Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Few Thoughts On High School

When I started back in college, I honestly thought I could homeschool and go to school myself. After a few weeks, one kid flew the coop and started school. Then it was like a mudslide, and before I knew it, all of my kids were in school. We're like, well, normal people. at least on the outside. But we remain homeschool rebels on the inside, which is why I want to scream when I hear the following:

1. "Homeschooled kids are weird (pronounced weee--yurd). There's more to education than reading books."

This girl, L, is the daughter of teachers and has probably never actually met a homeschooler beyond a quick "hi". She was a straight-A student at the best public high school in the area and is now failing college level math because--oops--they don't teach real math in schools now. Being able to write an articulate essay on the meaning of a quadratic formula is an interesting skill, but it does you no good when it comes time to solve for 'X'. But I digress...

Judging from what my eighth grader tells me about his school, here are a few things that would be 'weee-yurd':

Enjoying learning
Reading
Having any religion
Having dreams for your future that include an Ivy League education
Volunteering
Having political opinions you didn't get from MTV
Knowing that corn syrup is the devil
Caring about babies stuck in the Darfur situation
For girls, looking like your clothes weren't bought at Frederick's of Hollywood
Not having sex with someone after dating for two weeks

I'm proud of my weird kids. They're kicking ass at school academically and have a ton of friends. Some people think they're a little weird--whatever. They're proof that, while traditional schoolers may have a hard time adjusting to anything BUT traditional school, homeschoolers can do well anywhere. They're used to dealing with a variety of people in a variety of contexts, and kids their age in a classroom setting is just one of those contexts. Compare this to many public school kids, who really can't identify with people who aren't their age and grade.

My kids could learn in a cave. Which is good, because the celebrated West Valley School District offers very little more than a cave would. I consider it free babysitting. My kids still do their homeschooling curricula after school and on weekends--they're hungry for knowledge after all day in an environment devoid of it.

Next thing:

2. "All mainstream Christian churches believe in evolution. It's only closed minded extremists and uneducated people who don't."

First, I believe in evolution. Second, I jumped down this professor's throat. Lutherans aren't mainstream? Really? What about Pentecostals? How many millions of people are Pentecostal or Evangelical? He's marginalizing a lot of people. I bet he believes everyone who didn't vote for Obama is a closed minded extremist too.

Making broad negative statements about people just because they have to disagree with you... now THAT'S what I call closed minded. I believe people have the right to have other opinions. That's okay with me. I think evolution is fascinating... but if you don't agree, I still respect you as a person. My Bio professor should extend the same courtesy.

3. "I think all kids should go to public schools. There's more to an education than getting good test scores."

There was a time when public school advocates said that homeschoolers and private schools could not get the education they needed. Now that the facts about homeschoolers and private schoolers have been pretty conclusively proven--that they outperform public school kids, that is--the story has changed. Now, getting an education is beside the point. School is about more than learning. It's about:

  • learning to deal with people from different backgrounds
  • being 'socialized'
  • learning to be socially conscious
  • learning to, you know, be normal

It's amusing because most public schools are not even close to a homogeneous mix of backgrounds. The West Valley School District is almost entirely white middle and upper middle class kids. My children were learning more about other cultures when they spent the morning with a lady from the Philippines with some other homeschooled friends. They learned about what she loved about her home, why she still had to leave, and that Filipino food rocks. This is just one of hundreds of examples I could give. The point: no freakin way are public schools a good place to learn about different kinds of people.

The only other place you'll be stuck in a small room with other people your age all day is a nursing home.

And 'socialized'? For what? To learn to be bullied? To get in fights? My kids have been taught to be civil and respectful. They're popular with their classmates and their teachers adore them. Apparently not being smacked around (except by me... lol, jk) hasn't left them unable to deal with their peers.

Socially conscious? I won't even go there. It doesn't take a pre-med student to figure out that watching Star Trek every day in honors social studies isn't going to give you this profound understanding of world issues. As for being normal, see #1.

Why do public school advocates come up with these cheesy arguments? Because they are failing. Our public schools are getting worse by the day if you look at the statistics, and the only way they can justify the billions of tax dollars that go to this failed experiment is to say they are offering things that can't be measured.

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