Homeschooling vs. Unschooling vs. Formal Education, What’s Right?

One of my BFFs sent me a blog posting this morning that ruffled my feathers. Now, I am sure that was not her intent, but the Dragonfly was diagnosed with pneumonia and I have not been getting the most sleep these last few nights, no needless to say… my Grace bucket is pretty empty. I really should have tried to make it to Mass this AM, that would have helped. But I digress. You can read the blog posting here and what follows is my email response to my friend, which in hindsight, I thought would make a good blog posting. I did change some names and locations to protect the innocent, but the meat and potatoes is the same. Enjoy!

Some interesting points therein, and as a former teacher I’ll admit it was a little hard to read it and not get my feathers a little ruffled. I think the author has some valid points, but there are also some broad generalizations that may or may not be true. She claims that children who enter school early do not excel, I beg to differ. I started formal schooling at 4 (in a German Immersion environment, no less) and if I may say so, I think I excelled pretty well. Sure, I am not a world leader as Washington or Churchill or an astronaut like Sally Ride, but I’m not doing to badly for myself! 🙂

I will agree that preschool is for socialization. It’s glorified play with structure mixed in. Before starting school, the Bear knew all of what the kids are “supposed” to know by the end of this year. The author may have a singular world view that all families are structured as hers and therefore would benefit from delayed education/ homeschooling. But I can tell you, from the stories that my SIL tells, formal schooling helps those who need it. She is a kindergarten teacher and the children in her classes run the whole gamut, from those who know all of their letters and corresponding sounds and can count to 100 to others who cannot differentiate between a letter and a number. She also has a large number of ESL children that she teaches (Spanish and Hmong.)

I truly believe that the best option for my family is formal schooling, but I am also one of those parents who refuse to wear blinders and is *gasp* involved in my child’s education. Last week, The St. Louis Review (a Catholic Newspaper) ran an article about a girl in the Diocese of Knoxville (TN) who, with her mother, got involved after Planned Parenthood ran a presentation at her public high school without parental consent, among other issues.

Maybe the author’s view is that early childhood education has no merit, and again, that it her opinion but it’s such a broad issue that there is no one way. My nephew is either somewhere on the autism spectrum or he is just learning delayed. They are not sure. My brother and his wife are living in a very economically depressed area. Both parents are working at low-wage jobs but having only a HS education, it doesn’t leave many options. Their parenting (when their son was home from DayCare) was to plop him in front of SpongeBob (this was from birth on.) As a result their son, at 37 months, is functioning more at the level of a 20 month old. He started going to “school” (HeadStart) this past November and he is slowly improving. So who is at fault? Well, obviously his parents because anyone should know that an infant needs more parenting than the TV, but if not for formal education for this child, where would HE be?

I admire those who chose to homeschool or delay the education of their children. I think it’s a great thing to do, it’s just not for our family and to imply that somehow NOT homeschooling or delaying education is harmful to a child is dangerous. What would be more accurate would be to say that remaining uninvolved in your child’s education, not knowing their friends or what they are doing… that’s a danger.

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So I am curious what you think?

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5 Comments

Filed under family, Friday, life, school

5 responses to “Homeschooling vs. Unschooling vs. Formal Education, What’s Right?

  1. Dawn

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I do think that parents need to be more involved with their children’s education. As I have been a child care provider (teacher, director, and now running one out of my home), I see I see the lack of involvement by some parts that begin from birth and last into their child’s school years. If parents don’t begin to realize that they need to be involved so that they are making sure their children are learning the things they want and expect them to learn, they will be gearing their children down a slippery slope with possible the “wrong tools” to make their way back. My children also go to preschool and my oldest will be starting kindergarten in the fall. I had an open dialogue with the teachers, office staff, and try to be in the classroom as often as I can, so that I can see what is going on and whether or not it is still the best choice for me and my family. Parents don’t let someone else make these important decisions for you children.

  2. Wendy

    Too true! Parents are the key. I just wish these battles in the war of education would point that out more. My best students were the ones who had involved parents. I myself am really considering homeschooling, but it is not because I don’t trust my fellow teachers, it is because I’m losing confidence in the curricula. And since I am a firm believer that I shouldn’t dictate what others read, I may need to take charge…we’ll see!

  3. Wendy, I think that’s where Lady of Virtue did speak very true when she said that women in her daughter’s homeschool co-op lacked the confidence to teach their kids. I am not saying that education should be cookie cutter for everyone, but parents need to have a say and be involved. It’s not enough to sit back and say “Oh, the school will handle X, Y and Z.”

  4. I actually really liked the article you linked to. I pretty much agreed with both of you, oddly enough. The author is arguing for homeschooling in the abstract. In the abstract, I generally agree that it is better. That doesn’t mean it’s the best for every single situation. Some kids do well at school; some don’t.

    I’m a teacher myself, and what breaks my heart is seeing that ten or twenty percent of the kids in the room are thriving there, and the rest would be better off somewhere else. A past principal wouldn’t let me tell a child’s parents that I thought he would be better served somewhere else — he felt it was important to stand by the school because enrollment was down and we needed him there. Talk about disillusionment! In the end, another teacher and I took time out from the other things we were doing and pretty much homeschooled him ourselves. He NEEDED to be taught one-on-one. It worked, but most of our time was spent trying to cure the hatred of school and learning that he had learned by the age of seven. It would have been so much easier for him to learn at home.

    In the end, I think school is aimed at teaching a certain kind of child. Whoever fits the mold does well — whoever doesn’t is diagnosed with learning disorders, ADHD, behavior problems, whatever label works as an excuse for why he isn’t learning. And then, of course, the problem mentioned in the article is that school by its very nature — even if the teachers (like me) have the best of intentions — tends to teach kids to be followers and not leaders, to be students and not self-learners, to follow a system instead of being original. It’s a matter of opinion whether or not this is a good thing; I tend to think not, but I do think some balance is necessary. Ideally one should grow up able either to lead or follow.

    In any event, I don’t think any homeschooling advocate is going to say working parents should just plop their kid in front of the TV instead of sending them to school. School exists for situations like this — when real learning just isn’t going to happen at home.

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