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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Unschooling!

As I have listed in the description of this blog, I homeschool my children, but in actuality, I don't. Homeschooling is technically schooling the kids at home. Most people probably picture this as parents frantically trying to replicate everything that goes on in a public school at home, and for a lot of homeschoolers, they would be right. There definitely are a lot of parents who think that schooling at home should closely resemble schooling at school - only better.

Me? I fall into a growing category of parents who basically believe that life is the biggest teacher of all. There's no need to sit studiously memorizing facts when you could be doing things instead. For example: Teaching my boys to cook so that they learn math, nutrition, common sense, basic safety and first aid, AND practical life skills that they will need to know when they grow up - or Goddess forbid - if I should happen to die while they are still young.

We unschoolers basically wing it as we go. We still worry constantly about how our kids are learning and whether or not we are doing enough for them, but there's one thing that we know more certainly than anything else:

We may not be perfect, but we can't do any worse than regular school!

You might scoff at that, because after all, regular school has standards and tests and teachers trained to make sure that students learn, but really, they don't. The whole system is designed to obtain a false result. Even when I was in school, back before No Child Left Behind and Common Core, the ONLY thing that teachers cared about was test scores and grades.

But think about this: If you spent an entire week like this: Read chapter, fill out paper homework in which you need to fill in the blank - taken pretty much word for word from the chapter - then take a test that is almost exactly the same as the fill in the blank worksheet; well, you might think that getting an A on that test would indicate that you've learned something, but it really hasn't.

I used to scan each paragraph for key words to help me pick out the right word to put in the blank. Then I'd remember the sentences on the worksheet, so that on the test, I could easily score 100%. Doesn't mean I knew anything about the subject I spent all week "studying." Also, I honestly could not tell you most of what I "learned" in school.

And guess what, up until I realized that it was all meaningless and stopped doing my homework altogether, I was a straight A student. I was (and still am) one of the smart kids. I was SO VERY PROUD of being able to get 100 percent on all my tests. I was even happier that I seemed to be able to do so without ANY effort at all. I simply listened to the teacher, read the assigned chapters, and took the tests. I never studied. I could finish most of the homework before I even left class, and I was very mystified by those students who couldn't do as well as I could.

As it turns out, I learn in a way that is perfect for school. Those students who couldn't get higher than a C to save their life? They simply learned differently than me. Probably hands on. I know now that they were all every bit as smart as I was, they just didn't process information the same way I did. So THEY WERE TOLD that they were stupid, over and over, until they believed it.

One day - in 9th grade science class - I sat in dumbfounded awe with the realization that I was learning the SAME things that had already been taught in 6th grade!!! It was the same for pretty much every class. There was NOTHING new. I am one of those that HATES to do the same thing over and over. I NEED new stuff to do. And since they weren't teaching me anything new, I simply stopped paying attention. I stopped doing my homework.

Don't get me wrong, I still got 100 percent on all my tests, but since a grade is usually determined by homework (because most students have a hard time taking tests and yet can do pretty well on their homework), I pretty much failed all my classes. AND I DIDN'T CARE!!!

Don't even get me started on bullying and high school drama, sigh...

What I didn't know at the time, but now wish I had known, was that I would have been much better suited to homeschooling - where I could pursue those things that interested me and NOT be bored by school. ACTUALLY, I probably was ready for college.

Had even one of my teachers - or my Dean - realized that I was "failing" because I was bored, and suggested that I transferred to college instead, I probably would have thrived. I probably would have excelled! Instead, when my Dean asked me why I went from having good grades to bad grades, and I said it was because I wasn't learning anything new, she suggested that I take honors classes. They were supposed to be more challenging, thus, I might learn something new.

Those honor classes? Just regular classes with MORE homework and a higher expectation to do well. Still didn't learn anything new. Shake my head.

So I vowed that my kids would never go to school. Luckily, my husband had a similar view of school, and agreed with me. So our kids are free to learn whatever interests them, and I don't try to force knowledge down their throats. Despite not "doing enough" to teach them the things they "should" know, they are still right where they would be if they were in school.

Here's the thing. Gryffin REALLY doesn't like to read (which breaks my heart) and no matter how much I try, he practically refuses. Had I put him in regular school, he'd still be him. Only he would be labelled as learning disabled, put into "special" classes, and basically be told that he is one of the stupid kids. Chances are good that he would be failing most of his classes because he is a hands on learner. Only he has my need to been thought of as the best, so - failing in school - he would be highly stressed and probably deeply depressed. Why would any parent put their child through that?

Anyway, after announcing that I was going to homeschool my kids, almost everyone I know tried to talk me out of it. I was given every horror story imaginable as to WHY I would be damaging my kids forever if I didn't send them to school, but you know what? My kids are more or less happy. They are not damaged. Then I take a look around...

My niece is going to public school, and already she is not doing well. She is only in kindergarten - the ONE class I still remember fondly - and she's in trouble. She's been choked several times by other kids. Bullied on the bus. SHE'S GOTTEN INTO TROUBLE FOR DEFENDING HERSELF!!! She was nearly run over by the bus driver, and then yelled at by the bus driver for crossing in front of the bus - like she's SUPPOSED TO! My mom saw this and nearly had a heart attack.

My mom reports that my niece is constantly stressed when she gets home from school. She never wants to talk about her day, and seems to simply zone out for a while until she "recovers." My sister has had to go to the school to talk about what has happened to her daughter several times, and the school either dismisses her concerns, or promises it won't happen again (but it does).

A good friend of mine is currently in a battle with her daughter's school because a teacher's aide physically bruised her daughter, and the school tried to cover it up. And this is happening at a different school than my niece attends, so it's not just a case of one bad school among all the rest. It's more like bad schools are the norm now and finding a good school is rare indeed.

In my homeschooling forums, where I hang in in cyberspace with other homeschooling parents - a great many of them are teachers who would die before they'd put their own kids in school. THAT says something, don't you think?

Here's an article about one teacher who resigned after 25 years as a teacher, because she can no longer participate in this badly broken system. I could actually go on and on, linking articles of every bad thing I've heard about schools in the past 5 years, but I won't. I encourage each parent to do some digging, to come up with their own opinions on homeschooling, and more importantly, public school.

Good luck, and have a happy day :-)

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