Another question I have to field a lot is, ‘Will you let Petra go to school if she wants to?’ Petra is my second child and she’s currently 3.9 years old. The most important point is, how would she know what school is like, to make an informed choice? If she wants to be more like other little girls and boys that she meets, I’d understand that but it wouldn’t be a good reason to do something that we think is absolutely not in her best interests. A conventional school is not in her best interests. We are clear about that. We would only consider a very special alternative one but they are few and far between and certainly not in the Middle East unfortunately. Edward is presently very keen to have a video games consul in part because ‘everyone else has one’ but since I don’t think they’re good for him this is not a good reason to get one. Doing what everyone else does is a reason to consider doing it, but certainly not a reason to do it. The kids need to learn, as well as my husband and I have, it’s one of our greatest talents in fact, to evaluate the world with our own eyes wide open and not do what everyone else is doing or what everyone else tells us to do. Anyway, I’d be surprised if Petra ever expressed a serious interest in wanting to go to school because she won’t be hearing good things about conventional schools from us, especially from her brother who is nearly 4 years older than her and had about 4 years of painful experience in school.
Secondly, why shouldn’t she benefit from the exciting materials Edward will benefit from, like the ‘Life of Fred’ Maths resources I hope to buy. Can any conventional school touch on this kind of a resource for trying to make Maths fun yet well-learned? And I’ll keep looking for other resources for her, when her time comes, ones that suit her even better perhaps? Why shouldn’t she benefit from a personalized education, which is always superior? Why shouldn’t she have the same opportunities as Edward to explore and follow her interests? To be really valued as a human being?
In my post yesterday, https://homeschoolingmiddleeast.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/day-27-of-homeschooling-in-the-middle-east-more-on-universitycollege-and-whether-kids-have-to-learn-certain-subjects-by-certain-ages/ I talked about Laura Grace Weldon saying in her book ‘Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything’ that children who were allowed to follow their interests and taught a strong achievement ethic became successful adults. But it’s more than this, children who are allowed to follow their interests feel better about themselves. Aren’t we told over and over again that, especially with girls, a strong self-esteem is incredibly important to guard against the pernicious dangers kids these days face in our modern world? Weldon says, “When caring adults support a child who loves to play baseball, study sea turtles, and read comics, that child realizes, “I am okay for who I am.” The interests well up from within him and are reinforced by those around him, so there is a feeling of coherence between his interior life and exterior persona. This reinforces his strong sense of self. Sturdy selfhood helps him to internalize values and beliefs, which will hold him in good stead even when other cultural forces may try to sway him toward unhealthy or negative behaviours.” And, “Everyone strives to belong, contribute and feel significant. The child who has learned that his or her interests and unique abilities lead to fulfilment is already aware that self-worth doesn’t come from popularity or possessions.”
To some extent, I think homeschooling’s even more important for Petra than Edward because although Edward would have most likely continued to be unhappy at school, at least he would have fought conformity; from the length of his hair to his probing questions about ‘Why do we have to do this? Why now?’ Petra seems, so far, to be much more straightforward. And, being a girl, girls are usually eager to please. So we could see her slotting into the school system more ‘easily’ than Edward did. This would risk her individuality being lost far more so than Edward’s and this is tragic. Edward would always have fought for his individuality, however miserable it made him to do so. He’s very sensitive but determined. She may not have done so. And that would have been tragic.
In the last few weeks, to my amazement, most people I’ve met don’t even argue that homeschooling is educationally better (even Edward’s class teacher wasn’t concerned about him academically when we told him). They are all most worried about ‘socialization’ and I’ve written a lot about that already! https://homeschoolingmiddleeast.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/socialization-something-i-am-very-happy-to-not-have-done-to-my-kids/ and https://homeschoolingmiddleeast.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/oh-such-a-funny-take-on-socialization/ Non-homeschoolers thinking that homeschooling is educationally superior than schools is a big change, from what I’ve read, from years ago when people assumed homeschooling meant educational neglect. So if you work on the assumption that homeschooling is superior, provided the (usually) mother is delighted to do it, provided a rich educational environment is available (and this doesn’t have to be material although access to a lot of books, one way or another, is part of this I think), provided the kids are happy being at home and if you’ve been won around on the socialization argument – well, then, why would you ask ‘Will you let Petra go to school if she wants to?’
Instead, if you were thinking about Petra at all, instead of worrying about whether she will be denied the pleasure of school, perhaps you might comment that it will be interesting to see what kind of resources Petra is interested in as compared to Edward and what her interests will be. But if you did that then you’re probably a homeschooler already and would know the answer to that question. Some homeschoolers do let their children go to school, against their wishes, because teh children are much older and really want to and parents feel that they have to respect their autonomy (although from what I’ve read almost all homeschoolers that try school don’t last long there!). A few homeschooling advocates even let their young children go to school, if they want to. Carlo Ricci’s philosophy, who’s a ‘radical unschooler’ (for want of a better term), means that he has to allow one daughter to go to a conventional school, whilst the other is homeschooled, despite abhorring conventional schools, the one his daughter attends included. He does this because he, and his wife (presumably!), believe children should make just about all decisions for themselves, with their guidance of course, however ‘wrong’ they think they are – from their education to their bedtime to their diet. But as much of a child-advocate as I like to believe I am, I’m not a ‘radical unschooler’ and so I don’t have to suffer from that decision, the way he so obviously does as discussed in his book, ‘The Willed Curriculum’. It is excruciating for him to see his daughter going to school.
After I wrote this, I took my kids to a Maths information session at ‘Sylvan’ in Juffair. It was full of good suggestions about how to introduce Mathematical concepts to your kids at home (usually for parents doing homework). It was very useful for me though. The attendees’ kids played upstairs with a couple of the other teachers. When I came to collect my kids after the session one teacher said rather sourly, ‘Your daughter’s very… (pregnant pause that means she wants to use a less diplomatic word) opinionated.” I replied, “Yes, I bring them up that way.” I don’t think is the answer she expected, she would have realized that I knew that she wanted to say ‘spoiled’ or ‘a handful’ or something. She probably expected me to say, ‘Yes, she can be a bit of handful.’ Or, “Yes, sorry about that.” What’s funny with Petra is that she looks so angelic and so girly, regularly doing out in full Princess regalia – crown, necklaces, frothy pink dress, so people expect her to be meek and mild. But she isn’t! And I encourage her to be feisty, whilst hopefully also polite and well-mannered, as is Edward. When I heard the teacher say this I immediately thought about my post and thought ‘And that’s why I don’t want Petra to go to school’. This woman teaches 3 kids at a time (although starting at 4.5 years old) and she doesn’t appreciate one opinionated little girl! What happens when teachers don’t appreciate and try to ‘handle’ 25 of them! Nope, ideally no school for either of my kids, unless, as I said, a really exciting one should ever come our way.
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