Homeschooling is one of those ideas that fascinates me. Perhaps it’s my interest in education, or my desire to spend more time with my kids, or that dream of flexibility (much like entrepreneurship has for us employed in 9-5 jobs) that makes this topic fascinating. I strongly believe children benefit most from an education program that is personalized to their strengths and interests. Teaching children by following their passions and interests allows for them to best develop their individuality, and that is very affirming for their self esteem and sense of self. It builds intrinsically-motivated citizens who will fight for their convictions and are willing to challenge the status quo.
In reality, I would not be ready to make the commitment of homeschooling (like giving up my career, for example). I’m not trying to post-rationalize, but there are advantages in classroom education as well: a consistent group environment presents opportunities to teach about the ups and downs of relationships, from interdependence to dealing with conflict; a diverse group of peers to open minds about differing world views (and how to respect and negotiate them); not to mention potentially difficult teachers (or other authority figures) with whom you might disagree with. The mere exposure to differing viewpoints and backgrounds, especially in the public school system, is a great foundation for critical thinking.
Yes, a classroom has limitations, like a standardized metric of evaluation and its tendency to require conformity. There is certainly a danger of schools killing creativity if the definitions of “normal” are too rigid, but contributing member of society require some amount of conformity, or at the very least, the discipline to at times to jump through hoops as a way to achieve a greater life goal.
The best of both worlds
Is there a way of integrating your personal values, general knowledge, and life skills, without homeschooling? I would argue, yes. I’ve always believed that parents, not teachers, have the main responsibility of a well-rounded education of their kids. Grades may not effectively reflect a whole person, but instead of removing them from my children’s education, I would opt to teach them the limitations of that system and what instead to value. Test-taking may not be the best way to encourage learning, but it is still a skill that is useful for getting screened into a position where other more relevant skills and attributes can then shine. By pure limitations in resources, a public education will not provide as many personalized opportunities. Being an involved parent in touch with what is going on at school and supplementing with extra-curricular activities help fill in those gaps.
When I think about how soon my daughter will start kindergarten, I hope that I will be able to teach her to dance to her own beat, to value the important things, while still partaking in a still flawed but continuously evolving education system.