Thursday, July 29, 2004

One Question Homeschool Parents Hate....


The one question home-schooled parents hate to hear involves the socialization of their children. “Don’t you think Johnny should have more friends? How is he ever going to meet friends his own age? Aren’t you afraid that he is going to be an introvert?”

Are these questions valid ones? Absolutely. But I need to shatter my stereotype of the home-schooled child: a child sitting alone at the kitchen table reading books and sifting through worksheets. But, as a public school teacher, I certainly understand that you do not have to be tethered to the kitchen table to learn. A home-school mom or dad can take the child to museums, and other field trips, enroll the child in scout groups, or use the Internet to access virtual field trips and meet friends all over the world. If I were a home-school mom, I would find other families in my area that home-school and schedule outings with them.

Sometimes, as a teacher, I question the socialization of a child in public school. The children are segregated into groups by age in classrooms-- there are studies that indicate that children learn better in mixed-age groups. There are children who are victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and drug abuse. There are children who are dirty, hungry, and angry. Of course, everyone needs and deserves an education. But it can be difficult when students are put in a “one-fits-all size” classroom. A home-school parent rightfully questions whether his or her child should be educated in that environment.

Some parents think that a child should be exposed to school society, even if that exposure introduces unsavory elements – because it prepares them to interact with those in adult society. It is a delicate and difficult question and one that educators and home-schoolers will be arguing about for years. As for myself, the jury is still out.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Are you Crazy?! You want to homeschool your child?

Not so very long ago, I could not fathom anyone home-schooling a child. I just could not understand it. What would make a parent think that he/she could provide the entire educational sustenance for a child in literature, math, and the sciences?! If I came across a home-schooled child, I immediately thought, “no way is this child getting the education needed…..”

Even if the parent gave the child an excellent grounding in math and sciences – what about the social aspects of a child’s learning? If you have a child who is alone at the kitchen or dining room table (or, even if they are with their siblings at the same table), how does the student learn the social aspects of life? Interaction with others is a huge part of the educational process.

I think I also took it personally. Why should I go through years of training and education to become licensed as a teacher and then hours and hours of professional development to retain licensure just to have parents take their children out of school away from peers to study at the kitchen table? You mean I’m not good enough? Apparently, not – or you would leave your child in my care and in the school’s care.

However, the elevator finally reached the top floor. I am ‘okay’ with home-schooling now. Before being in the teaching field, I just didn’t ‘get’ home-schooling. Now that I am teaching in an urban school, I finally understand. As a teacher, I know why a parent would want to home-school a child. The child may be bullied, need special education, be emotionally or physically-handicapped., or just falling through the cracks. The parent may have talked to the teacher, the principal, and the school district to no avail. In frustration, the parent may feel as if he/she has no other option but to remove his/her child from the school. That parent is personally enforcing the ‘No Child Left Behind’ Act. A parent wants the best for the child, and that most certainly means a good education.

I realize, of course, that you do not have to be tethered to the kitchen table to learn. Children can be home-schooled in community groups, they can have field trips to museums, and they may interact with web quests on the Internet. Currently, I am a teacher in an urban school with working parents where no one removes their children to be home-schooled. But before working at this school, I worked at a school where the classes were over-crowded, several violent fights erupted though out the school daily, children smeared feces on bathroom walls, etc.…and this was an elementary school! The learning environment was a difficult and stressful one for the teachers and for many of the children.

Home-schooling is not for everyone – it requires a vast amount of investment in time and dedication. However, when I think of home-schoolers like Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Amadeus Mozart, and the present-day Williams sisters (tennis pros), I realize the investment is worth it. I now know that I am finally mature enough to understand why a parent (after exploring many other options) would remove a child for home-schooling. Yes, that’s right, even a teacher can learn new things.