Remember a few days ago when I posted that I sometimes get tired of writing about education and learning? I ended by saying:
So I’ll keep writing about what we do. And what we don’t do. Because maybe there’s a parent out there who needs to hear it, even if I don’t so much anymore.
Apparently the Universe took that as a challenge. Really? So secure are you that you don’t need to be reassured your path is the right one? (In my head, the Universe kind of sounds like Yoda.)
How else to explain the fact that over the last 72 hours I’ve had more people telling me about homeschoolers who are going into schools, or whose parents plan to send them to schools, than I can remember since Maya was born? And even though I also said a few days ago that I’ve got nothing against the decision to enter school and that each family must do what’s best for them, hearing that one of our long time homeschooled friends will be entering middle school in just a few weeks kept me up last night. (In fairness to the family, they have also told their daughter that if she doesn’t enjoy it, she can come back out and return to homeschooling.)
I think the reason it kept me up was that for me, not sending my kids to school is not a stop-gap measure; not temporary. I am not trying to give them a good ‘base’ so that they will do better in a prestigious middle or high school. And I guess I assumed (oh, the trouble assumptions cause) that all the people I know who homeschool or unschool their kids feel the same way. Turns out I may be in the minority. A place I should be very familiar with by now, but in which I am continually surprised to find myself. I didn’t forego sending my kids to school because we live in a horrible school district. The public school just around the corner from where we live is said to be one of the best. (Of course, everyone I talk to says they live near one of the best public schools in the city, so take that with a grain of salt.) It was not for lack of private school options; Waldorf, Montessori, Steiner, you name it and it’s available here in the city. It was because the more I read about our system of schooling juxtaposed with the way children actually learn – from authors like John Holt and John Taylor Gatto – the more sense it made to stay away from any school.
This week I feel like my beliefs in that regard have me swimming upstream against a heavy current. But I think I would rather swim upstream than go with the flow when it comes to my kids’ learning. The factory system of schooling just doesn’t cut it in any way, no matter how high the test scores from a particular school may be. I don’t care if my kids score high on tests; I want them to score high in their lives. Maybe that means they’ll own their own business, or be entrepreneurs or artists; or maybe they’ll find a company they love and work there. Maybe they’ll eventually choose to stay at home and raise their own kids. My view is that schools, even when they have the best of intentions, often if not always succeed in limiting children by using a standardized assessment and then labeling them accordingly. Ryan Blair, a wildly successful entrepreneur and author of Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain, had this to say about his own schooling:
As a product of Los Angeles’s public school system, in a state with the highest dropout rate in the nation (about 20 percent), I can tell you from personal experience that some of our brightest minds are being misidentified because of a one-size-fits-all learning environment. Because I had ADD and dyslexia I never got past the 9th grade.
Hey you know what? I feel better after writing this. Bring it on, Universe! Give me all the pro-schooling stories you can muster. I can take it. And I’ll continue to allow my kids to learn through the classroom of life. There’s still no school that can match it.