoolers. One of her blog commenters said this: "We don't say 'homeschooling is not right for everyone' to be classist. We say it to make people feel better because they are not homeschooling their kids. I suspect most people know homeschooling is better. Deep down." (much truth in this)
I'm not a huge Trunk fan, but here's another post by her, "The Real Reason Parents Don't Homeschool." She makes two big points: 1) It's a lie to say you can't homeschool because of finances.You're making your child pay the price so you can have the standard of living you want, and 2) The real reason parents don't homeschool is because they'd rather their kids be bored in the classroom than for the parents to be bored at home.
There you go. Penelope never pulls punches. Don't read her if you don't want to be slapped up a little.
I'm trying to decide whether I agree with her.
Is it true that people know down deep that homeschooling would be better for their kids? That they ignore that niggling voice inside that whispers to them, "You ought to be homeschooling"? Really? I do not find this to be true of the parents I know who choose classroom education. They're often content with their choice. But is their happiness delusional?
And is it true that homeschooling is the best choice for all children?
Teachers tell me they know this is not true, because they see their children learning, growing, and enjoying themselves, every day. But that's no proof. They could feasibly learn, grow, and enjoy even more, at home. How do you know until you try?
We did try with our boys. Both ended up in public schools briefly. I personally felt they suffered academically, socially, and spiritually in the public system. I wish we'd made different decisions, but we didn't. I wish the boys had accepted being at home, but they didn't. Will permanent damage be done? Perhaps not, probably not. Did they have the best educational situation possible? No.
That's the question parents must ask: "If I'm willing to sacrifice, what is the very best educational situation I can give my children?" And since most parents don't know much about education, nor about the huge potential of homeschooling, they answer that question (if they ever ask it) in ignorance.
Is your child bored with school? Does she find joy only in the social or athletic aspects? Are the academics she's getting there valuable to her at all? Do you even know? Do you assume because she says she's happy, that her school situation is the best one for her? Do you simply not want to rock the boat? Is your child inwardly miserable every day at school? (I was. My daughters both were.)
A gutsy, engaged parent who's willing to shake up family life and take some risks, has phenomenal potential to give the child a massive educational boost, and enjoy it. Does your child need his educational experience "shaken up"? Would you like to rouse him out of his academic drowsiness? Appeal for one year to the thing he desperately loves? Travel with him for 6 weeks? Build a boat? Rebuild a car? Focus on horticulture, chess, rockets, dance, art, or ancient Egypt? If you assume this is impossible, you've just robbed your child of a chance to re-energize his life with wonder.
Most of our homeschool days are loosely scheduled, and full of reading, and groaning over math problems. That's just real life. But Julia's learning tons. And she likes it. (If she didn't, I'd try something else more radical.) And she also does a great art workshop, plays chess with friends, and gets to boat on the creeks, weekly. This, and playing with the dog all day long, makes her life magical. I know that literature, writing, art, and history are also still magical to her. That magic is what I long to retain.
I know from being the teacher in the front of the classroom that the classroom is about the best place to kill the magic. It's built into the system to kill the magic. Maybe I should write a blog post on that too. But it's true.
I haven't decided yet whether Penelope Trunk is right in her assertions. But I confess I'm thinking about.