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home(school) is anywhere you hang your head
Jan 9th, 2008 by wrekehavoc

here comes ms. misery.

i promised a rant on homeschooling, and i must make good on that promise, though i’ll try my best to be calm. i expect a giant learning experience of children, organized by their ardent moms, at my door, screaming that homeschooling is the best thing since sliced bread. (just let me know in advance so that i bake enough brownies for the kids.)

on the one side, i must show my admiration for those parents who want to take on the monumental task of educating their children to the current state and local education standards. i don’t believe for a second i could undertake such a mission. i don’t believe i possess the patience. i don’t believe i possess the pedagogical skills. and while i am one smart chick with the IQ test scores to prove it, i don’t believe i will be doing my kids a favor when they need to learn higher order math skills (READ: anything beyond algebra) or other topics where i am currently not up to snuff. and no one, and i mean NO ONE, will be dissecting any animals in my kitchen. (that one’s for YOU, hellboy, who’d probably voluntarily do that deed right now at age 4.)

parents who want to homeschool their children apparently have these reasons for homeschooling, according to the national home education research institute:

· teach a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview,
· accomplish more academically than in schools,
· customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child,
· use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools,
· enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings,
· provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults, and
· provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality.

i suppose i could understand wanting to pull my kids from the public schools if i lived in a terrible place with terrible schools. i would certainly pull my kids if i thought they were going to get killed during the school day. (of course, then i’d get the hell out of the area, if it took the last cent i had.) but sometimes, when i am at local playgrounds with jools on his home day, i marvel at the women and their tribes of homeschooled children playing at the playground. our school district is one of the finest in the nation, and yet these people, who CHOOSE to live here, pull their kids out of the public school. it’s mystifying.

there’s something very isolationist and elitist about homeschooling, as if parents fear the very tainting of their children through their interaction with other children, the media, or, most horrifyingly, with alternative ideas. it’s as if homeschooling parents are building a giant bubble for their children, and only they know everything in the world that’s best for their kids. parents should make decisions for their children when they’re young, but as they get older, one of the most important skills i think kids need to learn is how to make decisions — smart ones — on their own. i wonder how willing homeschooling parents are to give up control.

and homeschooling is all about control. control of ideas and who delivers them. control over who gets to interact with the children. control of the environment. in short, i think some of these people had some toilet training issues in their past and they are taking them out on their kids.

why would anyone want to be with anyone 24/7? if your mom (or dad!) is your teacher, you, the kid, have no escape. from school. from pressure. from HER. i get to be the bad cop enough when it comes to discipline. i don’t want my kids to see me and think, oh G-d, i didn’t do my homework/my project/my whatever. i’m so busted. kids need a break from school. parents need a break from kids. when home is school and school is home, there is no division.

do the parents make conscious and deliberate attempts to ensure their kids meet other kids from different racial, religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds? (i can see it now: let’s meet the JEWISH kids today on our field trip, children! and next week, we go visit the GHETTO!) i suspect not. probably only other kids from their church, kids who share their values and world views, need apply. (oh, except for those days when they do some church-sponsored community project. oh, how weird if your only interaction with other ethnicities is through some service project. then you get to assume that “all of them” are like that. so wrong, so dead wrong.)

what i want to know is what happens when these kids go to college and subsequently enter the real world. i am not impressed by the dearth of research on this topic (and i am a little suspect of the national home education research group, anyway). do the kids have to stay on the narrow, little path their moms and dads have made for them in order to lead a decent life? what happens when they don’t understand any of the cultural references of their peers? are they ostracized? how do they tolerate lines of inquiry that don’t have a ready answer? (do they build an answer with G-d in it instead?) do they expect the world to be a neat and tidy place, just like their home school, with all of the answers provided?

i am the child of a teacher, a niece 0f a teacher, a relative and friend of teachers galore. i’ve been a student of education policy. my bias is obvious here. i believe firmly that there is a certain level of pedagogical training, a certain level of knowledge necessary, to truly lift all boats for all children. i’m not naive enough to think that our public schools are churning out 100% success stories, 100% of the time. please.

but i like to think that my kids are getting taught by people who usually have their best interests at heart. (obviously, not always or else we would have avoided last year’s trauma.) and i intervene when things go seriously awry. that’s my job as a parent — i am my child’s advocate.

and i like to think that what they learn by going to public school — with children who may not be just like them, who may eat different foods and celebrate different days and who may have more money or less money than we have — is how to live in a starter microcosm of our big and diverse world. one lesson at a time. i can’t give them that if i keep them in my cozy, sheltered home. and i need them to learn how to cope with situations, how to become increasingly responsible for their own learning and lives, and to discover that sometimes, life is incredibly ambiguous.

and that’s ok.

i don’t want my children to be dependent on me for decisions and answers. i don’t want them to necessarily be dependent on assuming that G-d has all the answers or even IS the answer. i probably will never be able to teach them much beyond how to treat people and how to bake a mean brownie.

but i damn well know how to guide them to the places and the experiences which will help them grow. and guide them i will. toward being independent, forthright, unsheltered and open-minded citizens of the world.


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