guest written by Justin Baumgartner
I am currently at a point where big decisions are quickly approaching. I’m engaged and planning a wedding, considering having children, and looking for a house. In a world filled with political and economic turmoil, I have to consider what the world will be like for any children I might have. Working as a Technology Coach, I get to see all the wonderful teachers at my school and how they interact with kids, and I get a first-hand view of the school system. I participate in #edchat, go to conferences, and read education blogs. And through all this, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I were to have a child that was entering school age right now, I would be seriously considering homeschool.
I don’t want this to be a reflection of the teachers I work with. That would be unfair. Blaming the teachers would be assuming that if they were a little better, they could overcome a broken system. This assumption would be like saying Edward Norton could make Dark Harvest 2: The Maize a good movie had he been in it, or that Custer’s men could have turned the tide of that battle if they were better soldiers.
There are several factors that play into my consideration of the homeschooling route.
1) The current public school system isn’t funded well enough to help kids reach their maximum potential in any given area. While teachers are generally able to identify aptitude in a particular area, and in some cases give some minor opportunity to go beyond the curriculum, these opportunities are already limited — and in states like Walker’s Wisconsin will likely continue to decline. I want my kid to be able to devote more time during the day to develop these advanced skills. A lot of how I feel is articulated best by Sir Ken Robinson.
2) This ‘The Customer Is Always Right’ culture is pervasive and debilitating. I saw on Twitter (and I should have favorited it) someone say that we live in a society where the children know their rights but not their responsibilities. As taboo as it is to say, I don’t like the idea that a group of parents (who learned parenting in the ‘don’t hurt your kid’s ego’ days) that continue to make villains out of teachers and principals for not doing a better job of raising their children are influential in dictating the direction a school system goes. An inadvertent result of the School Choice system seems to be that parents deflect responsibility for their child to the school, and if the child continues to have social difficulty the parent just changes the school instead of dealing with the root problem. This has resulted in a generation of unnaturally entitled people. I’d rather not have my kid’s future dictated by parents that feed into this entitlement generation.
3) The Education System has spanned into an industry rather than a public service. Too much money is involved in the school system, which means that too many political lobbyists are influencing the direction of our national education policy. Lawrence Lessig spoke about this at a Wiscnet conference and his talk was very powerful.
4) The internet, when properly used, is the single most powerful resource every conceived. However, it seems to me that the common reddit user has better sense than people give them credit for. The information and the community ability to curate this information is pretty astounding, which means that I don’t have to worry about my kid’s access to information if I were to homeschool them. They’d have more than what they need.
5) There are nearly infinite extracurricular activities, clubs, and social organizations that give ample opportunity to socialize and make friends. A bonus is that if my kid is in the activity, they probably want to be there, and if they behave poorly, the consequence is that they no longer get to participate. There is no unconditional inclusion clause. My child gets to learn the hard lesson that the outside world doesn’t cater to them and love them unconditionally (and that they can always rely on their family for unconditional love) and can then learn social and cultural boundaries.
With the negatives of the current education system, combined with the ability to provide ample resources and opportunities in a homeschooling situation I feel that as long as my family can swing it financially, homeschooling is a viable (and possibly better) option to traditional schooling. Honestly, that I am even able to consider this makes me a little sad, because I know that even though my kid will have more room to grow at home, they would be missing out on the connections that they would otherwise make with some of the very excellent educators out there.
About the author: Justin Baumgartner is a Technology Coach for the Merton Community School District. You can follow him on Twitter: @MertonTech.