Friday, April 29, 2011

To School or Not to School?

Right now Norm is battling his way through one of the occasional epic spelling tests that I inflict on him.  His brother--sick and awaiting his visit with the doctor--is hovering over him with sometimes helpful advice.  We do this (and other things like math tests) even though Norm could care less about these subjects right now.  We do it because we always thought he would go back to school next year.  There are "benchmarks" that the school likes us to meet and, honestly, I want him to be up to speed upon his return.  This isn't a problem for most subjects.  He gets his science from various projects and from the homeschool program at the bird sanctuary.  History comes along with his art studies.  Reading and writing are things he likes to do.  Math and spelling, on the other hand, are not as much fun for him.  I would wait to teach them if I thought he wasn't going back.

Now he is having second thoughts about school next year.  He has made friends in the homeschool world and he is afraid that he will miss them.  There are a lot of these friends, actually, and they are distributed all over Eastern Massachusetts.  He is correct.  Most of them will fade away quickly.  Also, he has found--now after almost a year of what the homeschool folks call "de-schooling"--that he likes the structure he has developed for himself.  He is curious about different subjects and pleased that he can go pursue them.  This, too, will be lost at school.  By its nature a school needs to structure its topics and time in a general sort of way.  There is also a great deal of focus on measuring results. There is an official reward system and hierarchy based on grades and physical prowess.  This opens the door to informal hierarchies amongst the children.  In the homeschool world that we have experienced this year, the kids and their teachers are more often colleagues, working together to pursue individual interests.  In many ways, its not unlike grad school...if none of the students had drivers' licenses.

On the other hand, next year is the beginning of middle school in our town.  His friends will go an meet the kids from one of the other elementary schools (there are five in all and two middle schools).  Everyone will be new and might be open to making friends.  The teachers may be a bit more flexible.  There will be a few electives.  Also, it is the school Norm's brother goes to.  Of course, it is also a whole lot less time consuming for Dad and more convenient for for both of us.

Adults I have spoken to fall into various camps based on defending what choices they (or their children) have made.  The homeschool parents are mostly sympathetic, understanding the pull of school for kids who have been in it at some point or another.  Other adults are mostly sympathetic as well, though sometimes there is a hint of judgment.  We wouldn't be in this situation if we just did what everyone else does, after all. To them it seems an unnecessary complication for a kid.  From my perspective and Norm's, I don't think we would have missed this year for the world. 

Still, it is a quandary with no clear answer.There are advantages and disadvantages to every plan.  Many of his friends on the homeschool side are in their own discernment processes, too.  I am giving him some space to explore his options and will interesting to see what we come up with.  Soon Norm will finish his spelling test.  it is boring but he is doing fine.  Then we will go outside for phys ed.  We will walk over to the park and he will ride his skateboard for a while.  He is a homeschooler after all, he can do what he wants.

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