Last night I was out with two other former teachers. I actually had no idea that either of the other women had been teachers, but the conversation eventually made it's way around to the fact that we had all, at some point in the past, taught elementary school kids. One of the women at the table knew that my kids didn't go to school. The questions began. I started out cautious, as I sometimes do, especially with teachers. Teachers work hard. Most teachers are creative and passionate and care a lot about kids and education. I tread lightly when admitting to a teacher that I don't send my kids to school. So, when she asked what curriculum I used, I told the truth. I just didn't admit from the get-go that not using someone else's curriculum meant that I wasn't staying up late every Sunday night creating my own. Good teachers do that.
But as the conversation progressed and we got to know one another a little better, I let my guard down and told the truth. No curriculum, no lessons, no grades, no tests. Only the good stuff. I explained that even in the most creative and alternative schools that I had the good fortune to teach in, the good stuff rarely came in the form of pre-planned lessons and texts. For me, as a teacher, and now as an unschooling mom, the good stuff is never planned. It's invariably the unplanned, the tangents, the brilliant conclusions kids draw for themselves without any help from an adult. It's that question that your child asks randomly in the car on the way to the grocery store. It's that milkweed pod that your son picks up on the walk home that inspires a quest to find out all you can about this groovy little plant. It's the hours and hours spent each day asking questions, answering questions, snuggling up and reading together, finding out, discovering the world, being curious. And not because anyone said you had to.
My friends agreed. We swapped stories about some of our best teaching moments and one theme rang true: Our best moments in the classroom were all about the kids. Those bright, empowered, amazing little people that were capable of anything. We all agreed that we had learned so much from those kids, that we, in fact had been the students, and they, our teachers in many ways. Even after this deep and meaningful conversation, I don't know that I converted anyone to become an unschooler. Living life without school makes lots and lots of people uncomfortable for many reasons. But I am aware that I must continue to put myself out there in these situations and tell the truth. My truth, that is. When I read statements like the one below from the NEA, I realize that I must educate others about the importance of parental choice in education. It seems that the National Educational Association in their 2007-2008 Resolutions has taken a stand against homeschooling.
It reads: "The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When home schooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress. Home schooling should be limited to the children of the immediate family, with all expenses being borne by the parents/guardians. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used.
The Association also believes that home-schooled students should not participate in any extracurricular activities in the public schools.
The Association further believes that local public school systems should have the authority to determine grade placement and/or credits earned toward graduation for students entering or re-entering the public school setting from a home school setting."
Statements like this remind me that we've got some educating to do. Don't be afraid to speak out about your right to choose the best way to educate your child. If you're inspired and want to make a difference, sign the petition as well.