Wednesday, November 12, 2008

who schooled you?

Had a great weekend with my girlfriends in Minneapolis...laughed too much, ate too much, shopped a lot...enjoyed it immensely.  We ended up having a conversation about home schooling, since a friend of mine has friends that have unsuccessfully home schooled a high school student.  He ended up begging to be let into the public school system when he got to be a sophomore.  I also had a good friend in Omaha with a special needs, non-diagnosed child.  Her children were all home schooled until they asked to attend public school, which all happened by junior high.  Made us stop and think about how we thought we would handle that.  Then, this morning while I drove into Mason's appointment, I heard my talk radio show on XM radio address the topic.  I listened closely and spent some time thinking about it.  I decided that if I were living in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest school, with treacherous mountain roads and no easy way to travel, I could probably realistically teach music, English, and maybe Science....maybe.  In no way, shape, or form could I ever teach any more than that.  (Maybe I'm the village idiot??)  I think that would only happen if I devoted my life to teaching, including all of the research that goes into being a solid teacher...and that wouldn't include baking, cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, nursing, being a wife, etc.  I think it's quite lofty to assume one person could teach every subject...even if you only had one child at home to teach.  When I think about what my ninth grade daughter has learned since early September, I am humbled....math that we don't even always understand, (including trigonometry) difficult vocabulary, history, chemistry, pre-engineering courses, 3-D drafting, home construction, insurance laws, etc.  It tires me out just thinking about it.  I can't tell you the number of times I've seen home schooled children wandering through Wal-Mart with their moms, or, in our personal case, wandering the streets of Pipestone while her classmates are in class.  While I'm sure there are situations in which home schooling is necessary, I can't imagine many situations where it's actually better than getting educated in a public or private school, with many different teachers, situations, learning environments, challenges, schedules, etc.  And while there are many genius kids out there who were home schooled, I still feel they are the minority.  (I also think they would probably be just as successful if they had been schooled somewhere else...)  If I were to pull my child out of school right now and attempt to teach her at the level she's been taught at even for the past few months, I would not succeed.  (And I'm really not a village idiot...although some of my posts may speak to the contrary!)  My husband is one of the smartest people I've ever met, as far as basic IQ goes, and I don't think he could even keep up with homeschooling even one child.  I think if most children were to be tested out at the end of each grade level, (in a third-party testing center, not in the home) they would most likely show deficits in some areas...something that has been backed up by people I know who have first-hand experience in the matter.  Of course, a public school student can also show deficits, a fact which we all know.  I guess it just makes me happy that we are able to place our trust in the public school system and take the lumps and bumps that go along with that.  I think life's challenges are what shape us, and although living at home in a safe little bubble may be comforting and warm, how much is it preparing us for the real world?  The one with challenging co-workers, jam-packed schedules, multitasking, different working environments, etc.  I don't think public schools are doing it all, but hopefully they are providing a solid structure for our children, which we can add to once they get home at the end of the day.  **Now, in the area of special education, I don't feel most public schools are doing the best they can, but that's mostly because there is such a plethura of mixed diagnoses out there now....the entire autistic spectrum, for example, as well as Down's Syndrome, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Hurler's, Hunter's, Williams, cerebral palsy, mitochondrial diseases...the list goes on and on and on.  In twenty or thirty years, the educational climate concerning special needs children will have to change, because there will be more and more things diagnosed, as well as the possibility of more kids with environmental issues at the root of their cognitive deficits.  So, while I think most "normal" (define normal? let's not go there tonight) kids benefit from the realm of public education, I still think lots of handicapped kids are being given a subpar education, for a lot of different reasons.**  I know there are many opinions on the matter, but I don't foresee ever believing that any one person could have given me the education that hundreds of teachers have...nor would I have wanted that.  And when I think of trying to learn and express all that the hundreds of teachers who shaped most of us knew, I know that is impossible, and I feel quite small just thinking about it.  I guess the bottom line is, I am so thankful that we live in the part of the country that still has somewhat of a handle on public education, so I don't ever have to consider that as an option!  It also makes me thankful that while I was in my Play-Doh stage, I had lots and lots of hands forming me into who I am; an imperfect, creative, impatient, somewhat anal, intelligent, loud, proofreading, joke-y, analytical, passionate, sometimes out-of-control, thinking human being.  I've been schooled.

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