Monday, August 25, 2008

A better articulated reason for homeschooling

Have you ever just *known* something? It's in your gut but you can't explain it just yet to someone - a spouse, your kids, or other family members? That's how I've felt about homeschooling the Vikings.

I trained at one of several preeminent and historical teacher colleges in Michigan. The majority of teachers certified in this state seem to come from Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, or Central Michigan universities. I've maintained my state credentials despite being a stay-at-home wife and mom since 2001. I also worked either in full time classroom or nearly daily substitute work for 6 years. Due to my training and experience, it has always been "expected" that I am a public school advocate and that I would fully support putting the Vikings in my local school district (which happens to rank 57th out of Michigan's 691 districts).

But I could not shake my interest in and desire for homeschooling.

Then, I started getting the standard questions and criticism on nearly every side. Most people's concerns focused on one of two things: either on Michigan's (depending on how you look at it) treasured and flexible homeschool legislation (also viewed as a seeming lack of accountability to anyone) or on the standard homeschooling complaint of "lack of socialization".

I've stood by my initial desire to homeschool - even eventually convincing DaHubby that I hadn't lost my mind (LOL) and that we were able and capable of doing this for some very solid and documented reasons. The accountability issue is a strong one for him as well and, in honor of that concern, it will be addressed when the Vikings enter standard school age.

Recently, the joy in homeschooingl's flexibility has increased our desire to continue on this course as we've realized that, after the next few years as DaHubby finishes up an intensive college-level second career re-training program, he will be able to work at any power plant in the country and we might have to move where the work is if nothing is available at the 3 local nuke plants at the time DaHubby completes his work commitment to pay back for his scholarship.

In addition, I keep hearing myself explain to people "I'm not setting out with the intention to homeschool through the high school level. I just want them home a little while longer. How am I supposed to pass on what we're about it and what we think is important is someone else is teaching them 6-8 hours a day? Didn't I step out of my career to actually *be home* with them?"

As for the socialization issue, for me it's a mute point. We already see the influence of media and peers on the Vikings while they are still pre-kindergarten age. We have no cable and have had none for nearly two years yet Flicka knows exactly who Hannah Montana and SpongeBob are while Pojke can sing the Diego song with significant practiced flair. Another example was Saturday when Flicka announced to me that she was pretending her tennis shoes were Sketchers since Sketchers could fly! *eyes rolling*

Finally, with all the messages of kids struggling and growing up too early in the press, socialization has become as much of a bad thing as it was originally thought of as a good thing. Having their peers already challenging what we are trying to instill in the Vikings is like shaking a building half-built to see if it will withstand an earthquake.

But, I’ve continued to struggle to design an academic-sounding enough argument (something better than “just ‘cuz I think it’s the right thing to do”) to counter the socialization criticism…and then I found this post.

Jennifer, an atheist turned devout Catholic, describes her experience growing up in Littleton, Colorado in a kid culture that she feels led to the environment at Columbine. And, she refers to a book that she says put a name on what she felt had gone wrong so to speak.

Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld describes in great detail “attachment” and how, due in part to this generation’s focus on economic gain and status-seeking over family, kids are latching onto their peers to find meaning as opposed to their parents.

The theory of attachment parenting has gotten a lot of praise and a lot of criticism in recent years but one thing, in my experience, that it does is finds a common ground between so-called “liberal” and “conservative” parents.

Attachment parenting theory seems to focus mostly on infants and toddlers and advocates child-directed scheduling, feeding on demand, baby sling and packs aka “baby wearing”, co-sleeping and the like.

But, this book also seems to present the next step for those with preschoolers up to teenagers. And, as a result, the author (who does not specifically support homeschooling) gives great arguments for those interested in homeschooling. They simply advocate keeping your kids close and being more intimately involved in their inner lives so they look to you as their parent to walk through their initial years of life instead of getting wrapped up in the kid culture of the school yard.

The author even suggests that the public schools encourage a student to be peer-oriented instead of parent-oriented as peer-oriented students are easier to fit into the school culture and environment.

". . . (A)t least initially, peer-oriented children also tend to be more schoolable . . . . School takes children out of the home, separating parent-oriented children from the adults to whom they are attached. For such children the separation anxiety will be intense and the sense of disorientation at school will be acute . . . . (T)he elevated anxiety it provokes interferes with learning. Anxiety dumbs us down, lowering our functional I.Q. Being alarmed affects our ability to focus and to remember. Anxiety makes it difficult to read the cues and follow directions. A child simply cannot learn well when feeling lost and alarmed.

"Children already peer-oriented by the time they enter school do not face such a dilemma. In the first days of school in kindergarten, a peer-oriented child would appear smarter, more confident, and better able to benefit from the school experience. The parent-oriented child, impaired by separation anxiety would, by contrast, appear to be less adept and capable - at least until he can form a good attachment with a teacher. . . . (I)n the short term, peer orientation appears to be a godsend. And it is undoubtedly this dynamic that research taps into when discovering the benefits to early education.

"In the long term . . . the positive effects on learning of reduced anxiety and disorientation will gradually be canceled by the negative effects of peer orientation. Thus follows the research evidence that early advantages of preschool education are not sustainable over time. Peer-oriented kids go to school to be with their friends, not to learn. If these friends are also not into learning, academic performance will slip. When children go to school to be with one another, they are primed only to learn enough not to stand out, to remain with those their own age. Other than that, learning is irrelevant and can even be a liability to peer relationships." (236-7)

Farther down the same page:

"Interestingly, home-schoolers are now the favored applicants of some big-name universities. According to Jon Reider, admissions official at Stanford University in California, they are desirable applicants because "home-schoolers bring certain skills - motivation, curiosity, the capacity to be responsible for their education - that high school don't induce very well." In other words, preschooled kids may have to best head start, but home-schooled kids have the best finish, because in our educational system we have neglected the crucial role of attachment." (237-8)

And, since I’m interested in raising good people as well as good students, this makes all the difference.

Between Jennifer’s post and the reviews on Amazon, which can be seen here, I think this will be a book I track down and read. The book will hopefully flesh out what is now a fresh spark of understanding and insight into the “whys” of our homeschooling.

1 comment:

Sue said...

Yes! Your post came up on my Google alert for "homeschooling." I also happen to be a homeschooling mother in Michigan who quit work to stay home with my children. I never intended to homeschool, but it grew out of that attachment I began with them as co-sleeping, breastfed, sling-worn babies. Why would I send them off on a bus to be indoctrinated into a broken system when at home with me was where they belonged? Great post!