I leave in a few minutes to pick Fish up from school. Yes, school! We put St. Nick and Fish in 3rd grade and kindergarten respectively, and haven't had a moment's doubt. Well, ok, maybe a moment's doubt. But the results have been 100% fabulous. I'd like to take a minute to challenge some misconceptions the homeschool world has about traditional schooling ...
1. A lot of time is wasted in school.
While this may be true for some schools, we have found the opposite at our Heritage Academy. Every second of every day St. Nick is doing something. Doing. Something! And let me tell you, it's not whining, not begging to use the computer, not complaining over how much he doesn't want to do his work or sit by his brother or how bored he is ... all that @#$% he did at home. He learns things! He does *gasp* crafts! He writes and draws and learns and is HAPPY about it!!!! Hear my enthusiasm. My reluctant writer will now show me whole pages of (nearly illegible - some things don't change) script. He'll take pencil and paper to bed and write poetry. Poetry! Dude, I don't know what magic wand Ms. 3rd Grade Teacher has, but I sure didn't have it.
2. The social environment will destroy his fragile sense of self and he'll become a sociopathic drug addict with no will power and an overwhelming need to fit in even if that means, yes mother, that he'll jump off the cliff just because everyone else is doing it.
Not true! Partly because of my own antisocial tendencies we never got hooked into a homeschool group, so St. Nick never had any concentrated time with other kids, so St. Nick never had any real friends. You know, those people we remember from childhood who call on weekends and giggle during sleepovers? (Ok, boys may not giggle.) Well, he now has lots of contact with other kids, and my once surly, bad-attitude (look back at our homeschool coop experiences), socially awkward child has friends! He gets phone calls! He has secret clubs! He has a CRUSH!!! He also gets to make tough choices every day. Does he tell the teacher when a classmate has something she's not supposed to have in her backpack (her Nintendo DS, not cocaine)? Does he tease the kid who can't have birthday treats because of his religion, just because his friends do? St. Nick proves again and again that even children are capable of critical thinking. And even my kid (raised by wolves) can make the right decisions much of the time. And he comes home with lots to talk about over dinner.
3. Family cohesion will fall apart and we'll all eat pop tarts at the counter before rushing from one practice/event/lesson to the next.
So totally false. Perhaps because of my aforementioned antisocial tendencies, our evenings running to school activities are rare treats. And they really are treats! We went to Chuck E. Cheese for the first time EVER with his school, which turned into a fabulous time to connect with other parents, meet classmates, and blow off steam. Sorry to say, it rocked far and away over the homeschool softball-nite or square dancing hoe-down. Ok, sorry for the unfair jab. The truth is, we ran around like headless chickens far more when we were homeschooling. Now we enjoy evenings at home together. And major bonus, Dr. D totally digs helping St. Nick with homework! The same Dr. D who was almost entirely uninvolved in homeschooling now works with his son every single night. I've seen those two grow in crazy leaps this year in mutual respect. St. Nick blossoming from the attention of his dad, and Dad realizing his little smart-ass is really pretty dang smart.
4. Siblings won't get along because they'll be, like, separated by artificial age categories and hierarchies and whatnot.
Wrongers. Here's our day: St. Nick and Fish leave at 7:30 am. I get to have Mud Pie all to myself all morning (ok, this is mostly Pie playing in my office with an occasional preschool lesson thrown in). 11:30 Pie and I go pick up Fish. We have a great lunch together and Pie, geeked beyond measure to have her big brother home, plays with Fish who, geeked beyond measure to be with this adoring little sister, relishes every moment. They play without stopping until 3pm when we go to pick up St. Nick. Pie is craving rest time by then, so Fish and St. Nick (who were once arch enemies) pair up on computer games or legos or just hanging out. They actually like one another! From the bickering and constant drive to divert my attention from whoever was getting it at any given moment, to friends. It's a miracle.
5. Schools don't really teach anything.
Don't get me started on the actual content of the education. While I'm still an advocate of teaching reading at home (the one-on-one is invaluable), St. Nick does activities and learns stuff I never would have thought to teach him. Stuff I don't care two whits about but he LOVES (uh, like math? Kidding, kidding). His spongy little mind just soaks it all in, tons of stuff, and the teacher has time and energy to do things I could never get myself to do. Spelling for example. Who knew my son would be a great speller? Certainly not me since I could never keep on track with weekly spelling words, pre-tests, tests, etc. I tried, but little things (like two younger siblings) always pushed it to the to-do-later pile.
One final look at what traditional school has given us:
This from the kid who cried buckets when we put him in an angel costume for his PreK Sunday School Christmas play. All on his own, he auditioned, memorized his lines, and performed in front of a packed house (1,100+ people).