Amy Welborn wrote two posts this week that, together with an earlier one, form a tidy little share-able package about being tired of institutional school and why.
The earlier post is here: So, About That School Family
My point was that I have been doing the – (deep breath) – school supplies - does your uniform fit? – your teacher wants what? we just bought all the school supplies – book covers? Why do we have to do bookcovers? - welcome to our SCHOOL FAMILY – parent/teacher meeting – beginning of the year orientation – parent/teacher conferences – giftwrap sales – please return these papers signed on Tuesdays – please return THESE papers signed on Mondays – I have to find an article for music class – but I get extra credit if you go to the PTO meeting! – make an adobe model out of sugar cubes – is your field trip shirt the green one or the blue one? – yes, I signed your planner – wait,don’t throw that away, we need the box tops – SCHOOL FAMILY – you need a check for what? – do you have hot lunch today or not? – candygrams – wait, is it a jeans day today – boosterthon? Try not to run too many laps, okay? - please send cupcakes/cookies/goldfish but NO PEANUTS – POSTERBOARD – SCHOOL FAMILY.
- thing for twenty-five (25) years.
The first post from this week is here: An Intuition and an Encounter
No one makes money when a school teaches out of ten-year old textbooks using methods that are either common sense, instinctive, or learned twenty years ago. Seriously. No one makes money that way. The only way people make money is when everything is upended and everyone has to start over. Common Core isn’t about kids. It’s about textbook companies making bank from new editions that must be purchased. It’s about entities that make money from teacher training. It’s about financial incentives given to districts and teachers. It’s about testing companies making money from testing. It’s about consultants raking in bucks from helpfully helping everyone out.
We can all cry “common standards! national standards! The rest of the world does it! Must be good! “…and some of us are crying that. And it seems like deep common sense to say yes to that. Except when it doesn’t.
Do a bit of research. Have some conversations. Are the French universally ecstatic with their education system? The Japanese? Germans? Are they?
The followup post to that is here: A School that Knows Its Place
I thought hard about what it really is that I resent about institutional schooling. I realized (and this goes back to the “school family” theme) that my problem is in the all-encompassing presumptions of education (and I’m talking both public and private here.) The insistence and assumption that the school be the center of a child – and by extension, the family’s life, and that no one has anything better to do than attend to the business that the school sets out for us, even after we leave. The conviction that education = schooling. The territorial expansion beyond teaching content and skills. The determination to teach everyone everything, fix everyone and build awesome diverse communities.
I mean, I just want to say, Educational System? Yeah, you. BACK OFF.
(Because, as St. Augustine several hundred years ago - it doesn’t work.)
All of these posts are worth clicking through and reading the whole thing. These excerpts aren't meant to encapsulate them, but to encourage ou to want more.
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A few weeks ago this enormous homeschooling infographic was making the rounds.
(Definitely worth a look if you haven't seen it. I'm not going to embed because I only want to draw attention to part of it right now.)
One of the sections was titled "Main Reason for Homeschooling." The breakdown went like this:
Most important reasons parents say they homeschool their kids (students, ages 5-17, 2007):
- 36 %: To provide religious or moral instruction
- 21 % : Concern about the environment of other schools: safety, drugs, and negative peer pressure
- 17 %: Dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools
- 14 %: Unique Family Situation such as time, finances, travel, and distances
- 7 %: Nontraditional approach to child's education
- 4 %: Child has other special needs
- 2%: Child has a physical or mental health problem
I'm not surprised that 36 percent of homeschoolers, the largest portion, cite "religious and moral instruction" as the main reason they homeschool.
I suspect the proportion would be even broader and more inclusive if it had employed terms that don't have a traditional-religious flavor, like "pass on your family's philosophy and values and ethics." Because when you get right down to it, even if you are the sort of person who doesn't go in for organized religion and doesn't much like the term "morality" -- and there are plenty of homeschoolers like that -- passing on our values to our children and raising them in accordance with our values is essentially the central act of raising children.
So it's not too surprising that it's the "most important reason" that's given to say why you have chosen, well, whatever educational path anyone chose, if there was a choice.
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But it isn't the answer I would pick for main reason I homeschool specifically. There's a perfectly good elementary school at my parish that provides excellent religious and moral instruction, and nothing would stop me from providing more outside school hours. There are several high-quality high schools, too.
I think I fall more in that seven percent who say "nontraditional approach."
Because no matter how wonderful the religious and moral education at a given Catholic school, they aren't going to let my thirteen-year-old learn alongside my seven-year-old and my nine-year-old and their preschool siblings.
Keeping siblings together is pretty nontraditional.
So is deliberately putting your kids in a situation where the teacher, rather than being an expert, is learning the same material alongside them. I'm an expert in some of the stuff I teach, of course, so they do get that. But not in everything. There's an entirely different kind of learning environment when the teacher, who's never used real watercolors or mixed paint in her life, reads the how-to from a book and says... well... let's all try it together and see how it turns out. Or when a question comes up in Latin translation and the teacher has to say, "I don't know. Let's look it up in the Henle grammar. Or let's Google it."
(This teacher has to say that a lot.)
Learning along with the teacher is fun, but pretty nontraditional.
And those are my things. Those are my reasons.
Amy Welborn's distaste with the rat-race aspect of schooling -- which I suppose falls more under "dissatisfaction with academic instruction?" -- or is it more "nontraditional" because she desires something that's... older than the modern trend of centralized, controlling schooling that reaches into the family structure? --
well, I share that, too. She articulated what I hope to avoid much better than I do.
I always have the image of the cars coming to pick up children, stretching into the distance, winding around corners, clogging up the neighborhood where the neighborhood children used to walk home from school, but now they don't.
I am not going to sit in the pick-up lane if I can help it.