Today is Joey's last day of public school (maybe for awhile, maybe forever, I don't really know). I've toyed with the idea of homeschooling her before, ever since she's been in school really. And I've owned the book Dumbing Us Down longer than that. In it, John Taylor Gatto (a teacher who has won several awards, including New York State Teacher of the Year) describes the 7 things that he, as a public school teacher, teaches his students. What follows are the highlights. Go here for his official website.
1. "The first lesson I teach is confusion. Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the un-relating of everything. I teach disconnections. The logic of the school-mind is that it is better to leave school with a tool kit of superficial jargon… than with one genuine enthusiasm. Meaning, not disconnected facts, is what sane human beings seek."
2. "The second lesson I teach is class position. I teach that students must stay in the class where they belong. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class."
3. "The third lesson I teach is indifference. I teach children not to care too much about anything… I do it by demanding that they become totally involved in my lessons… but when the bell rings I insist they drop whatever it is we have been doing and proceed quickly to the next work station."
4. "The fourth lesson I teach is emotional dependency. By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors, and disgraces, I teach kids to surrender their will to the predestined chain of command. Rights may be granted or withheld by any authority without appeal, because rights do not exist inside a school…. unless school authorities say they do."
5. "The fifth lesson I teach is intellectual dependency. Good students wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. This is the most important lesson of them all: we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. Successful children do the thinking I assign them with a minimum of resistance and a decent show of enthusiasm. Of the millions of things of value to study, I decide what few we have time for."
6. "The sixth lesson I teach is provisional self-esteem. If you've ever tried to wrestle into line kids whose parents have convinced them to believe they'll be loved in spite of anything, you know how impossible it is to make self-confident spirits conform. I teach that a kid's self-respect should depend on expert opinion. My kids are constantly evaluated and judged."
7. "The seventh lesson I teach is that one can't hide. I teach students that they are always watched, that each is under constant surveillance by me and my colleagues."
(In the book, he discusses each of these points in much greater depth. It is so worth the read, even if you have no intention of homeschooling. It may just influence how you interact with your kids' teachers. Not that they're poor teachers, but that the whole system is fundamentally flawed.)
For the last couple of months, I've been paying attention to my life, to the things I do on a regular basis, and realized that just having Joey tag along to help me with these things would be a fantastic education for her. When I make a quilt and screw up the addition (like I did), then she can see that math really is applicable to every day life. When I can peach jelly, we can learn about why it's OK to can fruit and tomatoes, but not something like stew (hint- it's all about pH). And when I forget to register my business with the Secretary of State on time (yep, did that too) then she can see what it feels like to pay $30 instead of $10. When I showed her some of the spreadsheets that I use (for taxes, etc) she asked if she could be my secretary. Maybe I'll even start by having her proofread my posts. Heh.
I'm kind of kidding and kind of not. Kids are so separated from the everyday life of their parents. They have no idea what their folks do all day, how they take care of themselves, of their kids, of their home. When they turn 18 and are out on their own, they get that whole real life education thing. And it tends to kick their asses. I know it did mine.
And when her report card came home last Friday, I KNEW that I'd made the right decision. She received almost all B's, which is fine with me; it's a gifted and talented program and that stuff is challenging. What is funny is that she got a C on 'Reads Independently'.
Now this is a kid that needs to be told that she absolutely cannot pick up a book until she has completely gotten ready for school in the morning because otherwise she will lose track of time and read for 2 hours. She absolutely loves to read. I couldn't stop her if I tried. And she got a C because she forgot to write down what she's read (probably because there's so much of it!). Now, I don't mind about the grade; it doesn't hurt me or her. It just shows how little her teacher knows her. In school, it's more important that Joey writes down what she's read than the fact that she probably reads 2 or 3 hours a day.
The most interesting thing about this is the reaction I've received from parents. Some understand why I would want to do this, they just don't think that they could do it themselves. Also, I've noticed that some people take it much better when I don't explain why. When they hear my many reasons, some people get defensive. I think it's because they feel bad that they are unwilling to do it themselves, which is something I can totally identify with. It's taken me 3 and a half years of public school to get up the nerve to try homeschooling.
So, I would just like to say that I've been encouraged to try this by many of the blogs that I've stumbled upon (SouleMama, Full Circle, News from Hawkhill Acres, You're Not Lost You're Here, Circle the World in Big). Just knowing that people out there do this, and maintain their sanity, is a comfort. These are women I respect, many of whom have voices and values similar to mine. It just seems natural to take this next step in Joey's education.
I am so excited.
And completely terrified.