Friday, February 15, 2008

Cackle, Homeschooling?

Just because the gov't is giving out "free" schooling doesn't mean that you break the law if you don't "go along quietly". Instead, you can thank them for offering you that moldy bread and homeschool instead.

So, why would you do that? Two reasons: socialization and education. If you've kept up with current events, then you already know that private schooled kids have better tempers and more maturity than gov't (so-called public) schoolers; and that goes double for homeschoolers. They are the best-behaved and articulate students you're likely to find. They play well with kids their own age, or kids that are older, or kids that are younger. And when they're with adults, they behave like adults.

So, if you're thinking about taking up your local gov't on that offer of moldy bread, we homeschoolers just want you to know that we're worried about how your kids will ever get properly socialized. We don't see how spending hours hiding from the playground bullies, that gov't teachers claim is a "rite of passage", is all that conducive to growing up to be a calm and collected reasonable adult. (Oh, yours is the bully? Never mind.) As the Education Experts say, nothing teaches kids to learn to act like mature adults than to hang out with other kids their exact same age (for 12 years) -- just like in real life. Tee hee.

By the way, given the American separation of church and state, it turns out that you can homeschool even if you don't want to be religious about it. Most homeschooled families aren't doing it for religious reasons.

But what if you're not a credentialed teacher? How can you do a good enough job teaching? Well, there are three answers to this. The first is that you probably won't need techniques to corral 30 kids at a time. (I'm addressing only the small families -- under 20 kids. Heh.)

Secondly, you probably remember your two to four hours of hands-on driving instruction before you were put behind the wheel and sent to the store to get groceries. Teaching is about that difficult. And that's about what credentialed teachers know. You don't need lesson plans. You don't need curricula. You probably don't want those really bad textbooks that keep getting mandated by your state's bored [sic] of education. It turns out that if you're interested in the subject, then your kids likely will be too. The hardest part will be asking them to explain things to you rather than you lecturing things to them. If you talk, they might be listening. If they talk, you know what they've learned. Avoiding being over-burdening on them is the most difficult thing to learn. Kids naturally want to learn -- just maybe not what you want them to learn at the moment. (I'll get to math/science in a moment.)

Thirdly, if you'd really like a shock, it turns out that kids that are left to their own devices (with a lot of books and such lying around) will automatically learn on their own. You could act just like a credentialed 30-kid corraller, and just watch that they don't set the house on fire. This style of homeschooling is actually called "unschooling". There are books about it. It also works well, but it's very frightening at first.

What about testing? Well, some states want you to do more than what's done in gov't schools, and some states want less. But since different kids learn at different rates, you shouldn't be concerned about it. Focus on what they need, and if Johnny needs an extra year to learn something, that's fine. At least he'll be well-adjusted while doing it. And if Jill learns twice as fast, then she won't be bored out of her mind sitting in a class with squalling immature kids who just happen to be her same age.

Everyone (except that San Diego school teacher) can read and write -- so that's easy to teach. But what if you aren't that good at math or science? Well, you could brush up on it and stay a chapter ahead of your kids -- it's only through 12th grade after all, and you can spread it out over several years. Alternatively, you could have your kids read and then explain how it all works so that you'll finally get it. However, one common way that makes parents feel good is to join a group of homeschooling families, and have one of the parents who *is* good at the subject teach kids from the group. Homeschooler parents are typically very friendly, helpful, and well-behaved -- like their kids.

But how will the kids get into college? Fortunately, college's aren't altogether dumb. They are aware that homeschoolers are smarter, better trained, more well-behaved, and better motivated to learn. You just write up a school transcript, standard "course" names, think up some useful grades (hint, does your child know the material? Then it's an "A"), and check for merit scholarships.

I've left this last part last because it's the most difficult to face for many parents.

What if you both work for a living to make ends meet? One of you can't quit your job just to teach your kids. Besides, the gov't school is already "paid for". Good question. If you'd really like to get away from gov't schooling, but feel you can't, what you can do is have your kids perform their "homework" during the day while supervised (i.e., corralled) by the aunt, grandmother, or day-care sitter. Then the "lecture" portion of their learning can take place once you get home. Of course, this is an extra burden on you.
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Well they're your kids. What are you willing to give up so that they get a great education?

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