Hello, Dear Readers! It’s been too long since my last post. Through the holidays I was sick with one minor illness after another (colds, stomach bugs, etc…). Then I started home schooling Alex. What a big change! We are loving it so far. I think that’s what I want to talk about today.
Why did Craig and I withdraw him? For one thing, we always wanted to do this from the time he was born. When Kindergarten rolled around, I realized it just wouldn’t work out. I didn’t have the energy to keep him motivated. At the time I had no idea that I was sinking into one of my deeper depressions. In hindsight, enrolling him in public school was the right decision for that time in our lives. I would never have been able to teach him through that first winter. When it came time to make a decision about first grade, Alex really wanted to go back to our local school, so that’s what he did.
That brings me to our main issue with our local school system. Alex ran into teachers with a very hands off attitude during free time like recess or lunch. If someone isn’t being physically beaten or breaking an arm while falling off the jungle gym, the kids are often left to figure out their problems for themselves. There is little to no guidance from the adults when it comes to disagreements and arguments among the students. Though I certainly think that they should be given a chance to work things out for themselves, I know that they often need guiding through that process. How many adults are in marriage/family counseling because they weren’t taught to communicate effectively? People aren’t born knowing how to work out their problems. We need to be taught a lot of these skills. An assembly with an entertaining presentation telling the kids to be nice to one another isn’t enough. The adult staff need to back that message up as situations arise.
Overall I am happy with the curriculum our town has chosen. Kids graduate from our local high school knowing a lot more than those from other towns. But, as with most schools, there is a lot of bureaucracy. In Massachusetts we require all teachers to earn a Masters Degree. Yet when it comes down to teaching, they are handed a curriculum and told to use that and too bad if it isn’t working. Why all the education for these people if they aren’t allowed to actually use it? I’ve met some very smart teachers whose hands are tied when it comes to deciding what’s best for their students. They know when the program isn’t working. The parents know when it isn’t working. But everyone is stuck until the entire system slowly makes changes. With one child at home, I can make changes on the fly when things aren’t working for him. I love that flexibility. It’s why I teach music lessons individually. I have my “go to” books. But if a student isn’t learning from one method, I can try others until we find what works.
Given that I can tailor Alex’s work to his interests and strengths, we are already finding what works for him. He easily does twice as much math and five times as much science as he did in public school. Those are the subjects he currently loves. While he is on target for reading, it’s not his thing. He doesn’t enjoy it. So I have the flexibility to sneak reading into his day without forcing him to read tons of story books that he hates.
He has always been a fiercely independent person who wants to make his own decisions. Obviously as his parents, Craig and I need to make some decisions for him, but as a homeschooling family, Alex gets to make some choices with his work. What order does he want to do it in on any given day? Where does he want to sit? Does he want to do a math coloring page or just complete a list of problems? Does he want to get everything done all at once and have the entire afternoon to play? Or does he want to take it slow and have a few breaks, extending the day, but having a nice easy pace? Does he want an actual paper to work on or does he want a computer based program? These choices allow him more control over his own life and make us all a lot happier.
Another problem I have with the public school system is the amount of homework assigned. There is a growing body of evidence that kids don’t need homework. In Alex’s case, he was already tired from being in school all day. Getting him to do more work was very difficult. Now that he’s home, Alex is able to complete all of his work during the school day. This makes sense to me. Most jobs don’t require that you work from home everyday after putting in a full day at the office. Though there are a few professions where this is the case, most of us leave work at the office. Yet here in America, we routinely demand that our children put in a full day at school and then come home to do more work. It doesn’t make any sense to me. If the students aren’t learning enough during the day, something is wrong with the educational system.
But what about socialization? I don’t think that children are capable of teaching one another how to be responsible adults. Isn’t that what we want our children to grow into? If he is spending his day with children that are being mean to him or jockeying for the “boss” position on the playground, what social skills is he really learning? Over the last few years, as home-schooled children have become adults, they have proven that they are perfectly normal and capable of being around other people. This Washington Times article is just one example. This academic paper also addresses this issue and states that home-schooled students do just fine socially. Alex and I are not hermits. We go places. He plays with other children on a regular basis. He’ll do just fine.