Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Why? Part II

I have been thinking about it, and I have a few more "why's" to mention. Almost as strong as my excitement and enthusiasm for homeschooling is my distaste for the public school system. Both my husband and I agree that we are less than impressed with the public school educations we received. I remember finding most of my classes boring, tedious, and unchallenging. My younger brother, on the other hand, found it extremely challenging - he just couldn't physically sit still and focus - a problem that is often remedied nowadays with medication, but which I believe could also be remedied by just letting the poor kid MOVE throughout the day. I have read lots of stories of mothers who struggled to get their kids to sit still and listen, and then one day tried just letting them run around while being read to, and amazingly the kids were better able to answer questions about what they heard. They were actually able to focus and absorb the information better because their attention wasn't consumed by trying to be still. Having the flexibility to pick and choose tools and methods that will match my kids' individual learning styles, and allowing them the freedom to learn in whatever way is natural for them, was a very strong factor in my decision to homeschool.

My problem with the public school system is not with the teachers, but with the framework that they must work within. It's a system that was originally developed to create good, obedient assembly-line workers when the country was becoming industrialized. Not to teach people to think and love learning, but to teach them to respect authority and tolerate drudgery. There is little emphasis on innovation and creativity, rather, it's just a list of things some bureaucrats have decided kids must learn, and exactly when and in what order they should learn it. Little to no deviation is permitted. Teachers are under so much pressure to get their students to perform well on standardized tests, that the tests become the sole focus of everything, with the students cramming in tons of facts to be regurgitated and then quickly forgotten. This is not true learning. Many people are unhappy and frustrated with the current public school system, and it really baffles me when some of them think I'm crazy for deciding to reject it.

And so little of what is learned in school is actually useful in real life. I think kids should be able to function in the world after graduation; to do math, follow a budget, balance a checkbook. I know 18-year-olds who don't know how to cook themselves a meal or do their own laundry. What about acquiring marketable skills, or how to write a resume, or how to act at a job interview? I think the very most important thing a person needs to learn in their education is how to remain curious about the world, how to form questions and then research to find their answers, how to find ways to teach themselves what they need to know. Basically - that learning is not something that ends on graduation day.

I often say that the only thing I took with me from all of high school, that I use every day, is what I learned in 9th grade typing class. Well, that and my love of reading which stemmed from all the books I devoured in my free time. My very favorite school memory is of this sunny windowsill, in the back of the middle-school library, where I would hide out at lunchtime and enjoy some peace and solitude and escape into a good story. I remember actually feeling annoyed when my friends finally discovered my hiding spot, and then kept showing up there to talk to me!

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