As a micropublisher of two homeschooling titles, you just articulated everything I've been thinking of regarding this.
For what it's worth, I do know that the family in question was portrayed as negatively as possible, but I also know that their form of unschooling is an extreme.
Thank you for this.
Children will live in the world someday--they will not stay in the kiddy-pool forever, but will be flung, perforce, into the great ocean. So they need to get those water wings off and learn to swim. They need to know real history--not the invented history that hides unpleasant facts about our past. They need to learn real science--not some invented makebelieve that suits their parents' narrow theology.
If one's theology cannot withstand the rigours of the world, then the problem is not the world, it's the theology.
I certainly haven't turned out to be the person my mother wanted me to be. But I'm a reasonably civilised, competent and self-supporting adult, so I guess I'm not too much of a disaster :D. My son isn't turning out to be the person I hoped he'd be (I was at least smart enough not to have a huge emotional investment in him having any particular profession, talent or other attributes). However, he is turning out to be quite an interesting person in his own right, so it's all good.
Well said, Elizabeth. My schooling, in post-WWII Britain, wasn't luxurious or even modern by today's standards (40 in a classroom was the norm and the textbooks were old, supplies often non-existent,and teachers unsullied by educational theories who believed in establishing discipline in the classroom)but we were taught to think, challenge, defend, contribute, and we had mandatory religious history classes. Without that, how can civilization continue? Homeschooling is sometimes the only way those values can be preserved, but too often they become the means to keep children from thinking for themselves, especially on the religious front.
The problem with 40 in a class room, etc. is not that it makes it impossible to get an education, gifted or dedicated students can thrive in even the most arduous circumstances. The problem is the kids on the back side of the bell curve, the ones who would at least approach their potential in a smaller nuturing class environment. Everytime you hear someone go off about how "I survived [that hardship] just fine..." ask them if they consider themselves the 2nd quartile of the people who went through it. That should be the target of public education for our society's sake.
I have friends who homeschool successfully and some who question why I don't. Thankfully, my son thrives in the public school where he's surrounded by other kids and teachers who are actually trained in, like, how to teach squirrely-boys without wanting to fling them out the window and down a box of frozen Ding Dongs.
My friend was a sociology professor at the Air Force Academy. One of her previously-home schooled freshman students came in and asked if she could get clarification on the section they'd studied that week--human sexuality. My friend asked, "What part didn't you understand?" The girl said, "All of it."
It's not a unique situation. My sister, who went to Bible college in her thirties, after a divorce, counseled many home-schooled girls, as does a friend who runs a teen writing forum.
I'm glad there are options--public, private, charter, home--for schooling. My Creature went to a Montessori school for pre-school and kindergarten. I wish we could have kept up with it, but the public Montessori school (Yes! We have one.) is across town, and we can't afford the nearer private school.
IMO, successful homeschooling requires the right kid, the right parent (just being a smart parent isn't enough--not all parents have the temperament to make good teachers), and the right circumstances. It would have been good for me, I think. I was smart, motivated to learn--eager to learn, reasonably responsible, and needed not much more than "OK,what have you accomplished today?"
I can also think of kids, parents, and circumstances where it would have been (and is) a horrible mistake. On other internet venues, I've talked to other parents of autistic kids considering homeschooling--and I think it does take serious consideration of the personality of the teaching parent. Teaching one's own child is both easier and harder than teaching someone else's (for one thing, you have them 24/7. When I tutored, it was one hour at a time, even if several times a week, and I could go home and regroup--so could the student.) Parental pride (the wrong kind) is more likely to be involved when teaching one's own child...it's a little harder to stand back (psychologically) and analyze what's best for this particular child, and if the child has developmental disabilities, it's absolutely essential to be able to do this.
I went through several years of public school before being homeschooled for high school. I learned so much more about myself and the world and how it works in the four years of homeschooling than I did all through elementary and middle school. I was also able to study German at the local University for high school credit and take ballet, which was awesome.
