Caring for Children In Our Nation’s Schools Is About A Lot More Than Just Proper Socialization And Test Scores

Recently I was at a small holiday party when a longtime friend of mine, a teacher at a public high school, made a statement that turned every head in the room.

Towards me.

My friend said, “I really feel no child should be homeschooled in high school. All kids should go to high school because all kids need to get used to being around different kinds of people.”

Since everyone in the room knew I homeschool my children through their high school years, they all looked at me to see what my response would be. I guess they thought there might be an argument.

There wasn’t.

I simply said we would agree to disagree. And the holiday festivities continued.

But, of course, I have not forgotten the remark. It rankled. And not just because it seemed to be an attack on the choices I’ve made. The remark illustrated much of what is wrong with traditional schools. That is:

Schools and teachers are often driven by sweeping gestures and grand statements that have no relevance to the needs of individual children and families. They place academic, cultural, and behavioral ultimatums on every student, no matter how unnecessary or inappropriate for any specific child at any given time.

Indeed, the situation that precipitated my friend’s negative remark about high school homeschooling was just the sort of thing that should never be addressed strictly by one single idea, rule or school policy.  You see, my school teacher friend had a student in her high school class whose mother was thinking about homeschooling her. The 16-year-old student, a quiet and diligent student who had never caused the school one moment of trouble, had recently been expelled for bringing a knife to school. Because she was suicidal. Because she was being bullied. Rather than have the child face placement in an alternative school with an ugly reputation, the mom was considering the homeschooling option.

THIS was the scenario that caused my friend, a public high school teacher for 25+ years, to slam homeschooling for all high school students under all circumstances. Even when a child is being bullied. Even when a child is suicidal. Even when a child is facing the probability of placement in an alternative school filled with chronic rule-breakers and troublemakers.

In that moment, the schism between private parent and professional teacher never seemed wider to me. Parents could care less about the school’s idea of “proper socialization” when their children are sad and suffering at school. Parents prioritize concerns and they put their children’s safety and well-being at the top of the list. They are sad when their children are sad and alarmed when they are bullied and threatening suicide.

Is it really too much to ask that school teachers—the people who care for our children the majority of their days—spare us the platitudes and set aside their politically-correct agendas when a child’s health and welfare are at stake? If they can’t, the crisis in America’s schools is a lot worse than just a bunch of bored and unmotivated kids and a string of declining test scores.

Until next time…Be fearless.

 

Holiday Homeschool Wrap-Up

The holidays are over and it’s time for our family to buckle down and jump back into our daily routines once again. But not before sharing a few homeschooling moments that occurred over the holidays.

Feasting on Thanksgiving

As has been the tradition throughout my lifetime, my 85-year-old aunt cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the extended family. Each family who attends is supposed to bring a dish to share, but our family is small so we aren’t nearly enough help.

Because I think it’s important for the Thanksgiving dinner to be “bountiful,” I volunteered to bring four side dishes. I cooked two dishes and then asked my two youngest daughters to pick their favorite Thanksgiving side dishes to prepare. I told them it was a homeschooling assignment. Izzy picked mashed potatoes and Roxanna picked green bean casserole. Since Kelsey (my oldest, married daughter) was already bringing sweet potato casserole, we were able to enjoy six different side dishes (my aunt prepared the traditional family favorite—oyster casserole) and complete a practical homeschooling cooking project at the same time.

Making Sense Out of December Events in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY

The recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York have provoked a lot of discussion in our house, which has led us to watch CNN Student News on a regular basis. If you aren’t familiar with it, CNN produces a pretty good 10-minute daily news program for students. If you subscribe (free), CNN will drop the news program into your email inbox each weekday. The program is informative and the viewpoint balanced, although most news stories go into very little depth. We often pause the program to discuss details, give opinions, or offer more context for the stories.

From Plantations to Honky Tonks…Exploring Southern Culture and Music

This past week we took a two-night trip to Nashville, Tennessee. It was billed as “a homeschooling trip,” although our oldest son, Zac, also joined us. We love taking these mini-trips and I am more partial to what I call “culture trips” than visits to educational sites. Culture trips are practical and informative. They help children understand and feel more comfortable interacting with new and different people and places. And they give them points of reference when discussing any number of topics with other people.

As you might expect, our trip to Nashville was to give exposure to the country music scene and also enjoy some Southern culture (from a place a little more deeply rooted in it than Kentucky). When we got to Nashville, we headed straight to Music City Row, where we listened to the country music wafting onto the streets from the many restaurants, bars and honkey tonks. We slipped in and out of the various shops full of Southern trinkets and country music paraphernalia. In Nashville, children can visit the bars until 6 p.m. so we stepped in a few to enjoy the country music bands.

As it happened, Nashville was especially busy during our visit because thousands of Notre Dame and LSU football fans were in town for the Music City Bowl. We viewed this as a plus because our kids got a first-hand view of the excitement and fun associated with bowl games involving schools with strong football traditions. It also meant some fun “extras” for us we weren’t expecting. Our favorites? An (almost) impromptu street concert by Trace Adkins (a country music star we had seen on Celebrity Apprentice and, more recently, in the film “Mom’s Night Out”) and a street “Battle of the Bands” between the Notre Dame and LSU marching bands. The two bands marched down Broadway from opposite sides and then took turns playing fan favorite tunes while their respective fan bases cheered them on. Fun!

After the Battle of the Bands, we headed to Hattie B’s restaurant for Nashville’s most famous dish—“Hot Chicken.” The spicy fried chicken dish, accompanied by pimento mac and cheese and Southern greens, was every bit as scrumptious as the locals said it would be.

During our second day in Nashville, we visited the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum, Antique Archeology, (the store featured on the television show American Pickers) and the Opryland Hotel, where millions of Christmas lights (both inside and out) made the hotel even more spectacular than usual. On our last day in Nashville, we visited Andrew Jackson’s home — The Hermitage. The actual house was incredibly beautiful and well-preserved and the grounds were stunning.

Next week we dive back into our homeschooling routine again. I’m looking forward to it!

Until next time…Be fearless.