Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Back to School"

It's that time of year again, when many young people (and old grad students like me) start classes once more. September and the beginning of fall will always be imprinted in my mind as "Back to School Time" time. I was a public school kid, in a decent school system in an affluent suburb of Chicago (that my parents barely afforded and sacrificed to move into). I remember waiting for the school bus to pick up across the street from my house, and having my wet hair freeze in the crisp winter air. I remember picking out which of my new clothes were going to be that special "first day of school" outfit. My birthday fell during the school year, so I always got birthday wishes at school as well as a birthday party, unlike those sad summer-born kids. I had a gaggle of friends and we clung to one another as we navigated through the world of public education. I have fond memories of some things about going to school.

And part of me is wistful that Rowan might not have those kind of memories. I plan on homeschooling/ unschooling him unless he states a preference otherwise. I am hoping to be able to find a group of like-minded parents with which to do a group school, actually- so he will have peers. He will be missing something, a common experience that many of his peers will experience- and I know that in order to deprive him of that, I need to provide something much better. And I think that I can do that.

It's the other memories of going to school that helped me make up my mind about whether or not to send my son off to school. Bullies, teachers that crush your dreams, teachers that are overworked and cannot function, cliques and social hierarchies that do not matter but mean the world to a child or teen, and feeling like the tiny little world they inhabit was indeed the entire world and it was always going to be like "this way". I hated the desperation that I felt at the hands of wealthy popular kids and their priorities. I hated the reverence demanded for authority without them having to earn it, or asking me whether I bought into the hierarchy in the first place. I hated being treated like property, or a criminal, or stupid simply because of my age.

He can get social peers in music, art, or dance class...
I want my son to be educated in the world. I want him to experience a diversity of people, opinions, and experiences. I want him to learn to question everything, analyze and think critically. I want him to be able to follow his passions and learn what he desires to learn, not just an agenda set by other people- including the arts, the religions of the world, accurate history that is not just about conquest and militarism, and the humanities in all its glory. I want him to be respected as an individual with rights.

And frankly, I can only think of one type of school that may be able to fulfill this tall order (and sadly, there aren't any in Ohio). But even at this awesome school, I still would be working to expose him to lots of things as his parent if he attended this school anyway. So why not try and start on my own? I have taught school myself in the Oakland public schools, mentored and tutored youth, volunteered with kids of many ages at UU churches and Girl Scouts. I know how to create curricula that is child driven, age appropriate, and most of all, fun. So I am working hard to build a life where I can be the main educator in my son's life.

Does it scare me? A little. I know it is an awesome responsibility to take on the education of another human being. I need to have my house in order. And while I normally don't care what others think of me, I know that Rowan will go through the phase where he will. More and more parents are homeschooling these days, so the stereotype of the religiously fanatical homeschooling family (or the socially stunted homeschooled kid) is becoming more of a relic. But he may run into judgmental  people who think how they do things is better and will try and make him feel less than for being homeschooled. I will have to prepare him for that.

While he isn't even old enough to enter preschool yet, I am working with him- teaching him a little every day. He has learned basic vocabulary for his day, animals, colors, foods, counting up to three, ASL, and how to take a deep breath (we are working on calming skills right now). He is a little sponge and wants to know everything! I am beginning to accumulate curricula and lessons in all kind of areas on Pinterest: general homeschooling info and printables, religious curriculum, art, music, science, maths, literacy, and reading, social studies, health and life skills.

I am looking forward to exploring the world with my special little Boop.


  1. So ambitious! I am not cut out to spend every moment with my kid for the next decade. I could only homeschool if I had a collective to draw on. I could teach history and religions, someone else could do math, etc. But I love the idea of educating him about the world. That I know I can do, whether or not my kids are in formal school. I used to be 100% public school, but now I believe in taking each kid and each community one by one. My hope is that where ever we end up the public schools are a good fit. But we'll see....

  2. I homeschooled for a year before my oldest entered public school. We had a total blast and I would do it again, but she badly desired to ride the bus and go to school with everyone else the next year. You're going to have so much fun!

  3. @myownashram: Oh no, not at all! If I was required to spend every waking minute with Rowan until he was old enough to decide for himself, I'd go nuts.

    Luckily, I have dance and music classes, playdates, camps, and the like in store for him. I know that I cannot possibly teach him everything myself- I am deficient in higher maths and not great at music or science, and I want him exposed to lots of things. So he will be schooled by many minds, with me supervising the effort.

    @Sylvanna: I am looking forward to it. When I experience the world through his eyes it is delightful. As I expose himt o more and more, I know that I will get just as much out of it as he will!

  4. Great blog! Hi! I am a new follower from the Finding New Friends Blog Hop. Please follow me back and feel free to drop by Horseshoes anytime.

  5. I teach Kindergarten in a small private school. You might think I would not be for homeschooling, but that is not so. I have seen it done badly and done well. Parent organization seems to be the quality that separates the well done from the not well done as I observe friends and homeschoolers who use the same playground as our kids do. But the prejudice goes both ways. Homeschoolers disrespecting organized education has been something I have personally experienced. I think we need to find a respect for each familiy's choice on how they want to educate their child/children. There are many more options and resources than there once were. I think one of the social keys to homeschooling is to provide socialzation with more than just homeschooled kids. Because the children pick up on parents prejudies and have no skill for navigating and finding similarities if they have never practiced. Nor do adults. The more and varied their experiences the more children will learn.


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