Thursday, January 18, 2007

Oh, this is so well said

HomeschoolBuzz posted a link to this Lake Oswego Review letter-to-the-editor by Amy Haroldson. In many ways, I could have written this same letter.

Mrs. Haroldson writes, "Perhaps I should first dispel the myth that all home-schooling families reject the brick and mortar experience. Along with many families in the district, we have a combination of home-schooled and public schooled children. My son attends Waluga Junior High, and is thriving in that environment."

We are in the same situation: although we've always homeschooled, we encouraged our Apprentice to check out the local high school for some of the things she's always wanted to try and hasn't been able to: like drama, a science course with microscopes, and French from someone besides me. And she's done well her first term. (We had trouble accessing those things because of time, cost, transportation difficulties, and/or lack of availability through our homeschooling network. That isn't true for many homeschoolers, particularly in the U.S.; many people discover creative ways to learn these things without resorting to public schools).

But Mrs. Haroldson goes on to talk about the child she continues to homeschool: "But there is not a carrot that you could dangle in front of me that would entice me to enroll my child in Lake Oswego schools, as long as I believe she is best educated at home. This is not because I think negatively of the institutions, but because I have carefully considered the particular needs of my child as an individual, and find home-schooling to be the most effective way to meet her unique needs."

Exactly! The Apprentice was in the right "space" this year to walk into public school classes, enjoy herself, and do well. To do that to some homeschoolers, even of high school age, would be like throwing them to the wolves, one way or another. I know at least one previously homeschooled teen whose entry into high school has been marked by rebellion; I know others who are so shy that they'd be lost in a large school. Then there are homeschooled kids who just learn differently, and that doesn't mean learning "wrong," it just means differently. There are kids who still have to work out things like working in the same room while other people are doing a lesson, and those who need to jump up and down in between everything. And there are kids who are slow to read or slow to write, those who have to learn everything at once or one tiny piece at a time; those who just enjoy everything about being at home, helping with younger ones or with family work, having a chance to travel or to spend hours on something that interests them; and those who are brought up on "strong meat" books and who are baffled and stultified by written-to-grade-level stories and endless "reproducibles."

Critics of homeschooling say, "That's real life. You don't always get to do just what you want, the way you want to do it; your kids are just spoiled. When they get jobs, they'll have to do things the way the boss says." Well, yes and no. There's probably a larger-than-usual percentage of quirky kids and non-traditional learners in any homeschool group, because they're the ones who would be worst served by a traditional classroom. The truth is that these kids, the ones with the most idiosyncracies, probably aren't going to end up in 9 to 5 jobs anyway. Some of them would end up (to use those so-perfect images) falling through the cracks and dropping out. Shouldn't we do everything we can to keep our children from getting lost, especially if they tend towards any of the at-risk categories? And some of these not-9-to-5-ers are going to be very successful and thrive in their own areas, if they're given what they need.

As the writer of the letter says: it's not about the schools. It's about our kids. As long as we continue to have that choice, let's choose what's best for them.


Meredith said...

Well said.

Sherri said...

Great post!

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