I have always felt a little strange about handing the human beings that I grew inside of me over to total strangers and saying, “Here, why don’t you raise these folks for the better part of everyday of their lives?” It just never seemed like the thing to do.
We had our first 2 kids, a boy and a girl, in 1992 and 1994. People were starting to homeschool more at the time. I’m sure there were more resources than in the 80’s but today the possibilities seem endless.
Even in that early part of our family life I didn’t think sending off a 5 year old five days a week was something I was interested in. Then I discovered that the state of Alabama did not require children to go to school until they were 6.
It was part stubborn and part scary making the decision to not send our children to kindergarten. We heard all kinds of tales about children who didn’t go to kindergarten not being allowed in first grade. That if you didn’t have proof of ‘kindergarten’ that they would automatically put your child in said kindergarten that you had no proof of and then your children would automatically be a year behind no matter how much you worked with them at home to prepare them for first grade.
I also had a sister in law who objected to not sending them to kindergarten on the grounds that they needed to learn how to stand in line and wait their turn. I ranted privately for quite a few days after that pondering how many days does one have to go to school to be instructed on line standing and turn waiting? Is this a window of opportunity that only happens at 5 years old, or might a child pick up on these handy skills in first grade instead?
I guess thinking back I also had an issue with other people deciding what my child learns, when they learn it, and to what depth they learn it. I know there is a basic collective knowledge that people should understand to get along in this world but beyond that- the sky is the limit with knowledge. The even playing field education where no one is an expert, no one gets to excel beyond what is in the classroom doesn’t appeal to my sense of what intelligence is.
Indeed I was quite taken aback this past year to learn my daughter’s new physics teacher not only taught science but she had taught most all the subjects at the middle school. As she bragged during this first meeting I didn’t think teaching all those subjects made her smarter, but instead I thought that she wasn’t really an expert in anything but maybe how to teach middle-schoolers and that was yet to be seen.
I don’t think it is a good thing to homogenize the school systems across the country. It sounds fair to say we are going to teach world history in 10th grade and every 10th grader in the country will use this book, and every 10th grade will take this standardized test on world history, and then we can prove how equal education is for everyone 10th grader in the United States.
But where’s the art of teaching? Where’s the heart of teaching? Where’s the individual teacher who might have a very valuable specific knowledge and insight on say the French Revolution, but cannot build excitement and dig deep with her students because the French Revolution only gets 2 pages in the approved history book she has to cover.
And how can one man sharpen another when they have all been taught the same body of facts? How can the experiences and interest of people we meet enrich us when the education system is trying to fairly pass out the same thing across the country. How can people bring their own knowledge to the table when their own knowledge is the same as everyone else’s. It’s hard to complement or complete someone when you are the same side of the coin or the same piece of the puzzle.
So I did keep those 2 oldest children home for kindergarten. I registered them in 1st grade and they went and did well. No one quizzed them on what program they used for kindergarten, there was no line standing skill test to pass to get in. It was a little anticlimactic.
By the time my son was about midway through 3rd grade and my daughter was in first, I was already very tired of the ‘say so’ that the schools had over my children. If the education had been exceptional maybe I would have felt different.
It wasn’t exceptional, it was ho hum. Ho hum was not a good enough reason to abdicate my position as parent/teacher/instructor/guidance counselor/mentor. So after that year we decided to homeschool. During our preparations for our own school, we found out about #3, our third, a little girl. Nothing like a new baby to ramp up the excitement of homeschool.
As circumstances in life change, we have found it necessary to use the public school system during our youngest’s academic career. She is homeschooling now with the goal of a dual enrollment program when she is 16. Her half year in public school 8th grade is a long story. There are good teachers out there but I think they have their hands tied by paperwork, testing, and time constraints. I can see the benefits of having a third party perspective to present things in a fresh way that sparks interest. We are working for more variety.
Our oldest 2 both finished homeschool high school and never went back into the public school system. They were both finished at 16 and had time to devote to religious volunteer work, music, and my daughter continued with her college and graduated as an RN when she was 21. My son took a break from school but now he is an EMT and is continuing on to be a paramedic.
In my 20 year experience with homeschool I can honestly say I’m not sure what even qualifies a teacher to be a teacher according to government standards. I do know that dedicated parents have a special interest in their own children’s education and the ability to tailor and structure accordingly. That is something you don’t get at the group mentality one box fits all public schools.
I hope you enjoy my homeschool post.