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.

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