Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dream School

I've considered homeschooling.  Seriously considered it.  Now, I know what you're thinking when you hear homeschooling.

A bunch of religious fanatics who have more kids than they can keep track of where the girls all wear skirts and the men are manly.  Having known a few parents who homeschool, I can tell you there's more than just religious reasons to homeschool.

In 2007 (which was the last time the Department of Education looked into the statistics), there were about 1.5 million students between the ages of 5-17 (k-12) being homeschooled.  The estimates in 2010 were closer to 2.04 million.  That's a lot of kids and parents choosing a different path for education.  Some of the reasons parents were making these choices for their kids included:

  • Concern about the school environment
  • Desire to provide religious/moral instruction
  • Dissatisfaction with instruction at traditional schools
  • Non-traditional approach to child's education
  • Child has special needs
  • Child has physical or mental health problems

The number one reason was maybe not-so-surprisingly concern about the school environment.  In a current climate of bullying (cyber and otherwise), over-populated classrooms and the tied hands of school educators, I can see why this might be a valid reason.  

Of the few parents I know who homeschool, I've found that most feel that their child needs aren't being met in a traditional over-crowded classroom setting.  The child for whatever reason, learns in a different manner and/or needs more one on one attention.  Some of that is special needs.  Some of that is kids are just different.  Some learn best one way, some learn best another and one teacher with 35-40 kids can't direct his/her instruction in a way that meets the personalized learning methods of all the kids.   I truly believe this is more of a failure of the system than the teachers.  No anti-teacher sentiment here people!

Some parents I know simply choose Private School with the promise of smaller classrooms and more one on one attention to home schooling.  And I can see the allure.  If you can afford it.  Having known a few private school parents, the common thread was being nickled and dimed to death.  Everything had a price tag attached.  

What about college?  Do homeschoolers even go to college?  Of course they do!  Here's some more fun facts.
  • Homeschoolers often enter college with more college credit (14.7 credits - a full semester's worth) than their traditional school counter parts (6 credits) 
  • Homeschoolers in 2002 averaged an SAT score of 1092 compared to the average of 1020.
  • Homeschool freshmen have higher GPAs in their first semester at college, with 3.37 GPAs for homeschoolers, and 3.08 for the rest. This trend continues with an overall freshman GPA of 3.41 vs. 3.12, and senior GPAs of 3.46 vs. 3.16
  • Homeschoolers are now in over 900 different colleges and universities, many of them with rigorous admissions. Some of these colleges include Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown, and Rice University.
  • College graduation rates show a high disparity between homeschoolers and the national average, with 66.7% of homeschooled students graduating, compared to 57.5%

The Hubs has more concerns about their emotional and social development than any other objection.  His experience with homeschooling has admittedly been limited to religious homeschoolers.  I don't know if they do or don't generate more socially awkward kids, but here's what I do know.  My kids are out-going and smart.  They interact well with adults as well as kids their own age.  And with a well rounded education that includes social activities including sports, arts, dance, etc. I don't see any potential for problems.  All homeschooling would really do is keep school time for school time and let social time be separate.  For a girl who was constantly in trouble for talking and socializing in class, I can definitely see some advantages for keeping the other kids away when you're trying to learn.

So, I've considered homeschooling.  Seriously considered it.  In my very well developed fantasy world, the perfect education would be hands-on homeschooling.  Learning Early American History?  Head over to Colonial Williamsburg and see first hand what the settlers were up against in the wilds of the New World.  

Translate the obstacles settlers were facing then with the modern farmers of today's America.  Head to a mid-west farm to see which obstacles have remained, and which ones have mutated over time.  Play that into an economics discussion on supply and demand and learn why the government pays farmers not to grow and discuss the pros and cons of that philosophy.  And take that a step further into modern politics and how policies being discussed today will effect the farming practices of tomorrow and how that will impact stores and consumers across America and abroad.  

See, school for me didn't ever stick when it was just facts and figures.  I learned it just long enough to pass the tests (often with As or Bs - I was no slouch when it came to school) but never enough to retain all that information.  Without something to relate it to, it just had no real meaning.  But if you can take one subject, blend it seamlessly into another and see it, feel it, live it and discuss it with people who know about it intimately, how can you fail to learn?

Unfortunately, and this is where my highly developed fantasy life stutters a bit, this only works if we have the money to make it work.  And for now, I am absolutely in love with Bunny's elementary school, the teachers, and the parents.  I think at this stage of the game, she's getting what she needs from her teachers and I'm super comfortable with the school environment.  Bug will join in not this fall but next, and I know he will thrive there.  Being one of the best schools in our district, we couldn't ask for better.  But, her school only goes to 5th grade, and who knows where we'll send them for school after that.  Maybe by then we'll be able to afford my dream education for them.  Something that will help lend itself to a life of learning, growing and seeing the world in more than just pages in a book.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

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