Friday, June 5, 2015

Words Matter (Rant)

Lately, I have seen several articles about Musk. What bugs me the most? The titles usually imply that he is doing something devious."...Musk ADMITS to  unschooling his children...." admits? really? Like it is something he has to "admit"?  Language matters folks and this is not the first time that the underlying meaning to somebody's comments about homeschooling have belittled my choice to homeschool my son.

"How will a homeschooler learn to stand in line?"
"How will we know that your students are ready for OUR 8th grade?"
"There are some homeschool parents who just don't do a good job"
"All the kids I knew who were homeschooled are WEIRD.
"As a Psychiatrist I don't recommend homeschooling, it is too isolating"

WELL GUESS What? When we stand in line at the grocery store my son does not break down into tears because he doesn't know how to do it.
 Some teachers in public school are crappy.
I used to teach in a classroom and many students who spend the majority of their life in a classroom were not ready for 7th grade.

Oh and Dr. I don't know anything, many teenagers are isolated by the social structure present in the traditional school system. In fact, even teenagers who are in the classroom every day commit suicide.

And guess what? Kids are either weird or not weird. Get over it.

Thanks for letting me rant. Usually, I try to stay calm and educate instead of getting riled up. I try to live as a model so that people who are stuck in their traditional ideas of what a "proper" education is can begin to understand that homeschool is a viable option, NOT something people do when they can't hack it in real school or they refuse to (gasp!) conform! I am tired of having to have conversations defending my educational choice.

Of course, then people always say, "Oh well, the way YOU are doing it is so good....I didn't mean YOU!" As if they have taken a comprehensive survey of all homeschoolers.

Then there is the obligatory, "Oh well you can homeschool! You can afford to!" Nope. actually I couldn't afford to. That is why we sold our house, moved into an apartment and I also run a part time business out of my home IN ADDITION to working 65% as a school administrator. Homeschooling is accessible to more than the neavuo riche Techies in Silicon Valley. It is a lifestyle choice.

Many people, like me, do come to homeschooling because the traditional system has failed them or damaged them. Many of them stay because they discover the same secret I have, homeschooling is an incredible option that may prepare students to be active citizens that can think outside of the box, and are confident in their own abilities.

It is not a surprise to me that innovators in tech are choosing to home educate. They see the value of interest led learning and innovation.

Sometimes I think it is fear that prevents people from accepting homeschooling. What would happen to their theories on pedagogy and learning if they had to accept that homeschool is as valid as the traditional classroom? Where would textbook companies be if they had to price their products so that they were affordable for individual families? What would happen if it was accepted that students who learn without regard for standards are just as competitive in the college and job market as those who "meet standards" every year?

I think that most educators do not realize that the same things they rave about on twitter and their blogs are the same things that we do as homeschoolers.

Two years ago, I sat through professional learning about something called Genius Hour. "Student passions come alive..." because they get to spend 20% of their time on passion driven projects. Teachers set aside time and structure them around a driving question.  Last week I saw a series of pictures on Twitter with the hash tag #tlap. It showed teachers running classes based on their own passions and the passions of their students.

I celebrate along with these Principals and teachers. I think letting students explore their passions is awesome.

I wonder if they realize that homeschoolers do this all the time? It is part of our life because our students have the time to do so without having a structured time in their day to do it.

A few years ago, my school librarian turned me onto Donalyn Miller. It was not until I started homeschooling that I could truly follow her principals to help my son become a life long learner and reader. In fact, many homeschoolers are incredible readers. They understand the underlying themes and can talk about characters without having one study guide, comprehension test, or formal discussion.

The thing about homeschooling is that I don't have to "structure" or scaffold for 30 kids.

I look at my son and we work on what he needs. Differentiation is a buzz word in education. Millions are spent each year on PD, textbooks, and conferences to figure out how to differentiate. Here homeschooling has the advantage.

So why am I seemingly battered so often by comments that belittle the choice to homeschool? It is not just the annoying person behind me in the grocery store line.

It comes from the stories that other homeschooling parents share with me. It comes from well meaning family members and friends.

It is from my colleagues at more traditional schools when they are faced with a homeschooling student entering their school.

The last group are the comments I find most offensive. I expect more.

What my colleagues should be asking themselves when faced with a homeschooling student is:

Will our classes be challenging enough for a student who was not been held back by what the math standards say he should be working on, but instead has been allowed to move forward?

Will this student be held back by our English teacher's insistence that he read the same book, at the same rate, on the same day as the other students?

Will our science curriculum hold back this student when he really wants to delve deeper into genetics, but we have to move forward as a class?

Will our grading system kill the joy of learning for a student who doesn't need a rubric to motivate him to do his best work or think critically?

How will our teachers handle a student who sees them as a partner in learning...not a master of learning? Will they be able to handle a collaborative relationship with their student instead of demanding compliance and conformity?

And finally, how can I deal with my own prejudices about homeschooling that come from a place of ignorance so that I do not belittle the choices that parents have made for their children.

Uh...if your still reading this thank you. I could go on for another three hours. But I think that I have gotten just enough out so that I can go back to smiling, educating, and replying with a calm and tolerant tone.


  1. Kudos! I have been asked several times when I'm going to put my daughter in real school. Never, if I have any say! And by real school, they forget that the FIRST SCHOOL and ORIGINAL SCHOOL was HOMESCHOOL! They forget that Mark Twain, Abe Lincoln, Albert Einstein, and so many other intellectual pillars of the community were HOMESCHOOLED! I'm so glad you wrote this, and I hope it falls into the hands of some critics who take the time to hear what you have to say! Especially about affording it. As far as I'm concerned, there may come a time where you realize you can't afford not to homeschool, because the price you pay in an institutionalized educational system is sometimes the life of a child. Your child.