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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coloring Outside of the Lines

"Why doesn't she have her math facts memorized?"

"He is still holding his pencil in a fist grip instead the pinch style."

"They prefer doing instead of sitting for book work."

These were some of my concerns as I spoke to the certified teacher whom we work with. In our state, if we are not dual-enrolled through a school we must work with a certified teacher and have eight contacts a year (four must be face to face).

Each time we have a meeting I come away refreshed and relieved. As parents, I think we can all admit that from time to time we question whether we are doing the right thing for our children. While I know homeschooling is right for us, sometimes I question whether I am doing a good enough job.

Then the certified teacher swoops in and assures me I am. When the kids fell behind with school last year the teacher assured me they would catch up later (they did). When Becca was struggling with math the teacher told me she wasn't ready to grasp those concepts and to work on reading instead (this year she has been sailing through her math).

I realized I am stuck on "rules". Someone, somewhere, sets rules for children at school and I blindly follow along. Back in the late 80's I learned reading in 2nd grade. Now schools are teaching reading in Kindergarten. I panicked when Becca finished Kindergarten without knowing how to read. Then I read study after study that shows the ideal age for learning to read is age 7. That is not to say that a child of four, five, or six can't or shouldn't learn to read, but rather that a child will learn at their own pace and at the right time when given that opportunity.

Albert Einstein was 4 before he spoke and 7 before he learned to read, causing his teachers and parents to think he was mentally handicapped. Thomas Edison was told by teachers in his early years that he was "too stupid to learn anything." Winston Churchill failed 6th grade. Monet was rejected and mocked by The Paris Salon. Beethoven's teachers thought he was hopeless in composing and would never learn to play the violin. Michael Jordan was cut from his High School basketball team.

These are some examples where a person did not follow a set of rules and was deemed stupid or worthless because of it. Children are now labeled because of their nature. I am not saying that there isn't such thing as ADD or ADHD but I do feel that there are many children misdiagnosed. For example, if my Joe were in school he would be labeled ADD for sure, but he just has a lot of energy and I am able to get him to sit still for worksheets, yet he does his best learning while being active. Jacob may be in a Special Ed program because of his speech issues, and yet he is such an intelligent little guy that something like that could hurt his ego greatly. He knows he can't speak well, but he also knows that he learns just like any other child.

The most common anti-homeschooling comments I hear are about socialization, the next complaint is often "A child needs to learn to follow rules, they need to learn that the world won't cater to them when they are adults." I think a child can learn rules just from living in society, not from being told to color within the lines. We learn to respect adults by being around adults, we learn to stand in line when at a store, we learn how to do a job by actually doing the job. These are life lessons but have nothing to do with the style of learning we each learn by.

I'm not saying public/private schools are bad, I'm saying that they aren't the only way to learn.

11 years out of high school and I'm still learning...learning not to live within one set of rules, learning more and more that the world is my classroom, learning that the ones who color outside of the lines are the ones who get noticed.


  1. I'll share with you what I have learned from the public schooling perspective. With a junior in high school, and an 8th grader, we've got quite a few years of schooling under our belts. I have the oldest, who loves the classroom setting and has never had any issues with school or learning. Then there's the youngest, who from the moment he was in kindergarten had issues with fidgeting, tapping and tics without realizing he's doing it and general focus issues. I dreaded speaking with his teachers, conferences, or the infamous note coming home. I waited for the day they would finally say to me that he needed to be tested for ADD or ADHD. But I made my feelings known from the start that this kid was smart and needed a challenge. These tics and lack of focus came out of boredom, because I was dealing with the same things here at home. Some years he had teachers willing to work with him, and some years there were teachers who predetermined him a "problem child". FINALLY, this year, with more advanced work available to him, and being able to start high school classes early, and also seeing the example of his sister focusing on college level courses, he is challenged and excelling. (he's making honor roll!)

    Here's what I've learned...public school can be great. There are alot of opportunities to explore areas of instruction that would be difficult to accomplish in the home. It also gives the college bound student options to complete college courses prior to high school graduation. But what any parent cannot expect is for public education to be their only education. Learning is a constant, and shouldn't ever stop just because school is not in session. Both hubby and I have educated our kids in things they are not learning in a school setting. We cater this to their interests, but we also discuss things with them that we believe they need to be aware of as they grow into young adults. Politics can't be covered in a simple history/government class. Money management, insurance, employment, and savings/retirement/investments can't be covered in one term of a school year. No school setting is going to teach our 13 year old the physics of jumping a dirtbike, or how to disassemble a two stroke motor. Yet these are things he knows and understands.

    What it comes down to is knowing that as the parent, you have to be involved 100% in your child's education. Whether you do that through homeschooling, charter schools, private, or public, you can't just accept the basics of education being good enough. Constant communication with teachers and administration is a must. Parent teacher conferences should not be the only time of year you are learning of your child's progress. Checking grades online (our school is great about this, and will show individual grades for individual assignments updated throughout the week), checking their homework, and just talking every day about what's going on in school and what they are learning is vital.

    To sum it up (long winded, I know), if your child is in public school, their learning and education is not up to the teachers. It's up to the teachers AND the parents. I think too many parents see school as their child's only opportunity for education, when in fact, the world they live in 24/7 is an opportunity for learning. So when a child fails or struggles in a public school setting, it is too easy to fall back on blaming the school, blaming a perceived learning disability, or blaming the child. But parents should be open to looking at what kind of "education" they are providing at home, put in that extra effort (or look at how their child may successfully learn in a non traditional way) before placing blame entirely on the system. Public school can be very successful, but you have to accept that you are going to put just as much effort into it as if you were providing ALL of their education yourself.


  2. I agree!!

    I just wanted to add on the point where you mentioned opportunities that schools offer that would be challenging to do at home. The beauty of homeschooling gaining such popularity is that there are now homeschool co-ops which offer classes such as chemistry, advanced mathematics, and even some college courses (among other basics such as art, music, etc.). If there is not a co-op nearby the option of dual-enrolling in the school system is also a great option; a student can then pick and choose which classes they want to learn at home and which they would like to take at a nearby school.

    Every choice, whether it be private, public, or homeschool has it's pros and cons. But it's true, no matter what route a parent must actively be involved in their child's education for them to grow up with a well rounded one. Thanks for your input...I'm surprised we agree! ;)



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