Enter: School

It seems that the time has come for taking a new direction. Half-heartedly, we are sending M. to school, this fall. It is a bit hard to divorce this decision from feelings of lost opportunities, roads closing in, possibilities shrinking. That being said, I’ve been tired of listening to the reductionist views espoused by both camps: homeschooling as always the best choice and school as the only “safe” course of action.
If M. had not asked (out of curiosity, and of desire to spend more time with his neighborhood friends), I would not have considered school an attractive option. My heart is still very much with homeschooling, and with the enormous amount of possibilities and freedom that it affords. Being “at home” (which in reality meant not spending very much time at home at all, since our HS philosophy was very, very unstructured) with the 3 kids during these young years of their lives, has been a privilege. Even at the expenses of a career, and even with the lack of personal space that it brought about. It has actually lifted me from being in a place I did not like (geographically, mentally) into a different space. A space where strictures are minimal and possibilities abound.
But there are limits. And those limits became apparent after two years of attempt to navigate the reality of the HS community we chose to join. We want a local, secular community but could only find a one that is geographically fragmented. That means that a certain amount of isolation becomes part of one’s life. Hence, M. request to try the local public school where he sees everyone else in his neighborhood go. It is unfortunate that the local school is plagued by some of the usual problems that affect education in our cultural moment (routinized standard curriculum, poor fundings, increasing concern with assessment methodologies and simultaneously,lack of investment in innovative educational practices-just to name a few) and that because of these and other strictures, it may not deliver. However, it was also a bit disheartening to discover that HS per se is not the solution (even though there is much to be gained simply by not forcing a child to learn according to someone else’s timeline), unless there is a solid community to anchor the experience.
And for us, right here, right now, there isn’t one.

Evaluation

We took the plunge yesterday and met M’s “evaluator”.
We had decided long ago to submit an evaluation of M.’s ‘progress” instead of the result of a standardized test to the local school district. Jim and I had many conversations about this, initially wanting to write our own evaluation, then deciding to have a third party conduct the evaluation for us. A couple of people came to mind, and we went with the one who responded more promptly . She was pleasure to work with and the evaluation resulted in a relaxed conversation between J. and M. M. had brought a folder with some of his work (mostly drawings, some calculations of money saved/money needed to buy prized Lego-sets and other miscellaneous items). He later commented over dinner how he had fun talking to “that lady” about his interests. What a joyful interaction!

I can’t help but thinking of this as an example of the creativity/freedom that homeschooling allows, if one tries to experiment with alternatives. Submitting an evaluation to your local school district is not an exciting option per se, because it forcibly introduces an element of rigidity in an otherwise fairly “free-range” (for luck of a better term) approach. But interacting with an interested adult, telling her about your own interests and then going on to play in the nearby playground is, in my mind, a million times better then waisting energy on a standardized test.

Eggs

For the third time this year M. brought home eggs. Fresh, farmers market’s eggs that he himself fetched, paid for and safely delivered. Unlike the previous two times, he went to the market in the middle of the week, when there are not very many vendors and few customers crowding the streets leading up to the market. He was escorted home by the local police, on account of a “concerned” citizen’s phone call.
He was very proud of his accomplished mission and especially happy of having had the opportunity to ride “where they keep the crooks”. The police seemed satisfied with his answers to their questions about intentions and his whereabouts.
Not conforming can be exhilarating or slightly depressing. I guess it all depends on one’s tendencies.