Saturday, August 04, 2007

ok, the mom-angst seems to have subsided a bit, for the time being.

thanks, all-a-y'all, for the words of encouragement.

so, anyone here homeschool? special-private-school? public-school? school-in-a-tree? school-underwater?

who has some thoughts on education they'd like to share?

Me, I'm intrigued by the whole homeschool/unschool thing, perhaps because the whole school trip made me totally bonkers. I rarely did my homework, hated math in all forms, skipped class to go to the library and read (that really made my parents mad) - and everything in my life from the time I was about 6 until I finally escaped was contingent on school.

Should an institution have that much power over a life?

All my parents and I ever did was fight. and I wasn't a druggie, I wasn't a noisy rock-n-roll chick, I didn't stay out late, I didn't run around with boys - I just didn't give a shit about school, so I had trouble at home. No end of trouble.

So I'm thinking - how about a life that is not so ground-into-paste by a tortured relationship with an institution that doesn't care if you live or die? I mean, The School System had no real investment in me or my life, beyond my performance on standardized tests (which I managed fairly easily). How about taking care of education in ways that don't cause World War Three around the dinner table every night? sounds like a plan.

BUT Antiprince has a few objections to the whole homeschool ethos.

Now, he himself had a rather chaotic childhood and a somewhat off-the-beaten-path educational experience. But, nonetheless he seems to think that public schools are adequate to the task.

or at least he thinks that homeschooling is no real solution to the problems presented by public school.

When he was working retail at the Discovery Channel Store back a few years ago, he noticed that a great many homeschooling families came to avail themselves of the many educational toys, games, videos and other objets d'smartypants that were sold there. He observed that some eight out of ten of these homeschooling families pulled their kids out of school to protect them from the eeeeeeeeevils of modern life - sex, rock music, the color red, that kind of thing. and the children of these homeschooling families were, in Antiprince's estimation, "odd", due to the social isolation that seemed to go hand in hand with homeschooling.

"Kittens spend lots of time playing with other kittens, learning to be big cats. It's the same with people. Growing up in isolation like that makes kids odd. I don't want my kid to be odd," he says.

"well, any more odd, anyway," I reply.

Funny thing - for as long as I've known him, this is the one thing we've ever disagreed on to any great extent...always in the abstract, until now...

anyhow - feel free to bloviate upon education. who knows, maybe Heart herself will stop by with her expert testimony on homeschooling, to edify us all with her extensive knowledge, or something.

What about private schools? Not all of them are religious. Some have scholarships or financial aid available too.
Maybe compromise? send the kid to public/private school for some portion of their schooling and homeschool/unschool for another portion?

I went to public school and I hated it. I did well, but I never had many friends. Then, for high school, I went to boarding school and I loved it.
I hated public school. I spent a year in a Montessori. that was actually worse in some ways.

I dunno. I think in some ways it might've saved me some angst; on the other hand I'm not sure being shut up alone with my parents, isolated from other kids, even -more- would've been so hot.

some homeschooling families have little pooled schools of their own, don't they? maybe something like that. or a combination. i think at least the kid needs to spend some time with peers outside the family, ideally in a way that isn't utterly terrifying...
I really liked school.
well, I guess the question is, Drakyn - what is it about public school that made it so intolerable for you, and what about private school solved that problem?

Belle - what was Montessori like, if you remember?

Trinity - there were parts of school I dug (notably the library, the art room, the music room) - but those were largely held out as "privileges" to be earned, the dessert to be had ONLY if I'd finished my dinner.

what was it about school that you liked, Trinity?

a general question for those who were not digging the public school environment - was it the teachers, the coursework, or the other students that wrecked it for you, or was it a combination of factors?
I hated public school for a lot of reasons. The work, even in gifted classes, was boring and out of date. The teachers were generally nice though. Mostly it was the other kids. Anyone who was a little different was teased. I knew a kid in 8th grade who, not only was he a POC and fat, he also wanted to work in the fashion industry; he dropped out of school sometime during high school. The kids in my school system, and my sister is now in the same system, were xenophobic, racist, heterosexist, sexist, etc.
Obviously, not all public schools are like this, but some are.
I loved high school because most of the teachers cared, the work was generally challenging, and the kids were actually nice. And, being away from my parents was great. CK wasn't very cliquish and we had classmates from all over the world. Most people are able to find a core group of friends and even the people outside of your group are generally nice.

