Just FYI for anyone looking for posts about updates specific to our home school, You can find that here: Raising Wild Things.
One of the many reasons I love homeschooling is that it lets my family work on our own night owl schedule. I am most productive during the late evening hours.
I worked today (my husband was home with the kids) and my kids spent most of their waking, daylight hours outside playing. But here we are, at eleven o’clock at night, everyone happily engrossed in their various projects, self included. I’ve been working on planning for the last couple of hours and as I look up and around, there’s a child drawing math problems on the dry erase board, there’s an art project going on at the dining room table, a documentary playing on TV and an impromptu mythology lesson in the kitchen. The house is calm, peaceful and full of activity.
Everyone will wind down and head to their various bedrooms soon enough. The 11 year old has already read a bedtime to story to the 7 year old, just because she wanted to share the story about the legend of the bluebonnet. Even the two year old is happily creating worlds with littlest pet shops and la la loopsys in the family room.
Having watched them earlier count by tens, correctly identify cardinal ordinal relationships, work math problems for fun, and read aloud to each other, I am once again reassured that they are, in fact, learning. That this is working and most importantly, my kids are happy and enjoy learning.
This happened several years ago when my oldest child was attending public school. I was already homeschooling my younger kids, reading a lot and learning a lot about unschooling. My then 17 year old was still attending public school, by his own choice. But we had issues. He was absent/tardy a lot and so we had to go to court. Let me clarify, I’m talking a few minutes late a few times, adding up to less than an hour of missed school. Then there were a few times he missed completely. I was livid at the $300 fine. Missing six days within six months really doesn’t seem like a lot to me. Especially when I consider that we easily have more than one day a month (we as in me and the little ones) that we don’t do much because we don’t feel like it. They don’t or I don’t. Lazy days, down days that everyone has, sick days, just too overwhelmed with other stuff days. Plus I feel like I’m a competent parent and I know when my kid is sick enough (or tired or grieving etc) to be home but not sick enough to need a doctor. Heck, most companies give you personal days because they recognize that even when you are healthy, you sometimes need a mental health day. (when his great grandmother died they actually told me I had to send a copy of the obituary).
Back to the point: I was livid. They didn’t bother with why or individual circumstances everyone there got lectured and fined. I had just been reading about how the public school system creates all these jobs, like the text book industry and teachers colleges and administration, etc and thought wow yeah, since all but one of the cases before the court that day were truancy you can add that judge, bailiff and the whole office staff to the list. Fining kids for being late or absent is a money making proposition.
Plus there was a teen mom with a newborn there who was also lectured and told to go back to school. Really? Because I think the baby needs her more right now and she can learn whatever she wants later on. She can go back to school later, earn her diploma online, be home schooled. You don’t even need a high school diploma to get into community college. I was outraged at what I felt were very skewed priorities. I know education is important but as far as development goes, those first few years are crucial. What was the rush to get that mom to put her baby in childcare?
I went on a rant about how outrageous it is that the state has more rights over my child than I do! I tried to pick him up early one day and a teacher refused to release him. Who else has the right to take and keep my child against my wishes? It seems crazy when you stop and consider it. My mom agreed at first then talked to my step dad about it then called me back with this take on it: hey, this is part of life, they are preparing him for the real world. everyone has to get up and go to work whether they like it or not. We hate our jobs but we get up and go to them every day and have for thirty years. Its called life. He has to get use to it.
I thought about it for a minute. That sounded so….familiar and like what everyone says and I’ve always heard and believed and… …and…and WRONG!
Wrong as in, it just washed over me, its OK for them to exert pointless control to turn him into a conforming robot because they have to in order to prepare him for a life of misery? Because that’s our idea of adult responsibility?
Then it hit me, so many people believe this and believe it strongly, but is it ok ? Is it right? Is it what i want for my kids? To sit down and shut up and be subordinate to some jerk of a boss who is a jerk just because they can be? NO….I want them to quit any job like that and find a better one, to follow their dreams, if that means being an entrepreneur instead of a wage slave or a starving artist or whatever it means, but no, I am certainly NOT preparing him for a life of drudgery spent in the service of a job he hates. NO NO NO, I don’t want that AT ALL……………
I’ve been an unschooler from that moment on, because it’s not just an educational philosophy, it has changed my outlook on EVERYTHING!
I was just forwarded this video by my boss, along with her daughters written response to it and the whole thing really got me thinking.
What’s funny is…I was JUST thinking about that exact thing the other day. I was thinking, is it ironic to anyone that I feel the way I do about institutionalized education and yet have multiple college degrees? It may seem a bit hypocritical, but it’s not and I can tell you why.
I do agree with everything he said. I see with my unschooled children how much more organic learning is than schools want to make it. How artificial and irrelevant much institutionalized learning is. How it teaches you to memorize and regurgitate facts, not to think for yourself, much less outside the box, not to actually learn or be engaged with your subject. How my favorite teaches and professors were those who engaged us, encouraged dissent, nurtured debate, fueled classroom discussions. Unfortunately, those were the minority.
So why then bother with the whole thing at all? Precisely because our society demands it. You may be self taught and actually know more than someone with a degree, but society confers respect and authority on the person with the degree. Because we see the degree as a measurement of your knowledge.
My ex husband is a chef, learned on the job, and his biggest pet peeve is the culinary school graduates who are clueless and mess up his kitchen! Yet, they go on to positions he can’t get considered for, though it was HE and not the culinary school that actually taught them how to cook in practice, in real life. I use to tell him to just go get the degree, no matter if he already knows more than the instructors, that “piece of paper” is a foot in the door. Sure, you may get your foot in the door then not be able to keep the job because despite your education, you don’t really have the skills, that is true. But even if you have the skills, you may never get to put them to use without that foot in the door.
That being said, perhaps Dan Brown is the next Bill Gates (a very famous and very rich college drop out) but for most of us, we need both the skills and the credentials.
So, back to why I feel institutional education is a joke and yet I have multiple college degrees and keep going back for more? Because I am a biologist who knows that survival equals your ability to secure your share of the available resources. For humans, this no longer means hunting or grazing territory, money is what secures our basic resources like food and shelter. Because I’m a sociologist (specifically a structuralist) who understands that that structures and institutions of our society are what we have to work with, even when we want to change them and in the society we have, a college degree, certifications and other forms of validation are what let us access the money. And because combining those two things with the fact that I’m also a realist tells me that despite all its failings, I still need institutional education to secure validation (in the form of a degree) so that I can access my share of the resources (in the form of a good job that provides a higher income to purchase food, shelter, clothing and the like). So, I plug away at getting my degrees while I home school to try and give my children a competitive advantage when they reach this stage because I AM teaching them to think, not memorize.
And while we’re on the subject, I will be teaching them the metric system because the entire rest of the world uses it and if they want to go into any medical or scientific field, even here, they will have to know it and our public schools do not teach it. It is so much harder to learn at 41 I’m here to tell you! (Even though it is more intuitive and easier than our system). Change comes from within and you have to start somewhere. I believe that the huge surge in families pulling their children out of the system is a step in that direction. Colleges are now actively recruiting homeschoolers precisely because of their ability to think outside the box. Private and charter schools all over the country are piloting curriculum that more closely resemble homeschooling than institutionalized schooling. The fact that this movement is gaining momentum can be seen in the backlash against it. In many states legislatures are trying to move backwards and outlaw homeschooling but it isn’t working. Families are taking back their children’s education. The revolution is afoot!