Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Frequent Questions, Over the Years

As my kids were growing up, whenever anyone discovered that we were homeschooling, we were mostly met with at least mild interest. With interest, comes questions. If we mentioned unschooling, the questions were more frequent, and sometimes, more bizarre. People have some really odd misconceptions out there, and a whole lot of concerns. Concerns about MY kids, apparently.

This post will address some of the most common questions or comments I've heard over the years. Not all of them, by a long shot.

If you happen to recognize yourself in any of these questions, then, well, I guess you do. You asked.

You just homeschool because you don't want to get up in the morning to get the kids on the bus.

Well, it has nothing to do with why we homeschool, but it's true, I DON'T want to get up early to put kids on the bus. It is amazing how much it affects us, not having a strict time we have to be up in the morning. It makes it possible to do all sorts of things we'd have trouble with otherwise. We can go out to events at night. We can stay up until all hours exploring whatever thing we're interested in at the moment, for as long as we want. No wake up schedule means no bedtime schedule, either. No arguing about going to bed, no struggle to wake everyone up. If someone WANTS to get up early for whatever reason, they can take full responsibility for setting an alarm and getting up. It has never been a problem.

How will they ever learn cellular biology? (Asked when my oldest was around ten, I think it was)

First, they may never want or need to know anything about cellular biology. But if they do, there are a wide variety of ways to learn about it. This question is an example of a "theme" that comes up often: if YOU can't teach something in particular to your kids, how will they ever learn it, if they don't go to school? It makes a HUGE, erroneous, assumption, that a) I teach the kids everything and that b) the only other option is school. If they want to know something I don't know anything about, I can help them figure out where to get the information. If they need help, that is. Mostly, they are pretty good at finding things out.

I don't see how you do it. I could never be with my kids that much.

This one always makes me sad. It's related to all those TV commercials where parents are sad when there are school holidays, and relieved when the kids go back to school.  
The missing piece, the error in this particular train of thought, is that people who send their kids away for several hours every day have a very different relationship with their kids than people who don't. I'm sure they will argue that they love their kids "just as much," and I'm willing to agree that they probably do. They still have a different relationship with them.
I like being with my kids, for the most part. We have many of the same interests. Besides, even if we are all here at the same time, we are not all in the same room, necessarily, nor are we tripping over each other trying to do the same things. Much of the time, each of us is involved in our own thing. This was not the case when they were very young, but it's definitely the case now.

How do you know they won't have "holes" in their education?

How does anyone whose kids go to school know this? And what does it mean, really? 
There is no way any person could ever know everything about everything. Schools pick a certain set of things as being "the things you are supposed to know," but does that make those things the only things people need to know? No.  No two schools pick the SAME things, anyway. So it isn't like there is a set of knowledge that is all-important. What is important is this: a) people need to know what they need to know, not what someone else thinks they need to know, and b) if there comes a time when there is something you need to know that you don't know- you can always learn it then.

How will they know what they are interested in if they aren't made to try things they think they aren't interested in?

I don't know. If they ever run out of things they are interested in, and get bored, maybe I'd suggest a list of other things to try. No one can ever learn about everything, so there will undoubtedly be things they might have been interested in, if only they'd had the chance. They do still have a chance, their entire lives, and can keep learning about different things forever.

Yes, they may end up deciding at the age of 50 that they wish they had another lifetime so they could go to med school and be a cardiologist. I'd absolutely do that if I had more available years. Can't fit everything into one lifetime, sad to say, as much as we seem to be trying. Do I regret the things I've done while not going to med school to be a cardiologist? No.

They won't have the same knowledge base as everyone else, so how will they get along in the world?

That's right. They won't. Chances are, their knowledge base will be larger. How do I know this? They have more time in which to explore and learn things. Also, I live with them, and talk to them, so I have a pretty good idea of at least part of what they know, and it's way more than I knew at their ages. And that's just the part that I am aware of.
They spend ZERO time waiting for the rest of the class. They already have wider interests than what is taught in schools, and, on top of that, they are likely to actually REMEMBER what they are learning. What do you remember from your high school classes? If you had to take the final exams right now, with no warning, would you pass? Why not? Why don't you remember all that important stuff?

What kind of knowledge base does someone have, if they don't remember most of the stuff they were "taught" in school? There are two basic categories here. One is that they will know a lot about things they need to know- for their job, to maintain a relationship, raise a family, whatever it is that they do. They will also know a lot about the things they LOVE: hobbies, interests, etc.  If that is the knowledge base people will have: what they need, and what they love, then why wait until adulthood to start expanding that base? Why fill your mind with things you don't need, and don't care about first? Some people will argue that it's good for you to learn about things you aren't interested in (see above), so that you expand what you know, and what you are interested in. I emphatically disagree. You won't remember it anyway, and there is no need to artificially set things up so that someone will find new things to be interested in. We live in a world surrounded by them.

Aren't you afraid to be the one totally responsible for your kid's education?

I've got news for you. All parents are totally responsible for their kids. If you choose to give that job to someone else- like a school- that does not absolve you from your responsibility.  At least if I am directly involved, I know what it is I'm being held responsible for.


Those are today's "most frequent questions."
I've also come across a blog post elsewhere that had a comment where someone asked a bunch of questions, so I'll bring those over here and answer them soon.

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