26 February 2014

Homeschooling

I've been thinking about homeschooling Four and Five. I'm intrigued by the idea of challenging what we know as "education," and I'd like to find a way to make my boys enjoy learning again, because they hate school.

THEY HATE SCHOOL.

They don't just moan about going, or grumble about the work load. They feel bullied, unappreciated, and overwhelmed. Less than a year ago, Five's anxiety about school was such that he wanted to die rather than go there. He threatened to throw himself out of my moving car. I had to hide the knives in the house because he begged to stab himself.

To be fair, there are other factors that may have contributed to his anxiety. My mother had recently died after living with us for over a year, and genetics had gifted him with a nervous disposition. But when your nine year-old would prefer to commit suicide rather than attend elementary school, I don't think the system can be held entirely blameless.

After medication and therapy, Five is better. He is no longer suicidal or highly irrational. But he still only attends school about 70 % of the time. Each day is a negotiation to get him to the school, and a separate discussion about staying for the entire day. Four leaves more willingly, but gives greater resistance about homework. I must supervise, encourage, and, in some instances, instruct in order to get it done every night. It's a long day for all of us.

Now, before you think "well, maybe if you took away their electronics/games/cards/free time they might be more inclined to do what you want," let me assure you that we have tried both negative and positive reinforcement. I am good cop and bad cop every morning, first offering encouragement/pep talks, followed by reminding them that staying home will be VERY BORING, to downright frustration and anger.

I don't want to be frustrated and angry with my children. I love them. I want them to educated in a place where they feel special and appreciated for what they have to offer.  I want them to be excited about learning, about exploring what interests them. No offense to Bill Gates, but I don't think everyone needs to learn more math and science. I think it denigrates the importance of the arts to suggest our society will only survive if we spend more time in structured learning, force-feeding the same subjects to all.

I am a product of a public education, taught in schools that I did not hate. But I'm not sure the system works for everyone. And yes, differential education exists to teach to the children with different learning styles. But it exists within the same structure that's been around for over a hundred years. Sometimes the system needs to be overhauled or abandoned. I mean, I'm pretty sure everyone thought child labor was a great idea at the time, or segregation, or denying women the right to vote. It takes bold thinking to change the world, one person at a time.

I want to be bold. I think my children's lives may depend on it.