I think it would be best to look at the local schools and see what sort of community they offer. I think how much a person likes their school is really dependent on how the kids interact with each other and the faculty/staff.
My kids all public schooled, but they were in small backwater schools who emphasised a classical education over new Modern ideas. One hated it, the other 3 love it.

My best friend homeschools her kids, and does a fine job of it. Her 8 yr old is reading/math on a 6th grade level, and she has taught her latin and french as well. They are part of a co-op, andmy friend teaches languages, other parents teach math or schience, whatever they're qualified in. It's more like a home-based private school than the common idea of homeschooling.

Unschooling scares me. Honestly, it strikes me as a copout for people who don't want to exercise the discipline it takes for either homeschooling or regular schools. Yes, you can learn alot from your enviroment and all, but something in my Presbyterian soul calls it a copout. Perhpas it's not logical, but that's my gut based on the unschooled people I've been around.

I went to public school and while I loved the teachers and the learning, I despised my peers. The teasing and humiliation were relentless. I probably would have enjoyed being homeschooled, but back in the day it wasn't an option unless you were a complete religious fruitcake.
I wonder how many school difficulties were the result of my own temperament (nervous around groups of people, hatred of noisy chaos, desperate for adult approval, pathological fear of confrontation) rather than the School System.

maybe my questions will all be answered when Little Mary Wolfgang shows us what kind of person sie is.
My kids all public schooled, but they were in small backwater schools who emphasised a classical education over new Modern ideas.

which reminds me of another reason I'm just a smidge dubious of The School System - every other semester some new fad or theory or method or pedagogy or curriculum comes blasting out of the gate headed straight for the educational boneyard, taking how many otherwise smart kids with it?

Waste, poor administration, misuse of resources, contradictory educational goals - all equally as disturbing as the lord-of-the-flies atmosphere of The School System.

and now I'm out of bread and butter pickles. damn those were tasty.
It takes a village, they say. If I were to have a kid, I'd try and find/found a co-op like the above. I *hated* public school for the same reasons, up until high school. So. Maybe co-op up until the high school years, then go private or public schooling as per what's available/what the kid prefers? That seems like a good solution.
Definitely no homeschooling/unschooling. I've seen the direct results of that. Kids need to interact with other kids of all ages *and* different kinds of adults for optimal socialization.
Definitely no homeschooling/unschooling. I've seen the direct results of that. Kids need to interact with other kids of all ages *and* different kinds of adults for optimal socialization.

Hi anon! :) why not pull up a name and stay a while?

what were the direct results of home/unschooling that you observed?
We did public and then private school, and then homeschool. My 2 oldest are in public high school again, and the younger two are middle-schooling at home.

We did not do it to protect them from the world. And though my kids can be weird, they are no weirder than they would be, I think, if we'd sent them to school all the way through. Maybe a lot LESS weird, after hearing the stories my son brought home this past school year.

To be honest, although we did not stop sending our kids to school for social/moral reasons, I have to admit that I am glad that they are now at high school seeing it all with a fresh eye--and not seeing drug use, violence, racism, having-sex-in-class, hating your parents, etc., as the norm.

And in at least one case, they are definitely happier than they would have been, had we not pulled them out. Because, the shitstorm that school was, for him, was the reason we pulled them all out of school in the first place.

Public school may well be fine. It is what we had always planned to do, and what we are getting back to. We know plenty of successful, happy, well-adjusted public school students, and that's what we did for school as kids, too (although I did go to Catholic high school). Private school, also, great for lots of people.

For reasons of...well, not wanting to mortify my kids, I'm not going to go into the crap that they experienced (especially That One Kid) in a blog forum. Trust me, it was awful.

By the time we left the school system, we felt that one son in particular had been abused horribly by school staff. We still feel guilty for letting him deal with all of it, because we were, for so long, convinced that homeschooling was just for crazy, isolationist, religious zealots.

We know a wide variety of homeschoolers--some weird, some normal, some exemplary. Just like everywhere else.
Your kid might not hate school. I think it's different for everyone.

My cousin homeschools. He had social problems, and honestly I don't blame my aunt a bit for pulling him out--all those stories about kids getting teased so much they attempt suicide? Scary. He's a cool kid, he's just big and gentle and junior high is... Lord of the Flies. He's 17 now, and doing alright.

