Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Brick in the Wall?

I'm glad Paisley is only 19 months old because at this rate it's going to take me years to figure out what we are going to do about school. We have discussed the idea of home schooling Paisley and are pretty torn about it. Home schooling is such a touchy subject and one that seems to really divide people. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people make comments like "They're weird that family. I mean, they home school even!" as though homeschooling is the ultimate evidence of weirdness. At the same time, I know where that comes from and although it is changing, there is definitely a history of weird people keeping their kids home to make sure they stay weird.

Home schooling is on the rise in North America and interestingly, the two main groups who seem to be opting out of public education are religious people and those who are highly educated. There are more and more programs and resources available for parents who choose to home school and the term itself is becoming a misnomer as education is happening less at home and more in the community, museums, parks and public facilities than ever before.

I feel torn for many reasons. When I think of kids being kept away from ideas that challenge their beliefs or values I feel angry. I feel that keeping your kids home to indoctrinate them with ideas about creationism or homophobia is not only irresponsible, it is wrong. All people should have their ideas challenged from time to time and if you are allowed to withdraw from the world, that cannot happen. At the same time, I recognize that schools do their own kind of indoctrination as far as behaviour modification and curriculum go. You become part of a system when you start school and that is what we are reluctant to accept. We want Paisley to learn things at her own pace and in a way that feeds her curiosity and love of life. I don't want her being told to sit still at a desk when she is only 6 or 7, I don't want her to have to do worksheets when she could be outside exploring and creating. I want her to sleep in if she is particularly tired and to take a break if she is frustrated. Many of those things are not available in the school system as it exists today.

Having said that, I recognize that teachers are trained and educated in their field and I am not. Teachers do more than just study their chosen subject - they learn about educational methods and approaches and often have a solid background in the psychology of learning. As kids get older they have debates in the classroom where ideas are shared and challenged and discussed. For this reason we would never keep Paisley home from school for longer than a few years. What we are considering is keeping her home until grade three. I strongly feel that 5 or 6 is far too young to be going to school and am confident that I could do a better job of establishing a love of learning here at home. I do think though that there should be some necessary training for parents who want to teach at home. Even if it only a 6 month course - something to ensure that people are qualified and prepared for the challenge. Having said that, I am grateful that the option of home schooling even exists for us.

There is a fine line however between educational flexibility and chaos. While I am not a believer in standardized testing I also recognize that some measurement is necessary. If you want to go to University you need to show that you have mastered certain skills. In my opinion, you should not be allowed to claim that you have passed Bio 30 if you don't believe in evolution. In the same way that you should not be able to pass physics and deny the existence of gravity.

Living in Alberta means we also have the option of charter schools. These publicly funded schools offer a variety of different approaches like Montessori and Waldorf schools. I have no doubt that as Paisley gets older and we prepare to transition her into the system that we will find a school (either private or public) that meets her needs. In the meantime I listen and research and follow the issues facing education in the province and struggle with what is best for Paisley and how I feel about the subject more generally.

I'm sure this won't be my last post on the subject so stay tuned! :)

1 comment:

linda said...

After confirming that I was reading the right blog, I read about why on earth you want to home school Paisley. I am not sure how much you have learned about Montessori yet, but it sounds like exactly what you want. It's a child-directed learning where they study what they are motivated to study and make a lot of their own choices about the direction. I personally find it a little touchy-feely, but then again, I have no problem with "regular" school. I do think they like the kids to start in Montessori as early as possible though. Have you considered doing any one- or two-day-a-week preschool things or half-day Montessori at kindergarten age or anything like that?