Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoughts on my education & schooling

I didn't attend preschool. Instead, I attended college. My mom was taking college courses and she would take me with her. I remember sitting there, with a snack of dry Cheerios, taking in parts of the lectures while I drew pictures.

Then, Kindergarten came. I went to the neighborhood school, two or three blocks from our house. That was, well, rather pointless. Toward the end of the year, they tested for the Gifted Program, for the following year.

First grade, I was in another school, in the Gifted Program. I stayed there for first & second grades. The work was too easy & boring. I was quiet and shy, not really social like most of my classmates. I started slacking, yes in 2nd grade, so my grades would drop & I'd have to leave the Gifted Program (I knew my parents wouldn't let me leave the program any other way). For 3rd grade, I tried out the Arts Program. That sucked, and was even more boring academically. So, back to the Gifted Program for 4th.

I won't bore you with details of all 13 years. So, I'll just give you the short version. School sucked. I went to 7 different schools.  I was in the Gifted Program, the Creative & Performing Arts Program, and the regular program. The work was boring and way too easy. There was no part of school that I found challenging. I was not very popular, seeing as it's hard to make friends when you are the weird smart kid, even in the Gifted Program (you know, the program specifically for the weird smart kids).  I spent most of class time reading novels.

Most of what I learned, was from things I did outside of school. I spent hours at the public library. I took classes at the Community College. I followed my interests, learned about things I wanted to know more about. I visited museums & zoos. I went to theater performances. I volunteered. I babysat. I had jobs. I read voraciously. I had plenty of time to do all of that since my homework was done before I got home, unless it was a long term assignment like a research paper.

I feel that my years in public school were a lot of wasted time. I could have used that time to learn & do so much more. However, I also feel that I did a very good job supplementing my education. Yes, my family helped, a little. It was usually my grandparents taking me to museums & zoos, sometimes aunts & uncles. My parents signed me up for the classes at the Community College and drove me there. Mostly, everyone kind of stayed out my way. My parents weren't very concerned with how I spent my time, as long as I wasn't getting in trouble. So, I had plenty of opportunity to follow my interests. My family wasn't always supportive, especially when my interests ran in a more creative direction, but I learned to ignore them and not let them stand in my way.

When I sent my daughter to school, I planned to supplement her education the way I had supplemented mine. I would take her to museums & zoos. I would take her to the theater. I would sign her up for classes that she was interested in taking. I would fill the house with books. I would allow her to follow her interests. I would give her the support & encouragement that I only sometimes had.

We haven't gone to as many museums, zoos, and theater performances as I wanted. Of course, that is because I spend so much money on their regular academics and the many extra things they want to learn. We do get in some trips to museums & zoos, though. We haven't been able to get them to the theater yet, but we're hoping to get to a performance of The Nutcracker this December and  My Fair Lady next year.

My kids enjoy watching documentaries and reading. They have huge rock collections. They enjoy museums and zoos. They climb trees, have their own tools, and start their own long term projects like keeping a weather journal. I'd like to think they would still do these things, even if they were in public school. I would still be supplementing their education if they were in public school. We would still have family game nights & family movie nights. I would still be introducing them to their heritage. I would still be supporting & encouraging them in their interests.

We homeschool, not because of the experiences they wouldn't have, but because of the lack of personalized education. They wouldn't be allowed to work at their own pace. I don't care what a school says; I have heard many claim that the students get to work at their own pace. However, I've yet to find one that would actually allow a child to truly work at their own pace - to be at a different level in every subject, to have their work spanning 5 or more grade levels. I could have sent my kids to public school, and just hoped that it didn't kill their love of learning. However, my daughter was suffering due to her being the smart weird kid. Her love of learning was being crushed out of her. So, why leave her there?

I homeschool because it is what is best for my kids. I don't homeschool because I had a bad experience with public school. Just because I though school sucked, it doesn't automatically mean that my kids would have the same opinion. It was a possibility that they wouldn't hate it as much as I did. It was possible that they would have been fine with the after school supplementing I would have done. However, that didn't work out & now we homeschool. I know my kids are getting an excellent and well-rounded education, and they are getting it all day, not just after school.