I figure that it's probably worth it to try school, but it certainly not worth it to put a child through torture to stay in school, if you can do it otherwise. And, except for the kids that are homeschooled for Jesus Reasons, I don't think that homeschooled kids turn out any weirder than they might have otherwise.

I'm another that absolutely hated the social aspect of school. I was a brainiac teacher's pet that sucked at sports, and, well, I posted that picture of me at 13--I was NOT one of the popular kids. But, I got through alright, I guess. I really hated going so slow. I liked getting A's, but I was irritated that there were nearly always such easy A's.

If I were going to homeschool, I'd be one of those nutjobs that forces the "Classical" education on their poor, unsuspecting child. I just LOVE the emphasis on cohesive thought.

And, personally, I think "unschooling" is a cruel joke. I understand the theory behind it, and whatnot, and I still think it's ridiculous. I know people say it works for them, but I know that it wouldn't work for me.
What exactly -is- "unschooling," anyway?
now I'm wondering if I really would've been any the worse off for not having the "socialization" i had in junior high and high school.

i do think there's something to be said for teaching kids to play nicely in the sandbox. but...yeah, i dunno. American public schools really are Lord of the Flies. maybe i just want the kids to suffah like I suffah'd?

but yeah, also, scary religious connotations, not just of the homeschoolers themselves, but of the effort the fundamentalists have put into making -sure- the public schools suck badly enough that more and more parents will want to bail.

I was just such an isolated kid already, is the thing. maybe now with the Internets and more and more other kids being homeschooled it'd be different.

Montessori--I understand they can vary dramatically in quality. the one I went to was just a mess. I don't think I learned anything academically the whole time, there was really no less bullying, and the headmistress person was kind of nuts. and mean.
Basically, it means "letting the kid learn what it wants to learn." Schooling with a self-led curriculum.

It's all based on the notion that children have natural inner desire to learn, and it's schooling and teaching that destroy a person's natural curiosity.
My friend who homeschools-her kids get plenty of socializtion, as much as public schoolers. However, the co-op has a scary cultish feeling to it, as in "science" teaches creationism only and gender roles are highly defined. I don't think all homeschool co-ops arelike that, surely not, I hope.
You have time to worry about it. Let's get little Mary Wolfgang potty trained, first.
We live in an area where the public school system is known for it's academic rigor. Most of kids are able to read when the leave kindergarten, and the school system prides itself on having a large percentage of kids who complete Algebra I in middle school.

We chose this area to live in, because of the public schools... but we can't afford to buy a house here. Various family members are trying to persuade us to move to their areas-- but that would either mean spending money on private school, or having my girls be bored while the rest of their class catches up to them.

Homeschooling was never an option for us. I could probably do ok teaching them to read, but the more I watch my kids' teachers in action, the more I am impressed with the different ways that they have for explaining trickier concepts.

My own public school experience was a mixed bag. The first school I went to was wonderful, then we moved halfway through third grade, and had some truly dreadful teachers and met some truly dreadful children.

My way of making sure that my own children don't repeat my experience is that I make a point to volunteer in their classrooms at often as my work schedule allows. I attend PTA meetings, and lead a Girl Scout troop. I talk to other parents, and compare notes about the teachers.
Well, I homeschool monkey#1 so far, and it's only about that freakish isolation if that's why you're homeschooling. If one of your goals in homeschooling is to keep your kids away from the worldly godless heathens and such, you'll keep them. isolated. If one of your goals is to encourage social wellroundedness, you'll make the effort for your kids too spend time with a variety of people in various social settings.
Hey, I can play here!

I've always been suspicious of homeschooling because of the prevelance of fundies, BUT over the last year I've gotten to know a kid who's been homeschooled, and she's leaps and bounds ahead of her peers in terms of education, eloquence, logic etc. She has a few odd ideas about relationships, mostly because she was homeschooled for Jesus Reasons, but no more so than most equally religious kids who are in public schools. In her case it's definately been a good thing overall.

One thing I will note about her, since she's the only recently homeschooled kid I know - other than the premarital sex is bad stuff she has far more progressive ideas about gender roles than most kids her age, AND she's far more confident and less concerned with what boys think of her. She was schooled mostly by her Mom, along with her 3 sisters, if that helps.

