This is my third post this week on education – first, there was Waiting for Superman’s inconvenient truths about education on Sept. 8, followed by some more impressions on Sept. 10, Friday odds and ends. Today’s post is a message I sent to a friend of my husband’s, who wanted some more information about homeschooling. Can you suggest any good books to read?, she asked.
Here’s what I wrote:
First off, there’s a ton of stuff on the web, obviously, and where you start your search is pretty much determined by what your kids’ needs are. So, in our case, it was the need for more intellectual stimulation and getting away from a one-size-fits-all model, which meant that we ended up often on Hoagies’ (a website for gifted kids and education). (Note: we started homeschooling in 2000; now, ten years later, I’m sure there are other portal sites of use – it’s a question of doing the research and finding what you need.)
Next thing you’ll discover is that there’s definitely a spectrum – from unschooling to classical schooling. I really prefer many of the unschooling aspects (child-led education), but sometimes you do find that some of the old classical tricks are invaluable.
For a very interesting critical take on factory schooling (one that basically advocates unschooling/ radical child-centered learning etc.), check out John Taylor Gatto – you can visit his website or see his very excellent must-read book, Dumbing Us Down (check Amazon, or on his site).
For the classical take, check out Jessie Wise and Susan Wise-Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind, written by a mother-daughter team who believe in timetables and schedules. I couldn’t get into their very rigid structure, nor do I subscribe to their endorsement of Dorothy Sayer’s take on education (very year-age oriented: if 7 years old, then X, if 10 years old, then Y – frankly, one of the main problems with gifted kids, and probably with kids, period, is asynchronicity. No one runs all their cylinders on this lockstep timetable – so you gotta teach to when the moment is right, whether that’s at age 7 or 17).
Between Wise/Wise-Bauer and Gatto (at the two ends of the spectrum) there’s a slew of material inbetween.
For truly fantastic practical help – actually, this is a book any parent should consider – check out The Homeschooler’s Guide to Portfolios and Transcripts, by Loretta Heuer. Pure gold, so valuable, a great resource. This book is also available on Amazon, and as I said, I recommend it to anyone who wants to create compelling portfolios for their child’s academic, extra-curricular, and community achievements. (See also this website.)
It’s very important to find support within your community if you plan to homeschool – you don’t want to isolate kids, and more and more communities are offering great opportunities for learners so that the world becomes their classroom.
Re. socialization: you’ll hear a lot about how important it is to send kids to school to socialize them. In my opinion, that’s hogwash (or at least, an un-reflective default thinking position on socialization is hogwash). Imagine if someone said to you,
“N., for the next 12 to 13 years, you will interact only with people your exact same age during the work week. That’s 6 to 7 hours daily, 5 days a week. Maybe we’ll throw an older person in there, but your peer group will be those who are exactly your age. No mingling with older or younger people, though, during ‘work’ hours!”
Imagine how that would “socialize” you! You’d turn into a psycho. Well, that’s exactly what our schools are turning a lot of kids into – add the toxic peer pressure, and it’s no wonder we’ve got problems.
Anyway, hope this is useful. Just remember, homeschooling isn’t for everyone – but neither is the factory school…!