This little dude was sleeping in Riverside Park today, right in the area where the kids play every week. He was only about 3 feet off the ground, and we wondered why he chose such an unprotected, low spot to sleep. Maybe he got caught out too late and had to scramble for a limb – any limb, even one attached to a shrub rather than a tree? Whatever the case, we enjoyed looking at him. He’s kind of cute and didn’t seem disturbed at all by our tromping around and photographing him with flash. Hope he’ll find a better nook for himself tomorrow…
Are homeschoolers and unschoolers ‘dropouts’? It was suggested to me today that people don’t take unschoolers’ ideas on education seriously because we have ‘dropped out’ of the system. Therefore, somehow, we forfeit the right to an opinion about how to improve education for the masses. As though if we want to change things we need to keep or put our kids in schools. That’s kind of like saying, “Hey, the cars we drive are really unsafe, but if you want to improve them you need to keep driving them despite the hazards. If you switch to a safer car, you can no longer advocate for improvements on the unsafe vehicles.”
Along those lines, yesterday I had a conversation with someone who lives in our building whose kids go to school and are a little younger than Maya and Ben. He started asking me if, as homeschoolers, there is some website where we can go to find out what we need to teach the kids. So I gave him the general rundown of how things work in New York. And then he said one of the things that irk me the most. He said, “But how do they keep track to make sure the parents are doing what they are supposed to do and not just letting the kids stay home and do nothing?” I suppose I should have told him about the yearly assessments and the required testing as of the 5th grade, but what I said was, “It doesn’t work that way, because if parents really don’t want to be bothered, it’s much easier just to send the kids to school.” He looked shocked and gave a nervous laugh, but the conversation went no further. Sometimes I get sick of having to defend the choice to not send my kids into a stress-filled, make work situation where they are constantly in a state of ‘preparation’ – for the next test, the next grade, the next school. Parents whose kids are in school have no qualms about being condescending and saying things like, “but what if your child really WANTS to go to school?” To which I always want to respond (and maybe next time will) “but what if your child DOESN’T?”
Most homeschooling parents I know are very open to listening to ideas about education, even if they disagree. A friend of mine told me she has a breakfast once a month with a bunch of women from her neighborhood. They all have children and my friend is the only one who homeschools. She said she used to enjoy the breakfasts and hearing different perspectives, but lately has been discouraged by the almost constant negative, superficial nature of the conversation. She also said that though she makes a point of asking each mother about her child or children, how they are doing, how is school, etc., no one ever asks her about her family or children or homeschooling. Ever.
Dropouts? No, that doesn’t fit. Innovators, explorers, advocates – most life learning families are all of those things and more. They haven’t dropped out, they’ve just switched to a safer car.