I do wonder how she's going to cope socially at college (starting full time in the fall), BUT I've seen her weather some fairly challenging environments socially and come through with flying colors, so I think it has a lot to do with the parents and what they teach the kids in a non-academic sense. In that environment the kids really will be a direct reflection of the parents.
My kids, ages 14 and 11, have never gone to school. We saw right from when my eldest was a baby that she would not be a good fit for a classroom. She's also the reason we found ourselves unschooling, too, as any attempt to "teach" her in a schoolish manner would've been disastrous. That's just her learning style, and I know without a doubt that school would've been severely damaging to her. My younger daughter probably would've done well, but I suspect that she would easily have become a bully.

Unschooling is known by other names, such as child lead learning. (There's also school-at-home and theme driven or unit study styles, and everything in between.) For some people (radical unschoolers, they often call themselves), it's a total rejection of any sort of coerced learning, text books, work books, or anything at all schoolish. Personally, I don't buy that. To me, unschooling is going by your child's individual learning style. For my older daughter, that looked a lot like radical unschooling, but for my younger, that included things like workbooks (she liked them). We use whatever tools are appropriate for the need.

My older daughter has always had a desperate need to communicate. She was an early talker and she taught herself to read by age six. By age 10, she was easily reading and comprehending university level sociology text books. Today, she's a dedicated writer, and is teaching herself Latin, German and French, so that she can use them to develop the languages used by characters in her stories. Oh, and she's been picking up some Welsh and Spanish in there, too.

Me? I just try to stay out of her way! Had I made any attempt to "teach" her a specific subject it would've set her back months, sometimes years. I made that mistake a couple of times, much to my regret. She's an intense perfectionist, and no one is harder on her than herself.

Our biggest challenge with her is showing her that it's ok to not get things perfectly the first time, and that mistakes are things to be learned from. It's so much easier with her sister, who's incredibly laid back and accepting.

Unschooling is NOT a cop out, by any means! It's incredibly hard - for the parents! Most kids are naturals at it. ;-) My husband and I grew up in the public school system. We were taught that learning happened in certain ways; that it was something done "to" children by adults in a formal way, and that specific things *had* to be learned at specific ages, or else! Intellectually, we knew that to be false, but it's been ingrained in us throughout most of our lives. It's very difficult to stand back and trust that a child will learn what they need to learn, when they're ready to. It's one thing to have a child who's, say, an early reader and say, "yes, unschooling works." It's another if your child is "behind" in something (according to whom?), and to not push or force that child to do something they may not be developmentally ready to do, which happens too frequently within the system.

As for socialization - that's a total non-issue! People have different social needs, and the idea that all kids need to be socialized the same way is really quite silly, when you think about it. They're individuals, not robots, and we need the quiet, shy ones as much as we need the social butterflies.

As for isolation, the issue reminds me of the first adult home schooler I'd ever met, though I wasn't aware of the concept of home schooling at the time. He was the fiance of a co-worker of mine, a college graduate, with a career. He grew up isolated, on a light house island with his parents and sister. This was before the internet, so the only contact with the outside world was by radio and the once a month helicopter visit with their mail and groceries/ supplies for the next month. They used correspondence courses. Neither he, nor his sister, ever had social challenges.

Home schooling isn't right for everyone, but it would be very difficult for caring parents to do any worse than the public school system. That standard just isn't very high! Probably the worst thing a new home schooling parent can do is to try and re-create the classroom at home. While that may meet the learning style of a very few children, usually it's a recipe for burn out and a whole lot of conflict.
thanks all-a-y'all for your perspectives!

and hi to new commenters!

lots to think about, obviously.
Well, I was homeschooled and came out the other end ok, although it wasn't an entirely smooth passage. And my parents bear no resemblence to Heart or to the fundie types you mostly hear about. (I guess the advantage Heart's kids had that i didn't was each other - being an only child makes interacting with others a major issue) I guess as an anarchist i should be all for unschooling, but sadly i've seen too many kids whose parents didn't believe in being authoritarian over trivial stuff like learning to read and write, and who subsequently miss the optimum age for picking these skills up and go through hell learning them later. So, yeah, i think i'd be the sort of parent who was tempted to give a baby flashcards and so on to avoid this.
I'd also say that the whole thing hangs on your kid's personality. S/he may fit in brilliantly at a normal school, or may not. You can't predict that until you have a toddler in front of you with the prospect of choosing a school. (I went through four different primary schools in four years, before my parents reached the conclusion that getting out of the system may be a better idea - ended up staying out for eight years!) So i guess all anyone can do at the pregnancy stage is to figure out what you do and don't have major objections to, and maybe *why* any objections are so major.
I guess the advantage Heart's kids had that i didn't was each other - being an only child makes interacting with others a major issue

Yeah, that's where I'm coming from also. And the neighborhood I lived in from ten on (and my folks are still in), unlike the last few places we'd lived, is/was decidedly unneigborhoodly, no kids to play with on the street where i lived, except for an unfortunate attempt with the girl across the street who ended up bullying me and turned out to be a neo-Nazi.
Well, maybe this won't be so helpful, but here's my experience. I have two children. The younger one is doing just fine in the public school system. The older one did ok in grade school, but it has a fabulous principal, who kept that rather wayward kid on track.

