Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Friday, September 03, 2004

School is Where the Mind Is

It's back-to-school time, and you know what that means, right? It means the homeschoolers are out in full force, looking down at the rest of us with undisguised disdain, then feigning indignation when we call them on it.

[Why, yes, I have decided that I'm in the mood to systematically piss off every single person I know both on and off line. Why do you ask?]

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm going to say this loud and clear: I think homeschooling is an awesome thing. I am literally consumed with respect--and not just a little bit of envy--for people who do it, especially those who do it well. I have almost zero issues with homeschooling, either in concept or in practice, for people who think it works best for them. Do you hear me? I heart homeschoolers.


If I read one more steaming pile of self-righteousness wrapped up in a ribbon of finger pointing, judgement and holier-than-thouness, my head is going to explode. (No, I'm not going to link. This isn't about one person. It's about many.)

Why is it that so many parents feel the need to completely trash whatever institution or thought process they're reconsidering? Why do they have to obliterate the trend they're bucking, or try to hold back the tide they're swimming against? It's crazy-making (assuming there was any crazy left in me to make).

Clearly, you've made a careful and reasoned choice, you homeschooler, you. Clearly, you think that you can provide educational opportunities for your child that a public school can't. What I don't get is why that isn't enough. What I don't get is why you feel your accommodations are ones that any right-minded person would make. What I don't get is why you feel that it's OK and even necessary to talk about schools as if every child in them is being damaged. What I don't get is why I'm not supposed to be offended by your comments about children being warehoused, institutionalized, systematically brainwashed, forced to the lowest common denominator. Especially since I've chosen--yes, chosen--public school for my kids. With my eyes wide open. With my (intelligent, loving, fully aware) mind wide open.

Let me tell you straight out. You offend me. You offend me when you say that kids in school are being made into rule-abiding automatons. You offend me when you talk about how no child's mind can flower in a classroom's oppressive atmosphere. You offend me when you say that only an average child can reap any slight benefit from what you see as institutionalized learning.

You may not care--heck, it might even be your intention--but you offend me deeply. Mostly, because it's simply not universally true.

My children are incredible. My daughter loves to be taught, both at home and in school. I love the fresh perspective brought by her teachers. I adore seeing which way she's going to grow next, as she's exposed to things I would normally shy away from. I expect to feel the same way about my son, when he enters school.

Are there negatives? You betcha. Nothing's perfect. I struggle with time constraints and social issues and the occasional academic shortcoming. But none of these is overwhelming. School isn't a vacuum. I don't think she's getting enough depth in science? I add that to our home life. I'd like to see her reading more advanced books? I go to our never-ending bookshelves and pluck something off them to add to the stack of books next to her bed. I'm not completely abdicating responsibility for my child's education by sending her off to school each day. I'm part of the PTA; I volunteer in the classroom; I follow through at home; I play with my children and teach them and discipline them and parent them. I am no more or no less a parent than you.

Why should you care what I think? Well, you probably shouldn't; you probably don't. But keep in mind, I'm on your side. I'm a parent who loves her children and wants to see them get the best that I, in my own particular life situation, can provide for them. And I see that you're trying to do the same. So if I'm ever in the position--be it in a voting booth or through my writing or through some as-yet-undisclosed avenue--to help make homeschooling easier for you, I'm going to do it. Why, then, are you trying to undermine me? Why, then, do you so clearly want to knock down my schools, knock down everything I believe in as deeply as you believe in homeschooling? I trust that you're making the best decisions possible for your children, but I don't trust you to make the best decisions for my kids. I fear you'll step into a voting booth (or write an article, or advocate in public) and work to destroy what I think my children benefit from dearly. I respect you, I support you, but I fear you. I want your respect, but what I'm met with is scorn. I want your support, but what I'm met with is resistance.

My kids are not automatons, and I'm not a mindless drone. We have much in common, you and I. Our main difference is that I think you're strong and impressive, and you think I'm mindless and uncaring. And that...that is starting to make me think a whole lot less of you.

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