Posted by Sara Schmidt on Dec 10, 2009 - 11:31 PM
My name is Sara, and I'm a former homeschool basher.
I never encountered any homeschooled kids until I went to college. Having excelled in school for the most part, I met the very idea of being taught at home with disdain. Most of the homeschooled students I met were nice, happy, pretty well-adjusted--and very, very religious. I immediately jumped onto the bandwagon driven by the people chanting, "Brainwash!" and decided that people who homeschooled their children were simply training them to be members of the Army of God, that it was such a travesty, and that the drones produced from such mind-numbing instruction would only go off into the wild blue yonder, birthing more drones to keep the cycle going.
Like most 18-year-olds, I was pretty naive.
In my studies, I began to encounter a lot of disturbing trends. I was training to be a teacher, so I was pretty shocked to be learning much more about classroom management and discipline techniques than I was about actual teaching. Gone were my ideas about changing people's lives, being the confidante of many an angsty junior high student, and having open discussions about everything from Hamlet
to Prozac Nation
. Instead, I was instructed on how to be a firm professional, to wear conservative skirts or pleated pants while running a tight ship, to never be anyone's "friend."
And I get that. I really do. But do teenagers really need more finger wagging in their faces these days?
Then there was the emphasis on testing, meeting curriculum needs, fulfilling various lesson plan goals... Not only did all of this detract from my free spirited, improvised style--a style that both worked for me and that my students seemed to enjoy, at least--it also seemed to take the joy out of teaching. Why did I have to test these kids on what they didn't know with a multiple choice exam that would only serve to confuse them or put them to sleep? Couldn't I give written or oral exams in which they could tell me everything they knew
That idea was met with either blank stares or laughter.
Gradually, I started warming up to the idea of homeschooling. Okay, I thought, I can see why people do this. But is it really the answer?
More and more things started to trouble me. As I learned more in my own personal reading about all of the facts that really weren't true we were taught in school, I felt so indignant! How dare they lie to us
, I would fume, cursing my outdated high school textbooks--and especially my teachers. Surely they had known better, right?
I learned that the school systems we have today were designed for shipping people off into work factories or the military--effectively training them to obey, not to think critically. I learned about famous homeschooled people like da Vinci and Twain and Woolf; about leaders in the homeschooling movement like John Holt; and about how not all homeschooling families are religious. On the contrary, many were progressive like me. Maybe we weren't so different after all.
Then, I had a baby. A beautiful premature girl entered my life, and I knew I wanted to give her the best education I could offer. But could I do it? After my youngest sister had a very rough time in school, I decided to homeschool her through the rest of her high school career. Our mother was against it at first, but now that she has a real high school diploma--at about the same time her friends received theirs--and a perfect grade point average, my mother has remarked, "I think you should homeschool your daughter, too."
I'm inclined to agree.
And though she's only four, my husband (who fully supports the decision as well) and I are already being met with plenty of criticism about the decision--or at least sharp questions, in some instances--and I have to say, I don't blame these people for their concerns. I once had them myself.
I still have plenty of worries, too; don't get me wrong. The road isn't going to be perfect, and I'm still learning. It's just like any other aspect of parenting, from taking your baby home from the hospital to potty training her to guiding her into becoming an adult--there will be highs and lows, plenty of confusion and chaos and definitely uncertainty--but that's parenting. I wouldn't expect anything less.
And I wouldn't give my daughter anything less.