01 April 2008

Stepping over the threshold

The Kindergarten curriculum for my son is beginning to gel. I'm excited and eager to start, but know that it will be hard work. It will require persistence on my part and a lot of prayer. There are so many neat things to learn, numerous interesting topics, oodles of packaged curriculums and heaps of resources. I feel like a kid in a candy store and hope to pass along this interest to my kids.

Then the other shoe drops. The proverbial wet blanket gets thrown in my face and I have to exert some of my time and energy just to push back the naysayers.

Honestly, a great deal of the resistance to my choice to homeschool is mired in ignorance. A portion is arrogance and another chunk is a sinister element that is more out in the world than lurking within my friends and family.

The ignorant crowd is understandable. They have no knowledge of homeschooling any more than they understood what I did all day as a chemical engineer. Most members of our families don't know anyone who has homeschooled or has been homeschooled. They don't know the hows or whys of it. They think I'm brave to undertake this, but also consider me to be a bit odd and contrarian. Some of them, despite their initial skepticism, are willing to take the journey with us and support us as best they can.

Then there are the teachers in my family. There are lots of them. I'm not going to bash teachers in general, because I've had some really great teachers. My calculus professor was everything you would hope for: passionate, intelligent, tough and loved his job. My high school chemistry teacher provided the kick-start to my interest in chemistry and engineering. Because of his enthusiasm and instruction, I pursued a career in a mighty tough subject.

The teachers I'm talking about are the ones who think they, or God forbid, the State, are the only ones qualified to teach my children or any children. You MUST be joking.

To paraphrase, the diatribe on what's wrong with public education is well beyond the scope of this rant. But, still I'm supposed to throw my kids into a system these folks themselves consider broken and HOPE for the best? Even Schrödinger wouldn't be allowed to put his cat in the black box (sorry, engineering analogy) without being cited for animal cruelty, but I'm supposed to place my children in a similar black box (how apropos) where the outcome can't even be determined or my children stand less than the 50-50 odds that the cat does?

I just looked at several universities and their requirements for a teaching degree in both elementary and secondary education. In my case, I have had more math courses than a high school math teacher is required to have. In chemistry and physics, I have well beyond the requirements. I also have a liberal arts degree, so my course work in is completely on par with what a high school teacher needs to teach.

But, I'm only endeavoring to teach Kindergarten.

I've built commercial aircraft that many have flown in and helped manufacture chips that may be in a device that saves your life. But you don't trust me to teach my own children?

Take a step back. This entire idea of public education is relatively new. How do you think many of the great leaders learned? At their mother's knee. Others taught themselves.

Most of the homeschooling mothers I know provide their children with an OUTSTANDING education regardless of their level of education or experience. They utilize a multitude of resources and find instructors for their children if the subject is beyond their realm of knowledge. Some use already established curriculums and course work by well-known providers. In Minnesota, the State requires testing using the same tests that the schools use and report cards are necessary if neither one of the parents has a undergrad degree. Homeschooling is not done in a vacuum.

I'm allowed to make the decision to have a baby, to determine what medical care it receives and make hundreds of other decisions about the child's welfare, but when it comes to educating my children at home, that's a deal breaker. No one knows my child as well as I do and like Dr. Ray says, no one is going to teach them the lessons they need to learn about life as gently and with as much understanding as I will.

How long will it be before those deciding whether or not I can homeschool will be deciding whether or not I'm even qualified to have children in the first place?

I'm just sayin'.........


Vincenzo said...

"The teachers I'm talking about are the ones who think they, or God forbid, the State, are the only ones qualified to teach my children or any children. You MUST be joking."

I've seen this attitude expressed often at political forums by public school teachers and their spouses. It doesn't matter to them how qualified you are. They get very emotional about it. IMO they view homeschooling as a threat to their livelihood.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

That's so true! All of it! A "for instance" in life would be this:
Let's say my mom needed 24 hour nursing care and I couldn't afford to send her to a facility (or didn't trust a sketchy hospice in my area) and I was able to stay with her at all times. I could easily learn what it would take to care for her as well as a nurse hired for the same purpose (or, most likely do a BETTER job!). If I had a nursing degree, it COULD be easier, but it would not be necessary AT ALL!
It weirds me out when people say, "Oh! You're so BRAVE to homeschool!". To me, the only thing brave about it is dealing with any future backlash if my children don't learn things up to their 'grade level'. It's ALL ON ME if they fail. That's a lot of pressure sometimes! So far, so good (because, quite frankly, the bar is so dang low these days!) but it does scare me to think about that slippery slope of "you shouldn't be able to teach your own kids...hey, did you get a license to birth them?...".
Scary stuff.

Terry Nelson said...

I hope you don't change your wardrobe.

Actually, anyone can teach, I don't think you have to know that much. A certificate doesn't make the teacher. Look at the teachers that have had affairs with their students - that wasn't smart.

He Gently Calls Us said...

Good luck with the home schooling. You can do it.
In our area, home-schooled kids are out-performing those in public schools right and left. It's a big commitment and responsibility but I think it's a very sensible decision in today's world.

As a former teacher, I hate to say this, but there is an incredible amount of time WASTED in the day of a typical elementary school child.

I wish you the best. God bless.

swissmiss said...

Initially I had mentioned something about the unions and the idea of protecting their jobs, but took it out because the teachers in my family that are the most against homeschooling are either retired or no longer teaching. My cousin is no longer teaching, but instead of homeschooling is sending her eldest to Kingergarten. There is some magic within the walls of a school that cannot be duplicated elsewhere.

I'm just starting and already banging my head against walls. There is a great public school nearby that we were trying to get my son into, but he's on the waiting list. It's surprising to me that family members even remembered me mentioning it, but nearly all of them have asked me if my son got in...hoping that he'll get to go to a "normal" school instead of staying cloistered within the walls of our home!

Actually, we were at Har Mar Mall over the weekend and Land's End had some things out on sale racks -- jumpers in every color imaginable!! I thought of you and how disappointed you'd be if I bought one :)

Thank you for the kind words! I didn't have a fear of homeschooling, but the closer it gets I'm beginning to feel some anxiety. I've been schooling some "informally" already, so it will just be more structured. My son loves history and the human body. I've already learned a lot that I either never knew or had forgotten *decades* ago! This should help my momnesia a bit.

Adrienne said...

I just saw a bit on TV about a home schooling Mom who covered 3 months of typical public school stuff in about two weeks. This left her daughter free to pursue her dream of being a championship horse rider (although teaching did continue)

It would have to be a very special school before I would stick any kid of mine there. The public school kids I deal with at church go to an very highly rated school and I would consider them to be functionally illiterate.

And Terry is correct about being a teacher. There are tons of highly educated folks out there who are horrible teachers.