Sunday, April 19, 2009

More thoughts on Homeschooling

(First, as an addendum to the previous post on 'Being Fabulous', I am forced to acknowledge that when people are not feeling fabulous, they do not appreciate being encouraged to show their inner fabulous-ness. Apparently such attempts come across as condescending. Thus continues my utter inability to communicate effectively. Sigh.)

Now that Anna is getting so big (she'll be 5 years old in just a few days), the subject of school comes up a lot more often. Neighbours, cashiers, other acquaintances all ask her or me about what school she goes to or how she likes school, and I am starting to need a pretty good answer, but so far I don't have one.

The question I used to face constantly was "Is the baby a good sleeper?", as if it matters, and as if it's anyone's business. My standard response became "Oh, yes. We're all good sleepers at our house!", accompanied by a big stupid grin, which made it obvious that my answer was as moronic as the question. And of course there's the even stupider question "Is she a good baby?" to which I am dying to answer "There are no bad babies. Only bad parents."

With regards to Anna attending school, I have often answered "No, not this year" or "We're still looking for the right school for her." This implies that she will be attending school, which, though dishonest, makes the questioner feel satisfied that Anna will be getting an institutional education at some point in the near future, which apparently is really important to people who in actual fact don't give a rat's ass about my children.

Some answers I've considered giving would just be too much for the average mainstreamer to handle. How about: "No. I don't trust the government to raise my children" or "I don't turn my children over to strangers, even those who went to teacher's college" or "School? Why, so she can spend 15 years following someone's agenda and having her curiosity and creativity destroyed?" Admittedly, these answers are just too extreme.

So I'm thinking about having a standard answer that is more about me than about Anna. I could say "I was an elementary school teacher in this city for 10 years. I'm terrified to put my kid in a public school." But then people will either argue that the problems are rare, or they will ask for more information about my experience, and I really don't care to get into it with people who are extraneous to our lives.

Another possible answer is "I was a teacher before I had kids. I'm quite capable of teaching my children at home." This satisfies people (like all the people who have said that since I was a teacher I must know how to teach children.) The problem with this answer is that it implies that we sit at home and replicate school. In fact, Partner-Guy's principal even told him that she thinks I must have implemented a firm structure at home in order to teach the kids, keep house and take care of the baby. He, of course, smiled and said nothing, because he knows that I never teach the kids a school-oriented-lesson. But of course his principal assumes that homeschool equals school-at-home and he doesn't intend to make her think any differently.

What I'd like to say is something along the lines of "I trust my children to be learning all the time. They can learn a lot more outside of school than inside." Again, this answer is about me, and deflects any criticism away from my children. They don't want to go to school, and that is fine with their parents, and I don't want them to have to defend themselves until they are really ready to do so on their own, without my prompting. Already when Holly is asked "When are you going to school?" she responds simply: "Never." The perfect answer. I'm also considering "Going to school would get in the way of their learning" but I think that might be too confusing.

Of course, conversations with friends and family who ask about our educational-type plans for our children will require more than a simple, standard answer. For people who care about our family, I am happy to explain what I've seen as a teacher that makes me want to keep my kids out of school. And I love to talk about what I know about child development that is completely contrary to the way schools operate. These are exciting conversations, because even though I don't try to change their minds I get to show that I am not a total flake or fanatic. (Although I am sure that I have friends and family who think that I am both a flake and a fanatic.)

What I really want my friends and family to know is that Partner-Guy and I have considered all our options, and that we will continue assess the needs of our children, both individually and collectively, and make decisions using their input and our knowledge. We are committed to giving our children every possible opportunity to fulfill their potentials, and for now, that doesn't include instititional schooling.

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