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Speaking of Homeschooling…

I realized the other day that even though we homeschool our kids, I’ve never written much about it here. Writing about the wonderful resource of the Khan Academy the other day got me thinking about it. I still hesitate about whether I should write it ‘homeschool’ or ‘home school’. The WordPress spell checker (spellchecker?) doesn’t seem to like it combined as ‘homeschooling’, but I just noticed it also doesn’t approve of the spelling of ‘WordPress’ either. I’ve seen it written both ways on the internet, but I think I prefer it all as one word; so for now on I shall use ‘homeschool’ and ‘homeschooling’ when referring to the way Stephanie and I educate our children. Also, Dictionary.com tells me homeschool is a proper word. So there!

But back to the subject; homeschooling is something that seems to have gained a lot of popularity over the years. I guess there are different reasons why people homeschool their kids. Many parents seem to do it for religious reasons, I suppose to more thoroughly instruct their children in their particular belief system. Or to protect them from the ever-lowering moral standards of average American society (I can certainly relate to that!) Then there’s the general state of fear, intimidation and violence that kids can be exposed to in schools these days. Even in suburban schools or in more ‘affluent’ areas, the bullying and violence that we hear about fairly often was unimaginable when I was a kid back in the sixties/early seventies. Heck, when I was a kid it was pretty rare to hear about someone getting a punch in the nose, let alone worrying about if some psychotic classmate was packing heat, or having death threats sent to you by email for being the least bit different!

My wife used to work with kids in the public school system, so I know part of the reason we homeschool our children is from the horror stories she’s seen first hand of what kids are capable of doing to each other in modern schools. I also think a major reason many parents choose homeschooling is because we’ve learned that there are many different ways that people learn, depending on the individual. I certainly don’t have anything against schools or teachers in general; but most public schools are limited to a certain style of instruction in a crowded environment and cannot give attention to a student’s individual needs the way home schooling can.

Another reason we chose homeschooling is that we want our children to be creative people, to be free-thinking individuals who follow their own core values as opposed to following the dictates of their peers or cultural fads or the false fulfillments of advertising that seems to dominate our culture. I think some people may thrive in an environment of group mentality; of doing what you’re told and conforming to the will of the masses; of competition over cooperation. But I also think that those who do well in our test-oriented superficial system of education do so in spite of the system, because of their own inane intelligence that is fostered outside the school environment by parents and relatives. And also there are the statistics that show again and again that America has fallen behind other nations, especially up-and-coming third world nations; in the sciences, technology, history, culture, the arts. And because of the decline in our general economy over the last decade or more, the things that I think matter most like Fine Arts, Music, Literature and Philosophy are the first things being cut from our school systems. Short term memorization has become more valued than cognitive thinking skills. And what can teachers do? Their budgets are constantly being reduced. Or teachers are losing their jobs. Resources for education dwindle, especially in the inner-cities, until it seems only the rich and entitled see any hope for a better life than their parents had.

I recently heard that the Rochester, New York City School District, near where we live, has a high school graduation rate slightly lower than 50%! And the Rochester area is better off than many cities in this country. That’s pretty scary!

But I’m getting off on a rant now, and I was really trying to avoid that! There are lots of reasons for homeschooling your precious offspring. And many different philosophies of home schooling, from unschooling to homeschool co-ops to Montessori . I supposed we’ve used a little of everything so far. But I can only say that at eight years old, my son reads voraciously and knows so much on such a wide range of subjects that I have little doubt he will grow up to be a well-rounded, compassionate, witty and highly ‘educated’ individual. As will his younger sister, who at five years of age has an amazing number of interests and talents. And we are very fortunate to live in an area with many large homeschooling groups and communities with all kinds of resources for sports, activities, education and socialization.

But primarily, life is our school. As it has been for thousands of years of human experience. Organized, institutionalized school systems are a rather recent development of the Industrial Age, after all. Every waking moment is a natural stimulus for exploration and study and experimentation. As little children, we found a natural delight in experiencing the world of our senses. That’s what I think ‘education’ is really about. You know, it cracks me up when someone will ask me (like last week) “So do you take time off from homeschooling in the summer”, or something like that; and I am dumbfounded for a moment at how to answer! Because most of us are so conditioned to think of ‘learning‘ as something that happens in an institution, or within the walls of a classroom; as something formal and separate from what the brain does in any other waking moment. So I suppose I could say “No, we don’t generally categorize life into ‘learning’ and ‘non-learning’ time. We learn just as much by playing and exploring as we do reading a book. Whenever we encounter the strange or unfamiliar or beautiful or frightening or puzzling world around us, we’re always learning. And everyone we meet and everything we see and hear and feel and touch is our teacher.

Ken Robinson: Changing the education paradigms

Ken Robinson on TED: Bring on the learning revolution!

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  1. Laurie
    June 22, 2011 at 1:34 am

    David, that was so beautifully written. Your children are very lucky to have you and Stephanie as parents who look after them in all ways a parent should.

  2. June 22, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Thank you, Laurie. That is high praise indeed from a person who has raised as many children, both your own and other people’s, as you have.
    And now grandchildren…

  3. MJ
    June 22, 2011 at 4:59 am

    Dave,

    Nice job with the homeschooling blog! Our intent to homeschool came from an increasingly negative district morals that were being showcased and instructed at the Kindergarten level. It wasn’t an indoctrination of our religious views but rather not wanting the indoctrination of the views and values we were opposed to that prompted us to homeschool our daughter for a few years. It was the most challenging, yet most amazing thing. Unfortunately we could not continue to homeschool but for those who can, kudos to you. Statistics will show how much more well-rounded and higher educated children can be in a homeschooled environment. Plus, much more can be accomplished, even the subject matter can vary extensively from the normal school subjects the teachers can teach. Teaching a child to be self-sustaining, like how to garden….schools don’t and won’t teach that. Manners….what’s that? Many parents these days as well as the school system will never teach children that. Anyhow, I am glad for making my choice and so happy for those are able to teach their children better than the public school system.

  4. Suzanne Manchester
    June 22, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Part of today has been spent discussing how to fairly divide chocolate among us; using a calibrated weight scale, an uncalibrated jar which tapers in it’s form, and marking the day’s allotment on the side of the jar. The lines dividing each day are of course different dimensions apart based on the jar’s shape. My younger child has to have hers measured in quarters instead of whole oz’s, because she is after all, smaller. Papa bear gets 2 oz, Little bear gets 1 oz, and littlest bear gets 3/4 oz per day. Mama Bear swore off chocolate and is eating mangos instead; but that’s a story for another day. We’re learning about fractions, and other mysterious hands on aspects of math that are elusive without manipulatives (and what’s a better manipulative than chocolate?) I’m glad to homeschool day to day because of examples like this – I’m sure fractions were never going to be this interesting if my kids were sitting in a classroom learning about them in public school. Loren’s making flash cards for Evie to learn more about fractions and Evie is speaking up about wanting to be treated respectfully and not like a baby. We are all learning! I’m glad to share this journey with your family and if it weren’t for Stephanie’s encouragement we might not have joined you on this path. It would be nice to do more together…

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