Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Remembering Why

I'm reposting an entry I wrote back in August 2007. My decision to homeschool came under some scrutiny recently. I realize people that don't homeschool their children just don't "get it". It's impossible for me to explain to someone in a brief statement all of the reasons I've chosen to keep my kids at home and out of the public school system. It's just too complex. I also find mainstream parents with their kids in school seem to be offended when I try to explain. Probably because I can be kind of passionate when I'm up on my soapbox. Anyway here is the post.....(In the end you don't have to agree with me. I'm posting this as a reminder to myself, not to try and sway anyone else.)

When it comes right down to it, the biggest reason for homeschooling my children is the failure of compulsory schooling. It is the system that is terribly flawed, and not just public school, the majority of our private schools are little better. They are simply modified replicas of the public school system with smaller class sizes and more "individualized attention".

A lot of people decide not to homeschool because they want to leave the education of their children to "the experts". But I hold the notion that I am the expert on my children. They grew inside my body. I pushed them out into the world. I nurtured them at my breast. I know them better than anyone else in the world. I know what my motives are, the teachers are left to question. The teacher teaches to make a living. I teach in order to make a family. I work for love; the teacher for money. Our interests are radically different. I want to see my children grow up to be empathetic caring freethinkers. The teacher wants to manage his classroom, and has a state supplied list of what the children are supposed to think. I strive to help mold my children into one-of-a-kind works of art. The teacher and his school can only make them part of a hive or a herd.

All of us who attended public school know that individuality is frowned upon. It is the eccentric and the unique that are scorned, hated and outcast. I want my children to be eccentric. I want them to think outside the premade box that is handed to children in public school, the box of consumerism, of complacency, and the notion that one gets ahead by pleasing authority. After all it's not intellectual growth that is measured with all of those grades and tests, but really obedience to authority.

Then there is also the fantasy that a certified teacher is actually a specialist in the field he teaches in. How many writing teachers are published authors? How many science teachers would actually be considered real scientists? Are they making discoveries in the fields of biology or chemistry? Are they thinking about the secrets of nature as a private passion and pursuing this interest on personal time? Science classes in this country don't make attempts to discover anything or in some other way add to human knowledge. They are orderly ways of killing time, nothing more. The science teacher is a publicist for political truths set down in state-approved science textbooks. And this is the case for virtually every subject covered in any given public school across this country.

The truth is that the majority of the major scientific discoveries of this century (including radical ones like superconductivity) did not come from academic laboratories or even major business or government ones, but from garages, attics, and basements. They were managed with cheap, simple equipment and eccentric, personalized procedures of investigation. Like John Taylor Gatto said, "School is a perfect place to turn science into a religion, but it's the wrong place to learn science, for sure."

So back to the idea that somehow a piece of paper makes one an expert, i.e. that wonderful little piece of paper that my husband has hanging in his office at school, the one that says, BS in Education. Schools set our children up at an early age to be dependant on experts, to react to titles instead of judging the real men and women who hide behind the titles. It is the same type of mentality that makes people run to the doctor when their child has the sniffles. We couldn't possibly be capable of making our own informed and well-educated decisions. We've been taught what to think about, how to think about it, and when to think about it since we were little wide-eyed kids in elementary school. We haven't been given the opportunity to think for ourselves. Run to the teacher for validation, he's the expert. Run to the doctor since he's the expert. Don't know what to think about current events? Don't worry the media will put the proper spin on it for you. No need to interpret or come to your own conclusions.

I realize that there are really wonderful teachers out there, with the right motivations. I know some of them personally. But they are squashed in a system that fails its children. Those teachers get burned out with paperwork, red tape, and poor administrative support. The ideals they may have started out with are not very likely to survive in a corrupt system. I also realize that many people come out of public school and become movers and shakers, people that are still able to resist the status quo. But those people are too terribly few and far between. I want to give my children the best possible opportunity to grow up and keep alive the wonder for life that I see in their eyes.

I honestly believe that our system of compulsory education is directly responsible for the rise in violence, drug addiction, divorce, depression, bankruptcy, and so on. It's a system that needs major changes of structure and philosophy, not just money and legislation thrown its way. Until that happens, and I don't foresee it happening anywhere in the near (or even distant) future, I choose to keep my children at home, thank you very much.

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