Thursday, September 29, 2011

Okay, okay. The Education post.

About once a week I get a question on our schooling for kids.  And usually, my answer is so convoluted that the person likely comes away thinking, "Wow, I'm sorry I asked."

Some of it is because of my inarticulate babble, but a lot of it is because our education really IS that complicated.  Any one-word tag on it completely misses the point of how we're educating our children. But I doubt anyone cares enough to read a whole book about it, so I'll just cram it into a blog post.

Here's the thing:  When I look down the check-boxes for the three primary schooling options, I don't associate with ANY of them.  Homeschool, private, public.  Nope, nope, and nope.  

I fill out our NOI with the state to be a homeschooler, but that always feels like a lie when I categorize myself that way.  

Never even once have I sat down at a table and taught my kids anything. We don't do curriculum at all.

And yes, there are gaps.  I took Jack in for assessments when he was 4, and she asked him about skip-counting.  Whoops. Forgot that one.  

More organized, polished homeschooling moms might cringe about my gaps.  I do know that.  I'm not here to prescribe our method of schooling -- I'm just here to tell you what we do. :)  Flaws abound, I assure you.

But I also have seen how quickly gaps are filled in when the situation comes up.  Once he knew about skip-counting, he figured them out quickly.  So many of the "learning goals" are filled in with one video, one class, one morning of watching PBS-Kids while I scramble to catch up on my teaching work.

There's a term called "unschooling" that's supposed to cover it, but I'm 100% positive that isn't us.  During a week, my kids go to 2 full days of co-op, classes at museums, private language lessons, the W&M SEP program, Cosmic Kids Club, and other happenings meant to formally teach kids. 

I'm just not doing the one teaching. So I guess we're not homeschoolers?  I'm not even the one doing the choosing.  My children pick every book they read.  Every class they take at co-op.  Every museum program. 

I think I might be an imposter in every schooling label.

To be honest, I'm that way with nearly every area of my life.  Religion, politics.  All the standard-issue categories don't fit with my understanding of the information.  It's the curse of being a gray-area thinker.  No easy definitions.

I DO know what my philosophy of education is: I want children who are in love with the process of learning, so much so that it extends beyond any particulars I can teach them.  

As a child, I had missing math homework but was coming home and reading the encyclopedia.  I was a voracious learner, but ridiculously uninterested in school.  In the end, I think it's much more about my "voracious learning" than formal schooling that created my interests.  

It took getting to graduate school to really click with the love for school, and I think that's because it's when it became my own.  I was writing tuition checks, I was choosing to go.

I want to give my children that independence in learning earlier than age 20. Especially because it is working.  

I wanted to take this year in Williamsburg to scale back, lessen our schedule.  And now I'm driving back to the Southside, an hour each way on Tuesday and Friday, because not one of my children wants to skip a semester at co-op.  For Christmas last year, Simone asked to go to "school" (co-op) as her present.

The way we're educating our children, a-la-carte style, is definitely not without its drawbacks.  Yesterday, we saw that the public school bus stops RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR HOUSE to pick up the kids.  And on those days when I just need a chunk of quiet space in my life, I wonder if I can flag down that bus to bring my children to school for the day.  They will come home fed and have learned a few things.  Instead, they spend the day strewing LEGO blocks and dress-up clothes all over the house.

But then, there are complications to the public and private schooling options too - like getting your child back at the end of the day, and filling family time with homework instead of playing Monopoly.  

I am vehemently NOT of the mindset that there's a perfect way to educate all kids.  I could never be an activist for homeschooling, public schooling, whatever.  I'm a huge activist that every.single.child deserves the best education possible.  But how that looks in each family...even for each child...is so different.

For specifics that are often asked about, these are the two co-op programs we attend:

www.seecoop.org
www.hsobx.org

This is the SEP program we love:

http://education.wm.edu/centers/cfge/precollegiate/sep/index.php

Jack attends Cosmic Kids Club at the Air and Space Center.  And the others will too, when they're old enough.

And here is where Jack attended language immersion camp (Russian and French) in Minnesota:   http://www.concordialanguagevillages.org

Am I forgetting anything?