Growing up, I ran the full gamut of educational experiences: From kindergarten to second grade I was in public school in a relatively low-income, less stable neighborhood. 3rd through 6th we homeschooled, I did 7th and 8th grade at a local “Christian” school (about which I have nothing positive to say). Then for high-school I was back in public school, this time at a much wealthier school.
The less said of the private school – for I will not insult the word “Christian” by dignifying that institution with the label – the better. But both public school and home-school were excellent experiences; not without their difficulties of course, but both experiences were, on the whole, quite healthy. The only regret I have from home-schooling is that, at the time, home-schooling was something no one but fringe fundamentalists did (at least not en masse, anyway). So some of the educational options we had were quite poor. We used Bob Jones curriculum for science and our work in literature was spotty at best. We did wonderful work in history and Bible and my dad helped me with math and computer at night, which I still remember fondly. But the sciences were never strong and literature was virtually non-existent.
But that was the home-schooling subculture at the time – protect your kids from the evil secularist, evolutionist, anti-Christian public schools at any cost. But what would replace the public school curriculum? Well, as a movement we hadn’t really got that far yet. Functionally speaking, we did the same subjects in the same way, we just changed the things that explicitly disagreed with specific religious beliefs we held. We learned, more or less, the same things our public school peers learned at, more or less, the same time. And we learned some specific fundamentalist Christian beliefs regarding controversial issues. That was it. In the oft-used phrase, we learned what to think, but we never really learned how to think. That was something I wouldn’t learn until college, which is far too late to be learning it.
All of that explains why articles like this one encourage me. From Newsweek:
A school, Tera says, might not have teased out precisely how Ginger learns best. This is something I heard often from urban homeschoolers: the desire to craft an education just right for each child. They worry that formal schooling might dim their children’s love of learning (yet there is a flip side: a reduced likelihood of being inspired along the way by the occasional magical teacher, full of passion and skill). They want their children to explore the subjects that interest them, as deeply as they care to go. For Daisy and Ginger, that has meant detours into herbalism, cat shows, musical theater, and deer. …
A mini-industry of homeschool consultants has cropped up, especially in New York City, whose homeschooling population has grown 36 percent in eight years, according to the school district. (While states usually require homeschoolers to register, many parents choose not to, so official estimates skew low.) In Seattle, even the public-school system runs a center that offers classes just to homeschoolers.
I’m not a diehard homeschool or public school person; I think both can be really good fits depending on the kid. I even think private Christian schools have their place, though our kids won’t go anywhere near the ones in Lincoln. But I do think increasing the number of options for people can only be a good thing, at the moment at least. My own education was greatly enriched by the combination of home-school and public schooling. It gave me a balanced outlook and a sound foundation going into university, one or two noticeable gaps not withstanding. So the rise of homeschooling in highly-urban areas – as well as the rise of the classical schools and charter schools movement – are two enormously encouraging developments to anyone who cares about education – and that should be everyone.