Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Image of Homeschooling

I began homeschooling as a temporary solution to a temporary problem. I continued because it works. This seems rational to me, and yet I get the feeling people make some extreme judgments about my family based on this one choice.

For the record, I do not view society as evil. I do not want my children to reject the world. I do not wear long skirts every day. I am not a religious or political extremist. I believe in evolution and teach it as scientific truth. Nor were my children necessarily unsuccessful at school. My children have attended both public and private schools and were in all cases at the top of their classes in academics, sports, and popularity. I did notice a few flaws in the system, however.

My children *did* learn basic math, reading, and a wide variety of other topics, like how baby birds grow in their eggs and name of the capital of Maryland.

They also learned that a child's clothing is more important than any other trait, that bullying is to be tolerated, that learning is a job and not something to be done for its own merit, and that working faster than the rest of the class (or slower, although this was never our issue) makes you a "challenge" and not in a good way. And I was okay with this. I think good parenting can undo most of the wrongs children are exposed to in school and in the general world.

Here is what the school never taught my children, and never could:

to love reading
to love learning
to love life
to enjoy being different and unique
to avoid people who treat them poorly
to include people who may not be their favorites
that a person's parents' socioeconomic status has no effect on their ability to be a good friend or a good person
to interact and work cooperatively with a mixed-age and mixed-ability group
to plan, research, and execute their own projects
to have strong opinions and learn to back them up with fact

Most of us reach adulthood before we learn any of the above. That's why I homeschool--because there is nothing the schools can teach my child that I can't, but there is so much I can teach them that the schools never could. I've done the school thing and I know what I'm not missing. And yet when we tell the librarian that No-it's-not-a-school-holiday-we-just-don't-go-to-school, she looks at me like I live in a cabin with an arsenal of White Pride Bibles and semi-automatic hunting rifles. And she doesn't look at the books she is checking out for us--the medieval history, Pythagorus, and Shakespeare that my 12-year-old chose because those are his interests right now, the first and second grade readers that my five-year-old reads by herself.