There Will be Gaps
I was lying in bed this morning thinking about school. My oldest, LittleBoyBlue, started Kindergarten at a charter school that opened its doors that year. His class will be the first class that will graduate from there that would have gone through the school from K-12.
It sounds silly, but I was stressing over whether or not he’d be able to go back and graduate with his class if he wanted to; whether or not I would be able to keep his education ‘on-track’ with the school so that would at least be an option open to him if he wanted it. Specifically, I was thinking about math and science. Since that was the school’s focus, and those are my weakest areas, I was giving in to a moment of self-doubt that I would be able to measure up when it comes to those fields.
From there, that progressed to thinking about gaps in education, overall. We homeschooling parents hear that a lot, I think – not only from outside sources, but for many of us it’s a constant loop that runs in our own head. I was reading something the other day that was talking about homeschooling and someone commented that it was unfair of parents to homeschool since they could not possibly hope to be as well-versed in a single subject the way that teachers were, and that by attempting to fill those shoes homeschooling parents were denying their kids the expertise of the teachers and the education that goes along with that.
Though that’s a somewhat valid point, it’s just not that black and white. Yes, teachers are experts in their fields, but being knowledgeable does not mean that one can actually teach the material. Many teachers simply lecture and expect the students to ‘get it’. If the kids don’t, then there isn’t time in the schedule to really go in-depth with a student to ensure the he grasps the lesson or skill, and if he skates by with a barely passing grade, then they don’t really take the time to go back over it with them. The only alternative offered usually is remediation, which is often after school or on weekends. That interferes with family time and many parents are reluctant to give up the already limited time they have with their kids.
That stance also does not take into account any child who does not learn within the system. School is set up ONE WAY. If you don’t learn well or at all in that way, then you’re given a label and if you’re lucky, some special ed. But even then, you’re still expected to function within the environment of school. If you have a child that does not do well in a school setting, and even if you do, homeschooling allows for both the time to linger on a subject or specific lesson in order to master it and the leeway to pursue alternatives to the ‘lecture and learn’ variety of teaching that many junior high and high school teachers rely on.
I have a high school diploma. I am woefully deficient in even basic math skills. I know how to do math, and given time, I can figure it out, but I have to really think about it. Ask me a math question expecting expect a quick answer and I get flustered and go into panic mode, basically ‘forgetting’ that I do actually know how to do figure the answer. Even if I don’t know the answer off the top of my head, I know what tools to use to figure the problem out, and if it was a process that I needed to use frequently, then the skills would stick at least a bit from repetitive use.
I think that the kids will be the same way – if they don’t know the answer to a question, they’ll know where to go to find it. I think that’s the goal of education – a foundation of basic knowledge and the ability to seek out the information you need when you need it. The foundation changes depending on the state you live in, the method you use and your personal experience and opinion of what is ‘essential’ to know, so even there, a homeschooling parent has quite a bit of leeway to work with. And, just as teachers specialize, homeschooling parents can, too, to a degree.
I’m also not relying solely on my own knowledge to educate my kids. My husband’s academic skills run strong in areas that I am weak and we see his contributions to our kids’ education every but as essential as mine. My dad is also gifted in math (which caused no end of frustrations to me when I was little and just didn’t ‘get it’) and is more than willing to help if we need it. We also live in a city with several professional tutoring agencies and learning centers that we can utilize if we need them. When we took on full responsibility for our kids education, we didn’t go into it with pie in the sky, ‘this’ll be so fun!’ blinders on. We knew it would be a lot of time and energy and hard work. But then again, I tend to think that as a parent, it was always my responsibility to ensure that my kids got what they needed.
The conclusion I have reached is that there will be gaps in my kids’ education. They may come from lack of interest, because we didn’t get to it, or because they just haven’t needed it yet. That doesn’t mean that we’ll abandon the basics – obviously, reading, writing and arithmetic (and grammar and science) are on the menu for quite some time yet. But if we eschew studying ancient Greece for an in-depth examination of ancient China, or get lost in classic literature and gloss over neo-classical art, I think they’ll still have a well-rounded education.