Friday, March 13, 2009

Giving Up Community?

I have always known about homeschooling. I have cousins who were homeschooled, and others whose parents have, all my life, run an unbelievably successful private school that offers many of the same advantages of homeschooling. As a child I was very attracted to both of their alternative approaches to education, but that may be because of my one year as a Montessori kid. I remember Montessori as a critical season in my education. The highlights of my own schooling, in fact, are all related to "alternatives."

In the 3rd grade (Home Town #1) I was pulled into a small group of advanced readers to take on the unabridged version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov short stories, and Watership Down, to name a few. I remember feeling a real charge that my gifts were being acknowledged and nourished. When I was ten-years-old (Home Town #2) I was in a new school where that sense of "specialness" was continued through another gifted program--"Futuristics." All of us were given forward-thinking projects--building, drawing & conceiving future buildings, factories, modes & means of doing the mundane. How would all sorts of operations be different in the future? We were also given French lessons. This program was outside of the "normal" coursework, and meant a different approach/perspective to school. Again, I liked that time of my schooling best. Anyone who homeschools their children can offer these types of alternatives to their children at any time, without having to wait on the school system to identify & nurture their child(ren)'s unique skills/aptitudes...

Moved to Hometown #3 and found myself in the top of my class with my two closest girlfriends--7th grade. We were acing the spelling bees, getting all A's, and sitting in separated groups for advanced mathematics. We were rewarded with bowling day field trips. It was some cool motivation! Leave school to go roller skating because of good grades. Awesome!!

Hometown #4 and I was over my head. SOCIAL SITUATIONS overwhelmed academics. I began to care more about whether I fit in than whether I could reach my "potential." I started NOT reaching my potential, in fact...

That is when I saw the nastiness of peers. That is when I felt jeers & sneers and condescension. Whew, how I hated 8th grade. It was awkward and painful. I was not among the popular and smart; I was just a newbie who had to prove herself--and I didn't know the social rules to "get" how to do that. There was some hidden key to fitting in, and I had no idea how to decipher the code.

Still, I got into AP classes in high school (on to Hometown #5) and was eventually accepted into one of the finest schools in America.

So, here I am, now a TEACHER to my own children. I find myself recreating for my kids the COOL aspects of my own education. We are involved in a couple book clubs that have us reading books WAY above Logan's age (i.e. Kindergarten level), which best suits who he is, as an individual. We enjoy baking foods at home to eat right away, which always reminds me of baking & eating my first carob brownie in school, in probably the 2nd grade (Hometown #1). We go in to DC to explore museums, stare at sculptures, and get involved in big fairs on The Mall. We forget about formal "school" to take in a family vacation, or be available to help a neighbor on-the-spot.

The highlights of my education were the big adventures. Now, if every day is a Big Adventure, then I suppose that will redefine "big," won't it? So, I am learning (as I did in college, when I was overwhelmed with all of my extra-curricular options) to choose what is BEST for us, for our time/schedule, and what fits our GOALS. Defining those GOALS: that is the key to being a solid homeschooling family.

BUT, here's the part that has me flabbergasted: the jocks & beauty queens separate from the brains and geeks in the adult population of homeschooling parents, as if this is our own public school childhoods all over again! In just one year I have witnessed pettiness, gossip, the purposeful tearing down of others, and downright immaturity from many homeschooling parents who are missing the Big Picture. I have been the subject of isolated criticism for my opinions or words, and I have seen others be scapegoated & targeted in shocking ways.

I thought I was joining a community of homeschoolers! I thought we were all in the same boat, so we'd all be buddy-buddy. Pshew, was I mistaken.

We need to throw away those roles we had as 13-to-19-year-olds!

I am, now, first & foremost, my child's ADVOCATE. I am his first line of defense against the homeschooling naysayers. Why are there homeschooling naysayers among homeschooling parents? We all need to support each other, regardless of creed, religion or politic! Regardless of our reasons to homeschool we are salmon, swimming tirelessly against the rapids to achieve the goal of releasing our children into rough waters and trusting we've planted them in the right place for their own best chance at survival before we die.

Swimming upstream is exhausting and it takes a strong fish to survive. When one fish starts bashing the other on the head, well, shoot if that isn't self-defeatist! This is something I NEVER anticipated I'd find in Community.

The reasons we homeschool are diverse--our faiths and choices are diverse--but must these paths we are choosing intersect in painful backed-up traffic jams where everyone lays on their horns to holler at the others, "Get out of my way! I'm trying to move forward already!"?

Before I homeschooled I only knew Christian homeschoolers. Now, I know fewer Christian homeschoolers than non-Christian homeschoolers. So many of my presuppositions about this lifestyle choice have been destroyed. Most of all, though, is the fact that there is no ONE homeschooling community. I wish there were, as we all NEED each other in order to ensure that homeschooling, as an option for any & all families, not be threatened in our towns, states, nor nation!

I've always said, "No one homeschools in a bubble," to answer the Red Herring question about socialization...but now I'm wondering if the bubble would be a better place to educate my kids! I have avoided bubbling them, because it is not realistic to our society's makeup (especially in Northern VA) to introduce them only to like-minded kids. We live in a neighborhood that is well-representative of NoVA's 70+ nationalities.

BUT, maybe "Bubble" equals FOUNDATION. Maybe we rein it all in for a year--keep with others of our "kind" for a bit and see how the chips fall! Aw, heck, that feels like retreating. Like SURRENDER!!

Oh, yeah. In the Christian Walk "surrender" is a very important word, isn't it? Maybe trying to become one united home "school of fish" isn't the point at all?

Wow. What a challenge.

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