It helps, too, that there is such a large homeschooling community in Fort Worth. My mom couldn't help me with science, but my brother's friend's mom taught lab science - using the science lab of a private school she was connected with - so I got hands-on chemistry. I was in a drama class, and a ballet class, and a choir, in addition to doing all the textbook work.
For years now, I've been an advocate for homeschooling, but I have realized recently that it's not necessarily homeschooling I'm passionate about - it's parents taking charge of overseeing their child's education. If your child will learn best at home, then do that. If they'll learn best in a school surrounded by peers, do that. However you can get them the opportunities to exceed and excel, do that. Whatever you do though, you should be encouraging your kids to learn from all kinds of experiences and developing both social skills and critical thinking skills. Teaching them to ask the right sorts of questions, and how to find their own answers - not just catechising them into what you happen to believe. My older brother excelled in public school - a social butterfly with straight A's. It didn't work for me so well, but homeschooling did. Every child is different and learns in different ways. My Mom always said, when people asked her about it, that homeschooling is just about finding the resources your kids need one step ahead of when they need them.
I LOVE what your Mom said! Yes! "Find the resources your kids need one step ahead of when they need them."
My daughter's first violin teacher was of the mind, "It's my job to teach, and if she's not learning, I should do something different in how I teach."
Thus my daughter was taught using several methods, several different schools of thought. My impression is that most 6 year olds start with Suzuki, but K ended up having a much better grounding in music theory for the eclectic approach.
I feel similarly about homeschooling. I wanted to homeschool Kailea. But it worked out that she wanted to go to school, and it was just one of the tools in the box.
Unschooling is fine for some children, when it is done "as intended" allowing and encouraging a child to investigate their environment from a learning perspective.
But as an inbred philosophy? It's a lousy only-tool.
I can't imagine parents not wanting to give their kids all the education they can. I was in special ed until 5th grade. By then I'd read all the "official" books. I'm SO glad my parents expected me to go not only through HS, but to college.
How CAN people not school their kids, legally? I thought it was mandatory to have SOME kind of educational plan until age 16.
As linked below (not that I care for the HSLDA), it varies from state to state. The advantage, though, of lower-enforcement states, is that you are not locked into a curriculum that doesn't suit the child (been through several with one), or have a mandated grade level (have an autistic child myself, with severe-but-improving developmental delays; he's actually in a class at the moment, very small, kids with different learning issues, each working at their own level, plus he's learning how to "behave" with other kids), both of which can happen in heavily-regulated states.
I'm of the same opinion on "protecting" children from eveything that might disrupt their parents' cozy little world. My oldest is just getting to the age where she's starting to think about different things, and it's fun discussing things with her, and providing thinking opportunities. And she's chosen to school-at-home, because she gets a say in her books (not final say,but a say ;)) and she knows herself well enough already to know when and how she learns best.
I agree with you. Personally I had a pretty good education; we moved around a lot in my younger years, but I learned to adapt quickly to people and learning, and I did considerably more reading than most kids my age, so it had its positive sides as well.
The effort and care you've put into your son may be expected, at some standard, but you (and hubby) are still amazing for having done it, and striving for his best.
Fairly outgoing kids do well with lots of moving around; I've known adults who thought having to move was horrible and scarred them for life...so congratulations on being one of the successes.
I lived in the same house from 14 months on...went to school with the same kids for 12 years (and some of us had been in Mrs. Jordan's nursery school and kindergarten before that...no public school kindergarten in those days. She had a house about a block from the elementary school I went to.) We Wilson School kids met up with some from other elementary schools in junior high...and then with kids from the other junior high in town in high school...but there was a core group that had known each other all the way up.
There are advantages and disadvantages to just about any childhood circumstance (except outright abuse--no upside there.)
I'm a product of Texas schooling as well. I graduated from what was generally considered the #1
district in the San Antonio area at the time. I found myself challenged very seldom but I was an A student. Looking back as a 41 year old adult, I think my best teacher was probably my Algebra 2 teacher who loaned me SF books to read. I wasn't pushed much. My husband went to an exclusive college prep school on scholarship in Georgia, and we met at Trinity University.
