Any time someone new finds out that my husband and I choose to keep our kids out of school, I am bombarded with questions. It's hard for some people to comprehend why we would break away from our societal norm and keep our kids home. There are a lot of reasons, honestly. Class sizes, learning differences, curriculum, etc all come into play. However, it's deeper than that.
Here's the thing. What it comes down to is this: our values and the school system's don't line up. It's not because they aren't teaching out of the Bible, (we can do that at home) it's because there is an imbalance in the educational system that I can't stomach. So much of what goes on in schools has to be tied to testing these days. The major areas tested in lower grades are reading and math. Reading and math are, in fact, skills that I value. Don't get me wrong. Functioning members of our society will need these skills. But there's so much more to learning. There's so much more to life. People who make an impact on our society so often are stepping far outside of the boxes in which the schools are forced to put them. Because you can't test art. There's no scantron test for musical ability. You can't quantify an understanding of your place in the world.
Our world needs innovators, artists, entrepreneurs, scientists. Did you know in Texas, legally as a homeschooler I am required to to teach formal grammar and spelling lessons, but not science or history? Really? Spelling has been deemed more important by this state than science. I am not saying that kids shouldn't know how to spell, but that's just ridiculous.
I've heard over an over again about the hierarchy of importance of subjects taught in public schools. Music, art, history, often times science are not valued as they should be. What's the first thing to go when funding is cut?
(a math worksheet)
is not more important than this:
(climbing a tree in a redwood forest)
(spelling and handwriting practice)
is not more important than this:
(Mentos and cola science project)
(trip to the aquarium)
Or any of these:
(Intimating the art of Jackson Pollock with a homeschool group)
(Checking out the Wharf in Santa Barbara, CA)
(discovering that the Golden Gate bridge is not, in fact, golden)
(dancing her heart out)
(taking in the beauty of art)
(hunting for fossils)
(exploring a historic village)
(learning about electricity with Snap Circuits)
(Visiting a lake in a Oklahoma)
(Making a mess. Also, creating a work of art)
(standing at the top of the world)
(building a robot)
(growing crystals on a microscope slide)
(Standing above the Pacific Ocean in Oregon)
(picking up trash in our neighborhood because they want to save the earth)
These are all learning experiences my kids have had over the past six months. Yes, they've read many books. In fact, both of my older kids have reading levels above grade level. Yes, they've learned math. My oldest, who is not quite seven, finds Dragonbox (an algebra app) to be an amazing source of entertainment.
All of these learning experiences have value to us as a family. We see the need to show the kids the world outside of books and tests. We see the need to fill their lives with art and music. We see the need to get their little brains working on science projects. We see the benefit of following their lead. So many wonderful learning opportunities have happened because one of the kids had an interest in something new, asked a question or explored something on their own.
My kids would not have had so many great experiences if they were in school. We wouldn't have had the time. There'd be worksheets and homework and attendance requirements to get in the way.
I am glad they've had the chance to do all of this. I want to embrace their interests, talents and skills, and I want to give them the chance to freely explore so that those interests, talents and skills can be found.
I would not value my son more than my daughter if he grew up to be a mathematician and she grew up to be a dancer. I don't look down upon my creative friends and up to those who have jobs in technology. I don't think that small business owners are less important than English professors. So I am not going to buy into the idea that math lessons are more important than art lessons. I am not going to forgo teaching my kids about history and science just because the state of Texas says I can. I am not going to spend a week every year forcing my kids to take standardized tests and months before that prepping them.
And they'll be okay. They're better than okay, they're thriving.We're going to live our lives with passion, wonder and and a desire to learn. I have no doubt that they'll be better off because of it.
(Standard disclaimer - do what is right for your family. I am by no means saying every family should homeschool, or that schools are evil terrible places or that teachers are bad people trying to brainwash children. All of the teachers I know personally are wonderful. We're doing what's right for our family, you do what's right for yours.)