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earl, homeschool and defending schools

updated fri 5 apr 02


primalmommy on wed 3 apr 02

Earl said: "parents often don't have the skills, knowledge or time" (to
homeschool ..)

Not arguing with you, here... there are parents who should not
homeschool (including some who do!).... There are parents who should not
have HAD kids to begin with, but nobody yet is asking my permission so
that's neither here nor there...

As for skills and knowledge: I'd assume any parent who finished high
school can teach THEIR OWN elementary school kids. Not 30 at once, not
to the tune of the assessment tests and the politics of schools, but
their own kids with their individual learning styles. We can add,
subtract, multiply, divide, read up on government and history and stuff
long forgotten.

In the case of we John Holt style "unschoolers" even that is not an
issue: it is "child led learning", no "curriculum" or grades, not tests
or due dates. We don't consider learning something an adult does TO a
child, or something a child does FOR an adult (or for the carrot and
stick, punishment and reward, gold star or bad grade.) Nobody has to
teach a child to walk, or talk, or use a spoon; kids are born hungry for
knowledge, watching the people around them and eager to master the
skills of being human. As Alfie Kohn points out in "punished by
rewards", when we start awarding them our approval for their successes
we steal their victories, make them ours. We also don't answer questions
-- not the good ones. The point is not to teach a child "the grown up
knows" but to say, how can you find that out? Who would know? (the vet,
the librarian, the encyclopedia, a website?) How can I help you find out
about that? Kids int he information age desperately do not need to
memorize information to spit back on a test and forget; they need to
engage their curiosities and know how to find their own answers... and
what to do when answers conflict.

I am just a reference librarian for my kids. I give them lots of choices
and chauffer them to the ones they choose, scouts and YMCA, t-ball and
soccer, art class, piano and the urban garden project, science labs and
naturalist training and martial arts and the planetarium and endless
homeschool field trips... we are more car-schoolers... and the kids
still just 8, 6 and 3... at home we hit the library twice a week,
provide CD-Roms and a microscope, dissecting kits and my studio full of
art supplies, and walls and walls of books in every room... walls full
of maps and posters, a room filled with their solar system mobiles,
cactus terrariums, tadpole tank, desks and puzzles, construction sets
and dinosaurs and more books... At the grocery store they work together
figuring -- is this brand with a coupon a better deal? If it's 2 for $5
and I buy one? They learned to add columns and carry numbers adding our
scrabble scores... they learned to subtract and borrow helping me
balance my checkbook... we learn fractions baking.. everything is
relevant, it has a purpose. I learned anatomy cleaning fish with my dad,
learned physics shooting skeet with my grandpa when the shotgun knocked
me over backward the first time. My kids spend weekends hunting frogs,
fishing with THEIR grandpa... then get on line to look up dragonflies
and their larvae...

When Tyler (8) read a book about ancient Rome I told him I'd make a
roman dinner, if he would read all about it and teach us what we needed
to know. He studied for a solid week, ran the librarian ragged. It was a
ball.. we wore togas that night, had roman names assigned by tyler.
Olives, figs, flat bread, venison and ostrich meat, wine and snails....
we made an altar with pictures of our ancestors and a roman "god" connor
made from clay...oil lamp light... Jeff (claudius) and I pretended to be
visiting from out of town, asked Tyler (Julius) about his town... he
talked about the circus, the coliseum, the races, the market, how the
bread was baked, all the exciting stuff he had read... little molly
didn't get it, in her pillowcase toga, kept talking about fairies and
dinosaurs, playing along in her little way...

but I'm rambling. All I really meant to respond to here was the part
about not having time. Sometimes that's a choice, like whether you need
a lexus or what neighborhood you live in, how big a house you're willing
to support. I certainly didn't have time to homeschool; I taught lit,
folklore and writing at the local university until we had babies. I
chose to create time, even if it meant doing without the material stuff.
A lot of parents (and not just women) who "can't afford not to work" are
leaving unsaid, "because I'm not willing to move to the wrong side of
the tracks, eat lots of pasta and beans, or shop at resale and
goodwill..." It's certainly a valid choice, but it IS a choice. I know a
single mom who works nights and homeschools her kids in the daytime...
not the ideal way to do it, but she gets this tired smile when people
tell her "I love to homeschool but I'm just too busy..."
Like when people say, " Oh, you're a potter? How fun, I always wanted to
do that but haven't had time... " Like that's all it takes is a spare
minute and you could be one... yeesh.

I gladly vote for the levies to support the schools, and am grateful for
the good teachers who hang in there and don't burn out. I taught poetry
in the schools to little kids, subbed in the inner city middle schools,
taught high school french for a year and college english for 7 or 8...
Lots of bitter, burned out teachers and the good ones working against
the system sometimes, but the schools are the best hope for my kids'
world; their coworkers, peers, maybe spouses are in those schools, and
those kids get less and less time for free play, or interacting with
parents ("pass the remote' doesn't count.) That leaves a big job in the
hands of teachers and I gladly pay taxes to support them even though my
kids have never been in school. teachers sure aren't in it for the
money; the amount of heart they have for the job is our best hope, and
we need to reform the system to keep them from giving up. 30 kids in a
classroom isn't schooling, it's crowd control.

Sorry so windy.
Yours, Kelly in Ohio

Where the snow has melted, though my lungs are still not recovered from
the flu... but in the front entry in a brooder we have a few baby chicks
I'm raising for a freind. I made them a "mom" out of grandma's fur hat,
may she rest in peace, and they sleep together under it, peeping
contentedly. The kids are able to find worms for them.. the robins
finding some too, and the woodpecker on the roof is doing his annual
mate-attracting stunt of hammering his beak on the cap of our metal
chimney pipe... the echo quite impressive, across the neighborhood and
through the house...
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