Did I just say that?
Do you hear something?
Quiet for a second...
Sounds like someone... eating...?
Oh wait, that's Mark (i.e. me), eating my words after deriding, mocking, slandering, berating all things homeschool.
It's only fitting that I would eat my words on the first day of school (for Ames, that is).
Here's the history...
I have posted a few times in favor of public school over homeschool. My posts regarding homeschool have stirred up quite a bit of emotion-filled responses. Although I made some facetious remarks about homeschool kids ("trading Lord of the Rings cards and playing games that require dice that have more than 6 sides"), truth be told, my intent was not to bash homeschool, just the idea that it's the "biblical" option. That was the whole point of the first post on the topic, as I was responding to the following quote:
Christians should have no part in the government school system. However, I would challenge any Christian to give me a Scriptural basis for sending young children away from their parents for eight or more hours a day to be indoctrinated by a system which is anti-God. You can search the Scriptures high and low, but it isn't there
So taking my own advice, last year we sent our daughter to public school.
I don't have any regrets. Ava had a positive public school experience: A knowledgeable and hard working teacher, a school committed to excellence, and she made lots of friends. What I loved most about the public school experience: the recess scene, where Ava was forced to navigate challenging social environments.
Here's what I didn't love about the experience:
- The limited time we had with her.
We would send her off to school in the morning, and she would get home around 3:30, exhausted. Then, we would send her to bed around 6:30 and do it again for the next 4 days. There was very little time to supplement her learning. Most of our effort went into trying to get her to process social interactions from the day. That part I enjoyed. (i.e. "Dad, Shruti brought in one of her idols for show and tell..." (We live in a very diverse part of town with many international students, which we love.)
- The math curriculum.
I helped out every Wednesday for an hour with "Everyday Math." I was not a fan. I think some researchers had too much time on their hands with this one. Of course, in our world of socially constructing new reality and throwing out anything that reminds us of Modernity, and with government grants on the line, we need to come up with new ways to teach kids how to solve math problems. Each person should figure out their own way to get to an answer. Do what's best for them. Flash cards, of course, will not suffice. That's too narrow. Too 19th century. Something Newton might've done.
And so this is the convo that may have sealed it for me...
Leatha: "Ava, what's 3+2?"
Leatha: "Don't you memorize math facts in school."
Ava: "I don't know. We don't do that kind of math."
Leatha went on to show her the ones and tens columns and how to add. It was revolutionary.
Both Leatha and I loved math growing up. I think there's an appeal to the objective nature of basic math- there's a right answer and a way you can remember to get there.
I'm sure I have some readers who have taught the "everyday math" curriculum. I know there's something I'm missing- there probably is something legit to the curriculum. I'm only speaking based on what I saw last year while working with the students, and with my own daughter. I thought she would've been much better off just memorizing math facts. That's just me. But as I've heard almost EVERY teacher who is familiar with the curriculum say, "It's not for everyone" or "It's all about repetition- they'll catch on next year" or "It's a challenging curriculum to teach correctly" (which is not a concern here- Ava's teacher did an excellent job with it).
Moreover, I'm not just responding to the curriculum, but the worldview that got us that curriculum. To be sure, learning has taken a major turn in the last 100 years... or 50...or 25. There's a new approach to almost everything. Are Americans smarter or dumber than 100 years ago?
There are so many factors, I know that's not necessarily a fair statement (put one tally next to "straw man argument" for me).
But my point is that I always downplayed the superiority of homeschool education, until my kid came home from school struggling with basic math skills.
Notice I don't have any comments about my issues with reading. I think that's because Leatha taught Ava how to read and write in kindergarten. Ava devours books, mostly because of Leatha's hard work last year. (click here for the book Leatha used). Leatha says that Ava might have taken steps backward after first grade. Yikes.
I have always said that I didn't want academics to be our overriding concern. I think one would be hard pressed to argue that a public school is a better education than homeschool ... but in this case I really want our kids to have a strong foundation with the basics... reading, writing, and math.
- The class size.
I felt bad for the teacher. As amazing as she was, it's just plain hard to teach 24 first graders all day in one small classroom. Two years ago Leatha sat down with Ava one on one everyday and with blood, sweat and tears, taught her how to read. I'm so proud of Leatha's investment. She deposited something into Ava that will be with her forever.
Even when the size of the groups gets broken down (in math, for example), I would still have a very capable kid getting pulled down by another kid who just wanted to squirm around in his chair and find excuses to get up (sharpen pencil, go to the bathroom, etc).
So here's where I'm at now...
Whatever side you're on with this, remember, I'm talking about my two school age kids, who are only 7 and 6. I'm not trying to make sweeping judgments about what's better. At this time, Leatha and I thought homeschool would be the best option.
I still love the public school environment for how it prepares kids for real world social environments. I also love the opportunities for our kids to reach out and show love to their peers. But for now, I think the focus for us needs to be building a solid foundation of "reading, writing, arithmetic." We're also doing a "Classical Conversations" class once a week to help with the education. More on that another time.
Anyone want to do a play date at our house? I just got the Lord of the Rings trading card game, and these dice to go with it...