Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Education Should Be a Journey and Not a Race

When I taught pre-school, I had several signs that I happily hung every year in my classroom:  Life is a Miracle, and if you don't believe that, Hold a Baby for Just One Minute; a picture of a toddler's chubby fist clutching the back of a parent's shirt, under which was written: Now Everything Else is Second, Now Everything Else Can Wait; and finally, a simple sign that said: Childhood Should Be a Journey and Not a Race.

Last night, after dinner, Jason and I sat at our table, watching the girls ride their bikes through the window and we discussed, again, homeschooling.  Jason had posted something on facebook and had gotten a lot of positive responses.  The most interesting from his ex-girlfriend (No, I am not at all jealous, she is married too and this is Facebook in 2010) who is a Montessori teacher and cautioned of the time investment, but sung the praises of homeschooling.

We have discussed this before, at length, and I think every time we do it brings us closer to doing it.  Actually there is no doubt in my mind that Jason is ready to jump in and do it.  He is more of a risk taker than I am.  He has hippie parents who would embrace the idea.  I have conservative parents who have already told me that it's a bad idea, although my mother said she would support me no matter what I decided, because, well, that is my mom!  And that is why I love her so much!

Last night, Jason was surprised by just how much thought I have given this.  He knew I have been on several email listservs this past year and that I have spoken with several friends who are homeschooling and that I have been reading books on homeschooling (I am, after all, a reference librarian!).  He was surprised, and I could tell, very impressed and pleased and more convinced than ever, that this was the right decision, as he listened to me talking about how I thought we should best do things.

Of course, this all came on the heels of a VERY BAD DAY.  But an enlightening day, as bad days often are.  First of all, I was running an American Girl program at the library, two of the parents had contacted me to say that they wouldn't make it to this meeting and two had said their daughters are now playing sports at that time and would not make this meeting or the last meeting in June.  I only had my girls and one other little girl.  But we had a lot of fun.  It just reinforced that the American Girl Club has lived out its' life and excited the girls and I more for the environmental club that my Director gave me the go-ahead to start next year!

My fourth grader came home with a TON of homework.  Her Language Arts teacher is wonderful and consistent.  But the teacher she has for Math, Science and Social Studies is an "all or nothing" teacher.  There are days, three days in a row sometimes, where there is no homework at all.  THEN, there are days when she piles it on.  I just want to ask her to pace herself and spread it out.  There is no way that the kids minds are even absorbing after a certain point!  8 pages of homework the night before a test when there was NO HOMEWORK all last week, just makes no sense to me!  But, it is what it is.  And, as I have told myself many times before, this will prepare my daughter for the " Real World".  THIS IS NOT WHY I WANT TO HOMESCHOOL.

My daughter was upset while doing the work and as is her way, she wouldn't talk about it.  But she made some pretty silly mistakes, and when I called her on it, she broke down.  It seems that at recess she went over to talk to some girls who were her friends just last week (though she doesn't want to invite them over, so I really wonder what that is all about!) and she heard them say "shhh!' as she approached. When she asked what was going on, they said it was none of her business.  Sometimes, when she tells me who says these things, I am shocked because they seems like such nice girls, from such nice families, but then I realize that they are ten and that my daughter may be doing and saying the same things.  My daughter told the girl she was snotty and went to play with some other friends.

Our neighbor, who my daughter has been playing with a lot lately, had been detained in the classroom for some reason and when she came out, some of the girls my daughter was talking to asked her if she thought that the other group of girls was snotty.  Our neighbor apparently ran right over to those girls and told them what my daughter's friend said.

THEN (because all of that drama is not enough) my daughter is friends with a boy, which presents all kinds of issues for some of the girls.  My daughter's class has recess before lunch.  Anyway, apparently this boy was sitting at the girls' lunch table (the school doesn't make the segregation, the kids do) and some of the girls got mad about it and the boy asked my daughter to walk over to guidance with him, which is where they go to complain that someone hurt their feelings.  As my daughter and this boy are walking in, the girls that my daughter told were snotty are walking out.

The boy went in to talk to his guidance counselor and my daughter was sitting there waiting for him, when the other guidance counselor asked her to come in and sit down.  She asked my daughter if she called those girls snotty and my daughter said that she did, she was sticking up for herself.  The guidance counselor said that she was not in trouble, but that she should stay away from those girls.


If anything, I think those are somewhat important experiences.  I would like to say that adults don't treat each other that way, but, my sister-in-law, and her sister and friend started shushing each other when I walked by them at her grad school graduation party.  Sure, it made me uncomfortable and hurt my feelings, but I KNEW at 35 that that had more to do with them and who they are than it did with me and who I am.  I know who I am and what I am about and that I wouldn't do that to someone else.  How do I know this?  Probably because it happened to me when I was ten.  We all need to go through that, and in some ways, hearing these stories makes the decision to homeschool harder, because my girls will have less of these experiences, but, as my husband pointed out, we have to ask ourselves, in the long run, do those experiences matter MORE than a good academic foundation of exploration and lifelong learning?