Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Jon came by to visit on Friday. He's the '07 grad who had a hard time sitting still during his 4 years of high school. He squirmed, he called out answers prior to even thinking about raising his hand, he had enormous trouble adjusting to the schedule, the crowds, the jostling, the competition of a giGENdous American suburban public high school.

Jon had never set foot in a public school before his freshman year. He learned on his living room couch, in his PJs, for the first 14 years of his young life.

Friday evening, Hubby shared the above New Yorker cartoon with us. We laughed out loud, but also felt a certain pang of sympathy. Sympathy for Jon, who is still trying to adjust to a life constrained by conformity; for Diane, who never figured out all the Mean Girl janx of high school, & so could never ignore it; for Jack, who appeared in our AP Lang class a full year ahead of schedule, as an incredibly brainy 10th-grader who had always been told he was smarter than everyone else because he was.

These are but three of our previously home-schooled cherubs. We've taught a handful over the years, in various stages of trying to adjust. Their parents kept them at home for a variety of reasons, all of which sounded like good ideas at a time. Public school is hard. But it's also great preparation for real life. Jon & his home-schooled peers are still trying to figure out where they fit in. We wish them luck.


Lori said...

I was public school educated throughout my entire school history--every university a state school also--and I don't believe public school is either "hard" or "great preparation for real life." Life experiences are real wherever they take place, common doesn't mean real. My degree is in Secondary Ed., and my husband and I chose to homeschool our three children through their elementary and middle school years. We didn't spend those years on our couch in our pajamas, we spent them following courses of study at their pace, completing many projects and experiments, going on many field trips, traveling, playing on sports teams, taking part in community theater and in our co-ops with our small classes of like-minded families. We had the full education experience minus the part where---well, I was there for years and years, so I know the "minus" parts and so do we all. So much to say here, I'm surprising myself. My oldest son is now a junior in one of the top 50 universities in the nation, in the Chancellor's Honors program, is (as he has pretty much always been) extremely socially adept---oh, too much to say. Not saying he only succeeded because of homeschooling, just trying to show that a public school education, even though the common, is not the only, not The Real. You don't sound at all mean-spirited in your post, and I'm really only going on and on about it all because so many people do believe it's like your cartoon and I want them to entertain the idea that it is not. The cartoon is meant to get a laugh, but it doesn't really mean anything. It doesn't portray homeschooling, doesn't portray our experiences or those of any homeschooling families we've known throughout these years. We didn't school in isolation simply because we weren't part of the mega-school across town. Eighteen 2nd grade classes in that school, for example, and our neighbor girl would know maybe one or two children each year in her new class. And there are plenty of public schooled Diane's who have been bullied and Mean Girled for years and can NEVER simply ignore it. I know what my children missed out on by not going to public school for those early years, and I'm glad they missed out on those things.

Melissa B. said...

Lori: Thanks for your comments. I meant no malice at all toward home-schoolers. In fact, I wanted to post something that was less judgmental than the New Yorker cartoon. Many of my home-schooled high school cherubs go on to excel way beyond the attempts of their totally public-schooled brethren. Who is it, though, who once said that reality is 99 percent perception? I think that's what the cartoon demonstrates. I do stand by my beliefs that the public school experience does a pretty good job preparing kids for the "real" world--the good, the bad, AND the ugly.

Nancy Flanagan said...

I gave some thought to homeschooling my second child (couldn't have pried child #1 out of her school with a crowbar...she loved it, and thrived). In the end, we pushed on with public school, because I knew that as his teacher, I would eventually not be skilled enough to teach him. And I'm a fully certified teacher with 20 years of classroom experience and a fistful of awards. I believe in the professional knowledge of highly trained teachers--although I'm the first to admit that teacher quality is extremely variable.

Because I spent most of my career in a middle school, we frequently got homeschooled kids whose moms had the same epiphany, somewhere around algebra and physics. I also taught a number of homeschoolers in the band, ferried in by their moms an hour a day.

The typical scenario was the homeschooled kid whose mom felt he was several years ahead of the kids in public school, working at "his own pace." Most of those kids' skills turned out to be variable --ahead in some subjects, behind in others, probably where most of us would be, if given the opportunity to focus on what we like best. And that's not a bad thing. It's neither a recipe for success, nor failure. It's a different way of learning.

I have no beef or standard spiel about socialization or sheltering. In the end, my kids liked mixing it up with other kids and the range of experiences, from the hippy English teacher with the ponytail to the arch-Republican math lady with the picture of Bush behind her desk. You get it all in a public school.

Melissa B. said...

Nancy: Thanks for your thoughts. My AP Lang student, Jack, who was home-schooled until he got to high school, even wrote a college essay that focused on your point about paying the most attention to that which you love. In Jack's case, it was English, History & Drama (He was Javert in our high school's production of "Les Mis" his senior year). His mom sent him to Our Humble High School because she wanted him to get a better foundation in the subjects that he didn't care for--math & science.

teachergirl said...

The homeschool problems I have dealt with are usually the parents in the ultraconservative wing who demean what I do as a public school teacher. They have had no problem finding fault with every thing that goes wrong but can never recognize the good; yet, they are the ones who want to enrich their children with our programs.

One homeschool mom looked at me with pity in her eyes and said," It's such a shame that you don't stay home with BrownBear and do this for her." And I asked her who would take care of all the kids who didn't have parents who could or would homeschool them. BrownBear and PrepGirl have had an amazing education and a large part of it came from public education and all that it entails. The good, the bad and the ugly. But isn't that what life is all about?

Melissa B. said...

TG: As Bartles & James would say, Thank You for Your Support. I concur wholeheartedly with you. My kids are better people because they mixed it up in the public schools!


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