Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Evolution of a homeschooler: Getting to where you're going

[Amendment: In fact, I actually did "go Cobranchi" on a newbie Jana when she posted a whine about how mean and unfair homeschoolers are toward cyberschoolers. I'd link to the post, but she took it down shortly thereafter. ]

This was far too good not to blog. The following is a comment left by Jeanne Faulconer in response to two others who are continuing the cyber charter debate. I am reposting this here so that it will not get scanned over, lost in all the discussion or suffer some other injustice.

While I still assert that cyber charters are bad (more on that later) and have probably been guilty of "going Cobranchi on someone" (though never on a newbie, let the records show!), Jeanne does an excellent job of communicating the changes a long-time homeschooler experiences. It offers depth and perspective to other homeschoolers who just aren't "there" yet.

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I often see that new homeschoolers are "put off" by the seemingly or actual radical positions that longer-time homeschool parents may hold.

You may be interested in my article http://www.vahomeschoolers.org/PoliticalEd.PDFabout how homeschooling began affecting my other beliefs -- when I started out as a very traditional, mainstream (whatever that means) type.

PLEASE NOTE, as I suspected I would and alluded to in the article, my views HAVE continued to evolve. I mention in the piece that vouchers seemed to make more sense to me at that time -- but I admit that indeed, having read about, thought about, and listened about this issue, I no longer have any interest in vouchers for homeschoolers, and realize that my interest at that time was part of my getting to where I was going. Once I saw how strings are attached to money that comes through the government, I became opposed to vouchers for homeschoolers. Just another example of how stepping outside the mainstream, over time, may cause thoughts and tenets to change. I have, I suppose, become increasingly libertarian in this regard.

My views have also changed over time with regard to why it matters what is *called* homeschooling. Having homeschooled in 3 different states and started more political networking with homeschoolers on a national basis, I realize that my first thought that it didn't matter and it was divisive was actually because I was seeing my own personal trees and not the forest. In my state, it did not yet matter. But at the very same time, in other states, the stage was being set for government officials and educrats to begin expecting all homeschoolers to meet public school requirements because there were many folks who called themselves homeschoolers or who were called homeschoolers by the charter or e-school with which they were affiliated -- and, if they were getting public money, they indeed DID have to meet those requirements.

And I gradually began to see the forest.

I think something that is a funny ingredient in all this is the kids. I think if you have a child who is "typically academic," your views on this may change less. That is, with my extremely round peg oldest child, I kept having to get further and further from the traditional institutional vision in order to meet his educational needs. This has no doubt contributed to making me more radical on these issues, because I can feel my blood begin to boil when people start to insist on things like homeschooling with a "proper curriculum" or "proper oversight" or "proper accountability and testing." On the other hand, had my middle son been my only, I may have never found this to boil my blood -- he's a left brain mathematical-logical/linguistic kid -- a perfect fit for an e-school, a curriculum, or public school methods of accountability.

So new homeschoolers might be where I may have never moved from had I only had the kid for whom those things weren't a big deal. I may have continued to cling to the institutional vision and not realized that for some children, this contruct of curriculum/testing/accountability is extremely damaging. I might have continued to think, "what's the big deal?" if public e-schoolers called themselves homeschoolers, because, after all, we're all just doing what is right for our families.

I do think that e-schools/public cyber charters may be a good solution for some families, as long as they realize that if they are enrolled in public school, they have to march to that drummer. But I don't want it to be a bad thing for MY family, for whom marching to the public school drummer did not work. One of the ways I can keep that from being a bad thing for my family is for me to keep pointing out what I have learned -- that while these other options may indeed be good schooling opportunities, they should not be confused with independent homeschooling. That protects my ability to continue to develop a homeschooling style that meets my particular children's needs -- the signature as to why the whole weird thing of homeschooling works.

You may not be weird yet. If your child functions well with the very first homeschooling method/curriculum you choose -- and it's a very traditional academic-type curriculum -- you may not even have to get weird. If your child doesn't function well but you continue to insist on that paradigm as the structure that your family will work with, you may not have to get weird (but you quite possibly will return to public schooling and, I feel for you during your child's adolescent and teen years.)

But, if any of your children begin to show you the way to something else and you respond to it --or yours don't but you rub elbows with homeschoolers whose kids seem to be flourishing because they are doing things like apprenticing in a bike shop for six hours a day and never cracking a book (but mysteriously learning to run a cash register, figure taxes, fix the computer, master the physics involved in bike building, etc) -- then you may begin to get weird.

I guess until then, there truly is a gulf that is difficult to bridge. I can't bring you here to live with us for me to show you the emotional health and incredible competence and knowledge of my kids -- and how lumping their education with other educational choices called *homeschools* but which still require government restriction might harm what we are doing.

And you can't jerk us old-timers back to newbie-ness -- when leaving one of society's most revered institutions behind feels radical enough to inspire aversion to further weirdness.

But we can definitely reach across that gulf. I will believe you when you tell me how radical we seem. I hope you will believe me when I tell you that it is borne of concern that homeschooling be kept free and independent -- a real choice to do things differently than they are done by the institution of school -- so that other prospective and new homeschoolers (YOU) can benefit as my family has.

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