This started as a facebook post, but got too involved, so…blog it is.
I want to know, from families that homeschool, how do you deal with the undeniable allure of the big yellow bus?
We’re not 100% sure that we will homeschool, but it’s feeling more and more likely. I think it fits with our family culture. JC and I have done everything we can to develop flexibility in our work schedules, and hope to have more as the years go by. We’re rather non-conformist in many ways, and we hate anyone telling us what to do. Our kids are…pretty much like that. There’s something to be said for learning to deal with bureaucracy, but I don’t think it needs to happen at such an early age. Also, most five-year-olds I know are easier to have around than most 3-year-olds I know. Why put up with them for the rough years and then send them to someone else as soon as they can wipe their own butt?
I’m not super impressed with the school we’re zoned for. I’m distressed by the intensity with which education policy and pedagogy research are moving in opposite directions. We’ve seen pretty good results with our curriculum-free, up-to-the-elbows home education so far. Both children can sing and rhyme. They play together pretty nicely, don’t hurt each other much, always apologize and make up quickly, share some of the time, create all the time. Silas can count to at least sixty-something, add, subtract, and do simple division. He can read a little, invents stories that make sense, distinguishes between reality and fiction, and knows a surprising amount about world geography and culture. He’ll be four in four days. Petra, not quite two, has an astounding vocabulary, knows colors, and can count to five ish (though I’m going to miss her very Monty Python initial attempts: “One! Two! Five!” “Three, Petra.” “Tree!”). She’s starting to identify letters. And all I’ve ever done in terms of teaching is to be enthusiastic about my own learning. I’m not worried about them being “left behind,” educationally. We seek out lots of opportunities for them to be with other kids. I don’t think the kind of socialization that kids get at school is any help to anybody. I recently had the joy of working with a young homeschooled teen and realized that she has a level of self-possession that I envy, at 31. I think it comes from never having had someone make fun of her outfit.
So yeah, we probably will homeschool. At least for a few years. Or more. But school is a religion, and it’s deeply ingrained in our society. Silas is going to “play school” at Bridgewater College. It’s a wonderful program, nearly free, with a crazy adult-to-child ratio (it’s their lab for their child development class, so there are 10 toddlers, 8 college students, and a professor). It’s only a couple of hours a week, exactly the right level of not-family time for us. He’s thrilled. But the first day, they read a story about a mouse going to school. His craft involved gluing a yellow bus to a piece of construction paper and drawing characters riding to school. They’re talking a lot about “kindergarten preparedness.” Many of the college students are education majors. I’m not going to stop sending him, but I’m taken off guard by how intense the indoctrination to the cult of the big yellow bus is.
So… how do you deal with it? Have your kids ever begged to go to “real” school? I hated nearly every day of school when I was a kid (yet another reason I just don’t see myself making my kids do it), but I found the idea of school, as represented on television and in books, downright alluring. The kids do know lots of home schoolers, including their beloved cousin and some of their favorite babysitters. But Silas really wants to ride the bus.