So this week, a charming thing happened. Three school districts in Rhode Island received graphic bomb threats that included the beheading of elementary school students. Which of course, put homeschooling in the center of a lot on-line discussions. Which of course led to some pretty stupid arguments against homeschooling. A huge prevailing comment was along the lines of homeschooling shelters children, when they need to be out of the home and gain independence from parents.
Ay yi yi.
Now, granted, I consider myself a hip, urban homeschooler. I take full advantage of living in a city (a city, btw, that was just voted America's favorite for arts, culture, and geekiness). I'm not homeschooling as much as hacking my kid's education. Like this kid. I happen to think that real-life exposure to the world is better than learning about it through books and worksheets.
I think this, like the Socialization Question, is an antiquated notion. Maybe it was a good one when homeschoolers were few and far between. Maybe it was a good notion to question when homeschoolers were largely made up of either off-the-grid-hippies or fundamentalists. But homeschool has changed. I belong to an awesome homeschool group with over 300 members. And we're not the only group. If you're out and about during the day...look around. We're everywhere.
The notion that I am sheltering my child from real life is quite simply, ludicrous.
My kid has nothing BUT real life.
We regularly take the train to Boston or New York, to go do such sheltering things as the Museum of Science (which is usually empty during the weekdays) or Broadway shows. The kids are in charge of figuring out the train routes and fees. I usually give Pascal a map app and he navigates around major cities.
We meet at least 5 times a week for unstructured play with other homeschoolers. Get a bunch of kids together and you're going to have interesting dynamics. Yes, there's fighting and some meanness and lashing out at each other. There's also really cool fort building, finding dead animals, theological discussions, and incredible science discoveries.
Last month, Pascal wanted to open his own checking account. I said he couldn't sign checks until he had a signature. Bam. Cursive, done...like in a flash. I brought him to the bank and told him he was in charge of opening his account. He brought his money, sat down with the rep, and articulately described what type of account he wanted. He even got a tour of the vaults and behind-the-scenes at the bank (because homeschooling is like, the best backstage pass EVER.) At 8 years old, he knows how to deposit and withdraw his money and how to balance his account.
Because we're not rushed, we have plenty of time at the market. He gets $20 and the run of the store. He must stay within his limit and round up/down for approximate totals. He gets in his own line and handles the transaction all by himself, including niceties with the cashier.
Because again, we're not rushed in the morning, he has learned how to make his own breakfast, including using the stove independently.
He regularly gardens with my mom and in addition to learning a ton, they have the best, sweetest conversations. We often go to my grandmother's nursing home. Where he gently greets all the residents and is patient as hell with their Alzheimer-induced repeated questions.
And my experiences here aren't special as far as I can tell. All the homeschoolers around me have similar awesomeness happening.
Now, I respect everyone's choices in schooling. I really do. I don't often like to compare the school experience with my homeschooling experience. What works for your family is best for your family. And don't get me wrong. I know A LOT of school parents do these exact same things with their kids in the evenings and on weekends.
But explain to me...HOW exactly am I sheltering my child? A child in school is largely being told exactly what to do and when to do it. Where is their independence again? How exactly are school children out in the world? And tell me again, when in real-life are you in a room of 24 people grouped only by age and neighborhood?
Yes. I think there are people who want to keep their children from new experiences. I'm sure there are bad homeschoolers out there. Some people are overly cautious and don't want their kids exposed to anything outside their own comfort zone. But I'm not one of them.
And to be honest, I don't know any of them. And I know a lot of people.
And yes, to a degree I am sheltering my child. I'm sheltering him from a consumer driven culture of fashion and toy-of-the-moment. He gets to be who he is at all times. He gets to wear what HE thinks looks good/cool/whatever. His interests are his own and from his own mind. I'm sheltering him from bullies. 'Cause the argument "they need to learn how to deal with bullies" is just asinine. I'm sheltering him from an overly-sexual media driven culture that puts emphasis on boyfriend/girlfriend relationships in the 2nd grade.
And you bet your ass, I'm sheltering him from anxiety provoking lock-down drills and having police in and about the school. I have NO idea what we as a country are going to do about these school threats and actual shootings/bombings. And no, I don't think everyone should rush to homeschool because of these threats.
But as an argument against homeschooling, sheltering my child and not giving him independence is one of the lamest arguments I can think of.
(the picture is from a homeschool field trip to The Compost King's farm)