As a follow up to my last post, and a response to some of the comments there.
The most basic answer to why I’m homeschooling my kids for the forseeable future is that they like homeschooling. I believe that kids with involved, educated parents will get a decent education no matter where they go to school, and that the real question for parents is “What do you want your child doing during the day?” Sitting in a classroom memorizing stuff is not my answer to that question.
A more complex and personal answer to the public school stuff behind the cut.
I went to public school for my whole primary and secondary education, from preschool through high school. My experience of public school was sometimes dreadful and sometimes wonderful. I had teachers who mentored me and nourished my creativity and guided me toward great things. I had teachers who accused me of cheating because they refused to believe I was as smart as I was, who disqualified me from classroom spelling games because if I played the girls always won and that wasn’t fair to the boys, and who confiscated my library books because they deemed the subject matter inappropriate for a girl my age.
I was, from kindergarten onward, pulled out of my regular classes for both accelerated and remedial teaching on almost a daily basis, because I was a bright clumsy kid. I was also medicated for ADHD from the age of 4. For most of elementary school I was socially ostracized and bullied. In high school I made friends and got involved in theater, activism and student journalism. I also started using drugs and having unhealthy sex.
In other words, it was a very mixed bag. So, to revisit my earlier post:
1. Academic subjects – I arrived at college vastly behind my private-schooled peers in terms of academic skill and base knowledge. I hadn’t been taught critical reading skills and I had not read as many books from what is generally considered the literary canon. I had never been assigned to read a single work written by a woman. My public schools also failed to teach me a foreign language or any advanced math, despite my sitting through many classes on those subjects. I don’t think I can do better for my kids single-handedly, but I think a combination of homeschooling and outside coursework is likely to be an improvement.
2. American citizenship – I want my kids to grow up to be concerned, informed citizens of the world, not American patriots. I am, basically, allergic to nationalism. I don’t want my kids taught to say the pledge of allegience, to revere the flag, to celebrate military holidays or sing the national anthem. I don’t want them to grow up thinking, for ex, Columbus “discovered America”.
3. participating in the economy – Pretty much everything I was told I had to suffer through in public school for the sake of making it in the real world – bullies, school bells, detention, required courses, grades, popularity contests – has been totally irrelevant to my adult life. In fact, the coping skills that I used to survive those things I’ve had to spend the past decade unlearning so that I can function well as an adult.
4. Socialization – I didn’t put this forward, but several commenters on my last post did. I don’t find arguments about socialization in public schools the least bit compelling. I realize there’s a bright dream of classrooms as these melting pots where kids from diverse backgrounds come together to play and learn, but that’s never been my experience. I truly believe that being treated with respect and held accountable for treating others with respect is a better preparation for adulthood than being thrown into a large, competitive group of peers at a very young age.
I’m grateful to everyone who posted with their thoughts about the awesomeness of public schools. Your arguments were interesting and sometimes compelling. I hear and even largely accept the argument that the school system would be better off if I put myself and my kids into it. I think I understand that as an act of social justice in a way I did not before. But I also feel OK saying that’s just not my fight. I can applaud the effort in others and still do my own thing.
And if the day comes where my daughters can go to a public school and get an education that is based on child-led learning, that fosters creativity, a relationship to the natural world and a sense of connection to others, that does not rely on grades or standardized tests to measure progress, and that does not carry an agenda of nationalism, I might well enroll them.