(first article in an infinite series)
The more I read about homeschooling, the more I get excited by the idea of actually doing it. I can’t wait to start, but then I think, haven’t I already started? The moment Water Boy was born, I started homeschooling. Stillmog and I became his full time teachers the second he came into the world, and we will be teaching him for the rest of our lives.
Let’s get a little more back story, shall we?
I am a social rebel at heart, and I’m always looking for ways to break out of the confines of “normal” society and conventions. As cliche as it may sound, I enjoy thinking outside the box. I don’t want my children subjected to these norms that everyone clings to, these constraints that people put on each other, telling themselves and others how to live, where to live, what to do, what to eat, how much to buy, what to wear. I don’t think it’s necessary or desirable. I think the world is full of enough sheep, and enough shepherds; my children will be the people who live in the woods with the wolves and wild animals.
Looking at public school, and my specific experiences with it, I decided homeschooling was definitely an option I wanted to research. Public schools are terrible places, for a lot of people, and for a lot of reasons. I’m not saying people can’t get anything out of them, because I know the majority of society comes from some form of public education. But if I have problems with the current society, and how it’s built and run, then why would I put my kids through the system that upholds and propagates that very society?
Public schools are proofing grounds, for proving how tough you are, how mean you can be, how quickly and completely you can conform. The people that are known to be smart, the nerds, geeks, the math club members and chess club presidents, they’re the ones tormented and ostracized, bullied and harassed. And not just by peers, either. Their teachers, if they’re good, feel helpless at being able to keep these kids interested, and if they aren’t good, they resent these brighter than normal students for breaking the curve, for trying to challenge the status quo, for trying to make the teacher think.
Even the average student, the guys or girls just trying to make it through, are told to keep their heads down, don’t make waves, don’t rock the boat. Just pass the classes and get out. If someone finds out about their passion for, say, detective comic books, or organic gardening, or volunteering at the public library, they’re just as likely to be made fun of, as to be praised or admired.
I hated school, from a young age. I always had problems with being too smart, or outshining my peers, or working ahead. This isn’t me trying to toot my own horn, it’s just the truth. I had a fourth grade report card that had my first ever C on it, and my mom set up a parent/teacher conference to find out why, because I had always made A’s easily. She wanted to know if there was a problem or issue that needed to be fixed. I didn’t find out until years later, that my teacher had deliberately given me that lower grade, because she thought I needed to learn that I couldn’t make A’s all the time.
I had issues with peers being mad at me for being smart. I had girls who would pull my hair in the hallways, I had boys that would taunt me on the playground and push me around because it was funny. When I got into middle school, there were people pressuring me to have sex, to blow off school, to do bad things and damn the consequences. I had a girl make up rumors about me sleeping with her boyfriend because she didn’t like me and wanted me to feel small. In high school it was better and worse. I was excited about some classes, and bored with others. Every couple of weeks we would pause whatever we were doing, and buckle down for the standardized tests that were required to graduate.
I made some friends, and lost them just as quickly. People were split off into little groups that consisted of clones just like them. Everybody was interested in everything but learning, in drugs and alcohol and partying, in spending their parents’ money or getting out of school so they could hurry up and make their own. People were cruel, and uncaring, and just plain dumb. I was almost expelled my sophomore year because of a girl on my soccer team, who was pressured by other girls into saying I had harassed her in a suggestive manner.
But I had to go. I was required to be among this war zone, this meat factory, this 8 to 3:30 daily grind. I hated school, I did everything I could to make it more bearable. I hid in the library, I helped found a club based on watching anime videos and reading manga during lunch, I got jobs after school that helped pay for a car. I would come home after school exhausted and drained, saddened and depressed. The few friends I had were misfits like me, too smart in general or too interested in things outside the normal interests of your average hormone driven teen.
And all this is normal, according to most education professionals. This process is necessary to learn about “real life” and the “real world”. You need to spend 8 hours a day getting facts beaten into your head, you need to be crushed in with people who don’t want to be there, who lash out at everyone around them in order to feel better about themselves, who hate learning and books and care only about where their money is going to come from when they get out of there. You need to be measured and weighed and evaluated on your performance every step of the way to make sure you’re average and meeting all the average goals. If you excel, you’re an anomaly. You’re there with teachers who are dealing with 250 different students a day, who are burned out, run down, or are just there for the summers and school holidays off. And the good teachers never have enough time to help everyone, to reach out and give every struggling child the care and compassion and help they need. You need to be with people who are all the same age, from similar backgrounds and the same geographical area, who talk just like you do and look just like you do, though not always.
Does that sound like a representation of what the real world looks like? As an adult, do you spend time with people who make you feel bad if you don’t have to? Do you only meet and work with people who live in the same city you do, or grew up the same way you did, who are all the same general age?
No? I didn’t think so.
There are also plenty of public school success stories. People who have taken a public school education and made a difference in their own lives and the lives of others around them. I’m not saying public school isn’t necessary, but I’m also not saying it’s all goodness and sunshine and rainbows. Kids whose parents can’t or won’t homeschool them, they need public school. Kids who live in dangerous neighborhoods where learning at school is safer than trying to learn at home need public school. Homeschooling is not the be-all, end-all, cure-all solution to our lacking public education system. For some people, it really isn’t possible. But I want people to realize that public school, traditional school, isn’t always necessary for growing up smart and well-educated either.
I want my son to be different, I want him to grow up happy and healthy, without the suffering and pain I experienced, that was considered part of the growing up process.
So we will probably try homeschooling. I will talk later about the me
thod we are considering, a form called “unschooling”, and more about my feelings towards homeschooling.