Starting middle school, though, was a disaster. Older kid cut classes, became rebellious, emotional, the works. Absolutely the pits. She did a slow-motion train wreck for all of 6th grade, which she flunked. Oh, and I never even saw any of the principals. Her homeroom teacher was nice enough, but they didn't connect.

I don't recall how I read about unschooling. I'm too damned selfish and lazy to homeschool, but I would've loved to unschool as a child, and so would my spouse. So I decided to give it a chance. Kid found some friends online. And yes, she spent a lot of time iming her friends, reading and watching manga/anime, learning to sing, draw, write fanfic.

And her math skills still are bad.


After two years of this, she has learned some Japanese. She's found a community of friends, other kids involved in the same manga she is. She's matured a great deal. We're hosting a Japanese foreign exchange student. And she's going back to high school, with the hope of getting good grades, and a scholarship to go to Japan. I doubt there's any way she could've picked up enough Japanese if she'd continued at middle school.

But just the huge improvement in attitude is a big plus. And now that she's made the decision to go back, I think she'll do much better.

Personally, for the motivated parent, I think home/unschooling is great. But I don't have the energy and I want the time alone while the kids are in school. There have been times when I wondered what I was doing, but on the whole, I think my choice was the right one.

woodland sunflower
I would've loved to have schooled underwater. Just saying.
I would've loved to have schooled underwater. Just saying.

it's the 21st century...shouldn't we be doing lots of things underwater by now?

woodland sunflower - that's great that your kid has blossomed so dramatically.

are you concerned about the math, or do you think it will come along in its own time, as she discovers she needs it?
I'm super-late to this party, but you mentioned you wanted to know about Waldorf education, which my brothers are doing right now. I'm not very well-read about the theory, but my brothers are learning Spanish and German (I was mad because they had better accents than I did), put on plays of different myths and other fairytale-ish stuff, and are learning to knit. They also learn about holidays in other cultures and sing songs from many languages (I came home to find them singing a song for Santa Lucia and another one in Hebrew.) I know Waldorf has kids reading later than public schools and homework doesn't start until 4th grade-ish. The children go outside and play or do nature walks and stuff every day, rain or shine. There's also this kind of "thank you earth" song/greeting every morning at least in kindergarten, where the parents quietly drop out while the kids are still singing. The school my brothers go to makes their own applesauce and has chickens that the third-graders, I think, take care of. There's a general theme of trying to have children learn more naturally and use natural materials in their learning. They have a kick-ass Yuletide fair where kids and parents contribute crafts to sell. They generally expect parents to be pretty involved with the school. Students have the same teacher throughout their schooling. They offer financial aid as well. The main drawback I've observed is that sometimes people put their kids in Waldorf because they've been acting out at another school. Sometimes Waldorf helps them chill, but sometimes the problem is not the school environment. I can give you my mom's email if you want to know more about the underlying theory, since she's read up about it.
I think you should read John Holt to learn more about unschooling, if you're curious. John Taylor Gatto is the dude everybody in the "community" is abuzz about, and some of what he says is valid, but he contradicts himself a lot and obviously has a right-wing agenda--I don't know why the Left likes him so much. John Holt doesn't get into all of that; he was more interested in social issues than politics, and he genuinely liked kids and respected them. He's passed on, I think back in the Eighties, but his books are still in print.

By the way I find it ironic that people go, "But what about socialization?" and in the next breath complain about how mean and nasty public school kids are. "Kids should spend time around a wide range of people"--yes, indeed, and that's the homeschooler's/unschooler's argument as well. How are you going to do that if you're stuck in a classroom with thirty other kids your age, all day long? And you'd get busted for leaving the classroom without permission. At least a homeschooler's parents can just take the kid somewhere--a park, a library, a continuing ed class, a playgroup--any time they want without breaking the law.
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