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Grass, green, paths less travelled


In her blog Just Enough and Nothing More, Tammy Takahashi discusses the question “Is homeschooling better than school?” You can read her post here. This is such a vital and topical issue and I think it is at the root of such red herrings as socialization and “real world” integration. I call these red herrings because there is sufficient evidence to show that a person who attends park and recreation classes, goes to conferences, is in 4-H, Scouts (boy and girl), garage bands, website development, church groups, teen clubs, and kitchen sink development* are clearly getting along and in the real world. It follows if a person is doing this in the “real world” then they must be integrated into society.

The root to all of this is the “grass is greener” fear. What if what they have is better? If I send my kids to public school, are they missing out? and if they are, what are they missing? What do homeschooler’s do or have that my kids don’t? These are all great questions and there are no easy answers. The fear is real. I totally understand that. When we chose to homeschool I was plenty afraid. I feared what public school would do to my sensitive 5 year old son more. I wanted to fit in but not at the cost of that beautiful boys creative mind and silly sense of humor. In short, I wanted him to be himself and fit in.

It’s no wonder I felt confused. Think about America itself. Mainstream society has a real bipolar reaction to homeschooling. On the one hand they fear what is not the norm. By norm I mean the thing that most Americans are doing. If you or I are doing something on the periphery of society we must be duplicitous in our actions. That’s a pretty heavy assumption. How many Shakers are there, and do people see the worst in them? If I follow and don’t succeed, it’s my own fault for not creating my own out of the box solution. Talk about U turns!

That 180 degree turn of thought is pervasive. Mainstream America showers accolades on homeschoolers they feel are “amazing” and truly accomplished. 1997 Scripps  Spelling Bee winner Rebecca Sealfon and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelp come to mind. These individuals and many others, are true Americans because they have taken the reins of their lives, showing the hard work, grit, and perseverance lead to success. Blazing a new trail is as American as panning for Gold, taming the West, and going against King George III by creating a Declaration of Independence.

As with so many things, when it’s something most people want it’s good and if most people don’t want it, it’s bad. Be original, be an individual, don’t follow what others tell you to do, question authority. We say these things but we don’t mean them, at least not for all Americans. We back that up and even ensure it by keeping some schools back by underfunding, poor management, and institutionalized class warfare/racism. 

I am harsh. I mean to be. As a teacher in a public school for adults, I have seen how insidious these factors are. They are so embedded in the system most people aren’t even aware that they are recreating them. A look, a glance, ridiculous watered down texts, moving at the speed of the slowest student, teaching to middle, teaching to the test, lack of multicultural administrators, are just some ways kids are shut down in poor areas. Poor areas are often where new immigrants are because it’s cheaper there.  The system turns round and round and round. 

Those who break out and choose to make informed choices about their children’s education are instigators. We follow Forst’s path less taken and we are judged for it. Follow, follow the others, so I the mainstream parent, don’t have to question what I’ve chosen for my kids. Did I even choose? Well that’s what every family does. Those issues are not my issues. 

The main element missing here is choice. My husband and I made the choices we made to meet the needs of our family. We considered our issues. If a person is worried if one is better than the other, that is an issue they need to address. They need to see that they can make a choice and if they choose to stay where they are, excellent. Self determination means that, determine for yourself. Do your own souls searching, research, discussing, whatever. Take a good look at your grass. Do you like how green it is?  Ours is green enough for us.

 

Thank you Tammy for getting me thinking.

* kitchen sink development has yet to be proven but I had to get “kitchen sink” in there somewhere.