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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Separation Anxiety

My current crochet-attention is divided between an infant mermaid costume I'm designing for Claire (Inspired by this pin but I'm making it up as I go rather than following a pattern) and a basket I'm constructing to hold the ridiculous amount of chargers and cords that I have around the house. The mermaid tail I haven't quite figured out yet, but when I do I'll post it. The basket, I've made a lot of them and I might post the pattern to that someday. It's very simplistic, though, and I have faith that most of you could figure it out.

Anyway, while that has been occupying my hands, my brain has been elsewhere. Since we moved here, I have been in search of playmates for Coryn, and it has been a lot harder than I thought it would be. In Iwakuni there weren't a lot of day care options and there were more stay-at-home moms than working moms (probably because there weren't a lot of day care options). Here I just don't run into a lot of kids. I'm assuming this is because moms are working and kids are wherever kids go when moms are working. Coryn's only four, so I'm not looking for school-aged friends for her so I figured if I found some stay-at-home moms I'd find stay-at-home kids. Apparently, I was mistaken.

I finally found a group of SAHMs (look at me, I'm using acronyms!) who were meeting for regular play dates and took Coryn to one, but was again disappointed by the lack of other four-year-olds. Luckily, Coryn is pretty open minded and plays well with three-year-olds, but I know since she is tall for her age other kids find her a little intimidating and assuming she is a lot rather than a little older than them.  So she played with the three-year-olds and I talked up the mommies. . .and I was blown away with how many of them are already talking about school for their three-year-olds. One was worried because her daughter would turn five a week after the school cut off and "six was so old to start kindergarten." Others talked about preschools they send their three-year-olds to a few times a week.

Now, in full disclosure, I don't trust schools. I was home schooled. I liked it, and everything I've ever heard about public school or private school or any sort of organized, formal education to me sounds . . .stifling. . .unnatural. . . inefficient. I can't imagine being trapped in a school for five days a week for almost all the good day light hours, 8 to 3? I think that's how it works, though I admittedly have limited experience. Then there is homework. I read about kids doing hours of home work every night. With all that in their way, how do they have time to read (books for fun, not for school), write poetry or bad fan fiction, create art (outside of art class, just for the sake of creating), start a beading hobby they can take to craft fairs and make extra money with. . .all the things I did when I was a kid.

To me childhood should be a productive time full of unscheduled sections where the child is responsible for entertaining himself. Homeschooling can be very efficient (this depends a lot on the parent's style of teaching, of course), but when I was young, if I was still doing school at 1pm it was considered a bad day, and this is in high school. And yeah, I scored in the high 90's on state tests (which we were required to take every year up until I was in middle school and then state law changed and it became every three years); I got into community college at 17 and aced every class. . .except I was so bored with it.

That's the one problem I have with homeschooling. It makes formal education seem so boring and pointless than it is really hard to muscle through unless you have a firm goal (which at that point in my life I didn't, so I dropped out of college after one year), it is easy to write it off as useless. I have other friends who just responded by taking extremely heavy class loads and powering through in record time or who just grit their teeth and did it, but for me, I couldn't see any benefit to pretending I wanted to be there any longer and I started working, first at a restaurant and then at a bank. . . and then marriage and babies and that's where I am now, and honestly, this is where I wanted to be all along.

Matt worries about homeschooling, even though he himself was homeschooled. He doesn't want Coryn and Claire to think their only options is to be housewives. He says he's fine if that is their choice, but he sees that myself and my sister both ended up in that role, and I think he thinks that's all it will prepare them to be. I can point out three or four girls I grew up with who became something else and are doing well at it (engineer, banker, nurse), but Matt is impossible to argue with so we generally just butt heads until I get annoyed with him and give up.

To me, though, with young kids, it is especially pointless to try and push them into a school-shaped-mold. Coryn knows her letters and letter sounds, can write her name, read a few basic words, do some easy addition. . .I don't think there is anything a teacher would teach her at this point that she doesn't already have a grasp on or that I can't teach her in the next year or so.

But I also find a lot of mothers who seem to feel guilty about keeping their kids at home. They seem to think they are holding their kids back, that kids need to learn how to be in a school as early as four, that they are missing socializing skills by not being with other kids their age constantly, that preschool is necessary for their education.

It drives me nuts.

Education, especially early education, should be organic. It should be reading good books, asking questions and getting answers about things you are interested. Yes, test taking is an essential skill, and it is a skill that can be taught, but it is not a practical skill for adulthood. Tests are just one way of looking at data retention.

To me tests help kids exercise rote memory and puzzle solving (trick questions), but there is a lot more that needs to be taught.

I'm a reading learner. Talk at me, I tune you out fairly quickly. Give me a book and I can generally recite passages word for word at the end of it. I can memorize facts. I still know all my capital cities and most of the periodic table of the elements. I once backed a co-worker into a corner with a lecture on the causes and results of the Civil War and it takes a lot of will power for me to not be the person going around correcting grammar and spelling on Facebook. Academically, I learned pretty much everything I need to know. I also learned how to think out of a box, creatively put together words and express myself better than I'd say 75% of my peers, solve puzzles (I would be so happy if life were a Myst game), entertain myself, and consider data with skepticism rather than being spoon fed whatever an "authority figure" tells me.

Other kids are not me. Other kids will learn in a completely different way. I personally didn't really absorb any of my high school math. I memorized it, used it to pass the tests, and forgot about it. For me that was good enough. I never took the time to understand it. I know other people who have had difficulty with reading and writing and can't string words together to form a sentence to save their lives but who seem to translate high level math as if it were their first language. I don't think formal education leaves room for these differences in people. It is so worried about letter grades and credits that it doesn't really leave room for true learning.

I am not ready to throw Coryn out into a world full of desks and teachers attempting to supervise dozens of children at the same time. Even Matt agrees with me that five is just too young for school. I get worried at the thought of forgetting to teach her something, and I worry about finding her friends here when everyone else seems to be shipping their kids off earlier and earlier, but I'm not willing to bend my standards for my daughter's care just because everyone else thinks that the school way is the only way. I want the best for her. Not the expected. 

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