I was leery about public school when I had kids, but my daughter and son have had some excellent teachers and experiences in the Schertz Cibolo Universal City School District. For gifted and talented, they give a battery of tests and they give harder work (not more work) to kids in the subject areas where they are above grade level. She was given more difficult math work and allowed to read at will when she had finished her work and had the run of the entire school library. Her teachers also let her take books from their classroom home. When she was in 2nd grade, we asked for additional testing on her reading, so we'd know at about what level we could let her read. They really went the extra mile.
With our son, at 2, he was considered profoundly delayed in speech and diagnosed with apraxia. The school had a 2 hour program where they placed him with other speech disabled kids and there were 4 to 5 kids with one teacher and two assistants. Now at 4, his speech is much improved (we also did private speech therapy) and they've geared his program for his learning level (they are teaching him sight words and the alphabet and counting to 20).
I guess what I'm saying is that as bad as the BOE has screwed up, which believe me I fully think we need to kick them all out and/or reform the system, that we have some good school districts with some really good teachers and specialists. There is hope, but you pretty much have to move to the areas that have the exceptions. I wish fervently that every child in Texas had the educational opportunities and special ed help that my kids have had.
The only thing that surprises me is that you asked the school to test her reading level in 2nd grade to determine what level you could "let" her read. When I was between six and seven, my mother went to the public library and insisted that I be given an unrestricted card, and allowed to check out any book I wanted, rather than being restricted to my age level. My reading improved rapidly largely because I was reading everything I could get my little hands on, including much that was "beyond" me...but I learned by trying it.
I'm glad you've got good support in your kids' school district (incidentally, Schertz-Cibolo is where my husband went to high school, way back when.)
You have my admiration. I do not know if it would be best for my oldest son (he has high functioning autism), but I know that I could not homeschool him: our personalities are two different. However, I have made sure the his district provides the appropriate services so he is able to reach his potential. The biggest issues we deal with is social and sensory. He is in a gen ed classroom where academically he excels and socially was failing til he got a one-on-one, ABA (applied behavior analysis) trained aide. Still it is a battle and every day, I fight to stay positive. It is not that I don't believe my son has the ability to reach his potential and function in society; it is that society is to punitive (prefers punishment to reinforcement) that I am fear when he needs it most instead of my and the rest of the team voices will be over shadowed by a punitive society.
Add to it the emotional distress of his father's betrayal and abandonment, it is exhausting at times but I won't give up. As I often tell the "team" when we are discussing goals and objectives, where we are at, where we are going... "If sheer will power could do it, then he would be the most socially adjusted child with high functioning autism around"... but it can't. As I tell him, the power is in his hands. We can give him the tools, but he has to choose to use them before he is too overwhelmed to do it on his own.
Ramble over... thank you for sharing and your issues with homeschooling, etc. I so understand. I often joke that in my "next life" I want to write a book call A+B does not equal C because parenting is more then following the steps of the latest "parenting book". I am a firm believer in the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis... aka all behavior is based on scientific laws of behavior or all behavior has a purpose (to communicate, to escape, to avoid -- they are not the exact words used but the idea).
Ramble really over.
We're grateful it wasn't necessary in my case, but if it had been, I think my mom would've advocated for me as fiercely and intelligently as you've advocated for your son.
You know...I never thought of myself as advocating for him...there were people who told me I had to do that, and I didn't think I could. I was almost entirely outside the system, however defined, because I didn't have the energy to fight the system (any of them) and do what I knew he needed. It's a personality thing, in part. I can either do something, or not do something, but working through someone else...not so good, except in a crisis and even then I'm better at hands-on. And I lived in crisis mode for...um...a couple of decades at least. Backlash hitting now.
But whenever anyone gave me a dire prognosis (and boy, did they), my internal response was always Not My Son! Pure, unalloyed maternal fire in the eye and teeth bared.