Crossroads

Okay, so you’ve heard me gripe from time to time about schools. In the back of mind there has always been the nagging thought, “So why don’t you stop complaining and actually do something about it??” So I’m here to report (go ahead and laugh at me if you wish) that I’m getting ready to make a big jump.

I’m considering home schooling.

Of course I should be more specific–I don’t typically “approve” (my, doesn’t that sound so condescending?) of homeschooling.  It’s a fine idea in principle but my completely unscientific anecdotal studies have shown me that most people who attempt this amazing feat tend to produce inferior results.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m not condemning it outright, it’s just that among all the billions of people I know who have tried to homeschool their kids I’ve only seen three–count them three–cases where I thought the experience a success.

More often I seen children who have a hard time socializing (though that’s a horribly worn-out argument against homeschooling and I don’t know that I buy it) who have a hard time with the basic educational requirements. In other words, they can’t read. I have the occasional family that takes the money and runs, leaving junior to be the unpaid help in the family business rather than actually making the huge commitment that proper homeschooling takes.

Sigh.  So I’ve been terribly suspicious of the whole idea.  Then, on top of that I’m actually quite happy with the school system (speaking in broad generalities). The teachers my kids have had in elementary and middle school have been great–hats off to them.  But ever since Grace hit high school there have been issues.  She watches more tv at school than she does at home, she’s had teachers openly flirting with female students, teachers who consistently show up 10-30 minutes late for class (and by “consistently” I mean pretty much every day), not to mention those that just don’t bother to teach.

Then there’s the curriculum.  When I was in high school we read Shakespeare, Chaucer, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Dickens, you name it.  And then we wrote about it. Today she reads things like Jodi Picoult’s 19 Minutes (about a Columbine-style school shooting).  Her junior year she finally, actually and for the first time picked up anything close to a “classic” (Macbeth) and then instead of reading it they watched a graphic movie version. Don’t get me wrong, Shakespeare it meant to be seen rather than read so I don’t have a gripe with that per se, it’s just the lack of discussion and analysis, the falling back on television as an entertainment rather than using it to actually teach.

There’s nothing wrong with modern literature as long as you can prove to me that it can teach as well as that which was produced by the masters. And I’m just not thinking that Picoult can rival the greats at any level. Not in characterization, theme, literary tools or depth. Dumb English department.

So what does this mean folks? Well I’ve come to a parting of the ways, a crossroad if you will.  Forget Grace, there’s no hope for salvaging her senior year in the liberal arts, she’s only taking a half-day next year anyway and she reads and studies enough on the side that she’s doing fine with her own interest in education but Spencer? He’ll be hitting ninth grade this fall and he’s not someone who will pick up a book on his own to see what he’s been missing in English class. I could supplement it all with my own reading requirements but his schedule doesn’t permit extra work, we need to find ways to replace what isn’t working with stuff that will meet his needs.

The plan is to sign him up with a homeschool program here in town then go back and sign up for the maximum number of three high school classes he’s allowed to take.  That will be his biology, geometry and Spanish and I should mention that I’ve had no gripes with the math and science teachers there; on the contrary, I’ve been impressed with their quality and strength of teaching, plus I don’t feel I’m competent to teach those subjects anyway.

For his PE credits he can take extra curricular sports (which he’d do anyway) and then as he’s interested in studying graphic design we’ll get him local art lessons and from what I’ve been able to deduce, they’re superior in every way to the classes at the school, especially in the areas he needs (drawing).  That leaves history and English for me and between my own abilities and the online resources such as Williamsburg Academy I think we can get the job done.  He could even take classes at the University here or BYU homestudy online.  He’s already proved to us that he can handle the discipline of online courses because he’s just finished a series of online classes in Adobe Illustrator and has plans to next tackle Photoshop.

So what do you think? Am I crazy?  My biggest concern is making sure he’s getting what he needs to be able to test at the needed levels. I don’t want him to get a year or two into things and then realize he’s way behind and has no chance on the SAT or ACT.  Boy that would be bad, wouldn’t it?

Do you see any holes in this plan? Give it your best shot before we do something I’ll later regret and irrevocably ruin my son’s chances at an education.

 ***

And in related news–our friend Treg Taylor is running for the school board which I find gives me a great deal of hope.  It’s not that the whole system needs to be thrown out and remade but I think he’s someone who can make some crucial changes to get things back on track. Good luck Treg!

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