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Friday, January 20, 2006

It would be hard to argue that homeschooling is not a huge undertaking. Sure there are resources online, and homeschooled kids in many states (but not all) have access to public schools programs (thanks to Holly for the info). But I think LOD summed it up nicely: homeschooling would "completely uproot our lifestyle."

It some ways, it sounds freeing. PHAT Mommy wrote: "My to expose my children to as much as possible. When they find something that lights their fire, I help them figure out ways to learn more about it." Teaching my kid though "real life" experience seven days a week--no strict schedules, bells, or hall passes needed--sounds tempting. On the other hand, I'm paralyzed with fear thinking about reliving subjects like calculus. What if my dislike or lack of confidence in certain subjects negatively influences my kid's interest and ability in those subjects?

Regardless of how we end up educating our kid, we'll be actively involved. If he ends up in public school--as he likely will--I'll communicate with teachers and school officials and stay on top of what he's learning. That will be a big job too.

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What defines a "healthy" public school system? The local taxpayers are rolling in cash? Every student gets a Sony VAIO and personal massage therapist? Based on the research I've done and the e-mails I've received, it seems that people who homeschool don't believe there is such a thing as a healthy public school. The flaws in the public school format are systemic, whether or not the paint is peeling off the walls.

Their argument is compelling, because the main talent of most public schools is for pulling kids to the middle. It's a one-size-fits-all, assembly-line education that can't cater to special needs or talents.

It's telling that homeschooling's biggest critics are large entities with "National" and "Education" in their titles, who clearly see the homeschooling movement as a threat. Luckily, the world is a lot smaller now, and people who are considering homeschooling can use the Web to debunk the myths and mine the many resources that are available.

Having had some experience with teaching, I know how much work is required outside of the 8-3 school day. I guess that if I ever chose to homeschool, I'd have to dislodge a lot of preconceived notions about "Schooling" that have set up camp in my brain. But it's also comforting to know that I'd have a lot of company.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It's easy to have an open mind toward homeschooling when you know deep down you'd never do it. So let's bypass the lip service and get down to the nitty gritty: Would we ever do it?

Part of me feels really disingenuous touting all the virtues of homeschooling, because homeschooling would completely uproot our lifestyle. If we chose to homeschool our boys, my wife would be the first to tell you that "we" would end up meaning "me." I love my wife. I trust her, and I bow down before her bounteous nogginful of brains. But she's harried enough as it is, with Son1 in preschool 9 hours a week. If she had to mop up after these little hoodlums and then prepare some sort of daily curriculum each and every weekday, I think she'd probably snap. We'd have to cart her around to family gatherings on a handtruck.

Whether I'd be any better at it is a matter for debate. But one thing is for sure: If the job of homeschooling fell to me, there's no way I'd undertake it unless we lived in the city. That's the part that truly excites me about homeschooling; spending our days learning among the myriad resources and cultures that the city has to offer has got to be better than sitting in some stuffy classroom memorizing the Quadratic Formula.

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Because we're fortunate to be in an area with a healthy public school system, I'm fairly certain that Toddler in Chief will be a part of that government-run organization. And with that, I breathe a big sigh of relief. What makes me uneasy about homeschooling is the isolation; the time commitment; lack of free, school-run extracurricular activities; and my lack of expertise in biology, chemistry, state and local government, history, computers, sociology, psychology, Spanish, Latin, guitar, and English literature, to name a few.

When I say isolation, I mostly mean for the parent. As an at-home parent, there are already endless hours home together. Some quiet time is good, but adding a curriculum to our schedule would keep us home even more often. As the parent and schoolteacher, there would be limited opportunities for him to have other adults in authoritative roles. As for extracurricular activities like band and sports, I could pay for lessons, but I'd be paying twice since I already support school-run programs via property taxes. Time management would also be challenging. I can see it now: okay, hon, we'll get to math in a second. I just need to ____ (fill in the blank any household duty or annoying to-do item).

Sure there are tons of resources out there for parents who want to give it a go. But it sure seems daunting. Plus if the experiment fails, your child is the victim.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

When the day comes to drop Toddler in Chief off at kindergarten, I suspect tears will stream down my face. They will be tears of sadness that my little baby has grown so quickly. But there will also be tears of joy, as I bask in all the milestones he's passed in order to head to school. I will have molded and shaped my child with the foundation to be on his own in society--even if that's only kindergarten. There will be tears of joy because I will have (hopefully) prepared him to learn and thrive in a new environment without me. There will be tears of joy because I will take back part of my life and pursue other goals--educational or career. And we're fortunate to live in a community with excellent public schools.

That said, not everyone is ready to hand their child off to the system. Sometimes it's for religious reasons and sometimes it's because the parents believe the local public schools aren't providing the best education. And if those parents have the time and energy and resources to be a schoolteacher as well as a parent, then that is up to them. If my only choice was to send my kid to a crappy public school or teach him at home, I'd postpone my other life goals and teach him at home so that he would be better prepared to reach his own goals.

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OK, raise your hand: Who here had a quality public-school education?

I did, and I was lucky. My parents bought into a good school district back in the 70s, when houses cost $4.18 and the taxes were a nickel per year. But real estate has gone bananas, and the overall climate has changed; schools have to devote more of their limited resources toward standardized tests, ensuring that No Child is Left Behind. Should we be surprised that educational alternatives are on the rise?

Society used to look at That Homeschooled Kid as the religious nut in homemade sandals, but homeschooling is working its way into the mainstream. The Internet is absolutely crawling with resources (curriculum ideas, message boards, conferences, etc.), and homeschooled kids score higher on college entrance exams and flourish at the best colleges.

Kindergarten isn’t far off, and a lot is still up in the air for Team LOD. I can’t say I’d look forward to homeschooling my boys, but I sure as hell wouldn’t rule it out. And if we did do it, I’m absolutely certain we’d pull it off (even though I suck at sandalmaking).

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