Second Rate Education or Second Chance?
by: Annette M. Hall
As school begins anew once again this fall it gives me the chance to reflect on the scope of education and its purpose. As parents we must continually ask ourselves, What is the purpose of education? and evaluate our own motivations.
It saddens me to see children standing by the road waiting for the school bus to pick them up and take them to what amounts to a prison. The worst part isn't even that these children will be contained in classrooms for hours on end, while the sun is shining outside beckoning them to come play. The saddest part is that they are given no time to think or reflect on their life and the things they are learning. Every minute of the day is planned out and orchestrated to keep them occupied and from having to devise methods to fill their own time slots.
As bad as all this sounds, it gets worse.
During a recent homeschooling conference a thought occurred to me, one that was truly disturbing. As I sat in the vendor hall and surveyed my surroundings, looking at all the brightly colored packages of curriculum, most of it produced and sold by our fellow homeschoolers, I realized that so much of it would be used to torture children. What are we thinking?
Many thousands of homeschoolers are making a living selling curriculum that simply isn't necessary and is often harmful to the children forced to endure its use in the home. I realize that parents want and need to stay home with their children and the income produced by these ventures provides that means. Yes, I made several purchases for my own family. The toys and games were excellent investments and one could tell that some real creative minds were at work in their development.
I'm speaking more to the curriculum that I found on shelf after shelf, being peddled to new homeschoolers who simply don't have a clue where to start. One lady expressed her dismay with her child's current school, her child was still attending the public school and the students had not finished their books, yet again. She seemed quite distressed and was adamant that she needed to make up for the material that had been missed at school.
Her plan was to spend the summer vacation preparing her young child for academic success. In all likelihood, that child will be burnt out on "school" before the new school year even begins. How sad.
Summer Time Made For Fun
If we as homeschoolers can't see that children need to have time to be children, then who will? Summer is made for a child to lie on a hill and stare at the shapes of clouds, play flashlight games after dark and make silly characters with their hands in the moonlight. We do our children a disservice when we pull them out of a failing school system, only to provide more of the same drudgery and busy work at home.
Before you decide what your child really needs is a boxed curriculum set that covers everything the public school system expects from a child but perhaps throws God in here or there, or focuses on the ecology or some other worthy slant, why not sit down with your child and ask them what they would like to learn this year.
Not every child has college in their future. Ask yourself, "How can I best prepare my child for the life that they will be leading in their after school years."
As homeschoolers, we've recognized the limiting capacity of public schools to provide our children with a proper preparation for life, why would we endeavor to duplicate the second rate education they offer? Instead, provide your child with the encouragement, guidance and support they need to excel in their own interests — to become the next Bill Gates, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Steve Jobs, Tom Hanks or Ted Turner (all of which dropped out of college to pursue their dreams).
Wouldn't it be wonderful to dry your child's tears of frustration and enjoy the years you have with him or her safe at home? Too many parents are concerned that their children gain the benefit of essential educational standards, long established by public school proponents, when they should be concerned with fundamental life-skills.
Examine Life Skills
It's never too early to begin teaching children the ins and outs of being an entrepreneur. Many teenagers have started and maintained successful business ventures, which will better prepare them for their future than a stack of books from here to the moon.
Don't be afraid to think outside of the box. Discuss plans with your child and take their input seriously. Before you commit yourself to a course of study, talk with others who have successfully homeschooled their children. Ask their advice. Talk to parents who have used various educational methods and most importantly don't be afraid to discard what isn't working.
When your child shows signs of frustration, it is often wise to put the book back upon the shelf and wait for an opportune time to present the desired information. The appropriate time will present itself, if you are patient. What may not be of interest to your child today, could well be indispensable down the road.
The more information we expose our children to, the more opportunity they have to attempt different things, explore other avenues and expand their learning ventures. It's not unusual for something insignificant to spark an interest or light a fire in our young prodigy.
Some children may prefer a structured curriculum, with methodical lesson plans but for the many that don't excel in that environment, give them a chance to spread their wings and fly. Homeschooling should give your family, and most importantly your child, an opportunity to experiment and find what works best for them. It's not a one-size-fits-all plan and we, as parents, must step outside that fear of failure and give wings to our hearts and minds.
Our children count on us to guide them down the path of success.
More Homeschooling Information
Published in the October/November 2005 issue, of California Homeschool News, a publication of California Homeschool Network.