Anything Schools Can Do, We Can Do Better

Paideia October 19, 2013

SCHOOLING School is not just a repetitious and regular place to learn mathematics or literacy.  It is not some small world of one’s own experience. A whole world’s worth and a whole history’s worth of knowledge is conveyed through an education. As it is meant to teach, a child will take away from the classroom thoughts on what is important, who is important, thoughts about the order in life, how to relate to the world, their place in the world, and how to be adults. Given the weight it carries, convention may need to be reconsidered, and at the very least, parents must know that if they think it is important to pass on their worldview, they must be active participants in so much as they possibly can.

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a revolution going on. It started in the 60’s, post-counterculture author John Holt’s landmark book “How Children Fail.” Up from the underground came a new age of homeschooling. I’m not talking about American frontier settlement or the Amish barn-raising homeschooling most readily associated with the idea. I’m talking about contemporary homeschooling, a democratic and efficient practice free of political corruption that offers unparalleled levels of academic attention and flexibility in scheduling, in addition to a sense of family cohesion. Yes, there are still communities who believe that public schools threaten their moral values and choose homeschooling in order to instruct in ways complimentary to deeply seeded beliefs, but the widespread infrastructure of homeschooling groups, websites and networks is populated with people who wouldn’t consider themselves either religious or counterculture. Homeschoolers today are very eclectic, yet they are united by similar frustrations and desires about their children’s education.

So what do these homeschoolers of various backgrounds have in common? There’s no denying that the modern homeschool movement was born out of a desire to shake off ineffectual school bureaucracies and to sidestep the uncertain mission of public schools, which is set by adults with often conflicting priorities for children. A century of ideological struggles has defined the hodge-podge taught in schools, and they persist to this day. Interesting to me is that in this great American melting pot, we have taken people of immensely varied ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds and made idealized assumptions on what unification looks like in an education system. Points of contention and conflict among these very different peoples is constant in American public education and is polluting any progressive attempts made to transform it. For example, evolution or intellectual design? Safe-sex or abstinence? To encourage the arts or treat them as distractions? Mathematical self-esteem or mathematical competence? American literature classics or insulation manuals and plant inventories?

In addition, in-home schooling opens doors that schools leave closed. Imagine being introduced to statistics driving to Florida for spring training or flying to Europe to see the great art and architecture and walking through the Forum to learn about ancient Rome. Have you considered the possibility participating in a fife and drum corps, playing colonial and traditional patriotic music, marching in parades, learning not only music and history but also teamwork, perseverance, and discipline. What about joining a Shakespeare troupe and staging a complete play every year. How about starting a robotics team and building robots to compete in regional, national and international events? Textbooks and workbooks are one way to receive an education, but there are better ways. I wish I would have received a homeschool education.

Fortunately, I can give my child an education at home, and with the support of my husband, that is what I intend to do.

So, yeah, I’m homeschooling. What’s your superpower?

Have you seen?
Hackschooling – When 13 year-old Logan LaPlante grows up, he wants to be happy and healthy. He discusses how hacking his education is helping him achieve this goal.
Do Schools Kill Creativity? – Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.
Waiting for Superman – An exhaustive review of public education, surveying “drop-out factories” and “academic sinkholes,” methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems. Waiting For “Superman” was in theaters in 2010, but that doesn’t mean the movement to reform public education in America has ended. Keep up with the latest news in education reform and innovation from TakePart.com.

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Today I whipped up french toast soldiers, read a collection of stories about a curious monkey, built a space ship, battled neighboring pirates, consoled, corrected, and encouraged, all before lunch.

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