Then sometimes I am around some homeschoolers (in person, over the Internet or through books and magazines) and suddenly feel inferior and that my standards are sub-par, or that I'm somehow failing my children, or that I'm doing alright but am somehow not doing something correctly (in their eyes) so am not fully optimizing my children's skills, talent and that I'm inhibiting their attainment of their fullest potential.
But then more validation comes my way from hearing things said by parents of schooled kids I know. I hear of low standards in schools, time spent doing this and that and see little result (of the hours in school and homework that seem to produce so little).
Or I hear of how a child formerly thought to be quite intelligent and unchallenged by public school just received very low grades on the CMT (Connecticut's standardized test). The parent's original perception of their child's brilliance is knocked down to a different perception of reality quite suddenly. (Or it could be the pitfalls of standardized testing and maybe the child is brighter than their score?)
Then I hear stories of smart kids, of visual spatial learners who are not the perfect fit for classroom learning yet are continued to be crammed into that mold and don't fit. I hear stories of kids that the world needs, with unique outlooks and creative thinking abilities that are not utilized much in the classroom and somehow along the way the child is thought to be average or closer to 'failing'. What a shame that a defeated student who develops low self-esteem and a wrong perception of themselves may wind up being an unmotivated and disinterested schooled kids who even in adulthood, may be enslaved by the narrow definition that someone put onto them. That's so sad to see happen to a formerly curious and bright child.
I hear stories of kids with learning disabilities whose parents struggle to help them learn and navigate through the school system and how much time, energy and stress goes into that and for what effect?
I also speak to other parents who share about their lifestyle and see that what I'm doing is this over here and what they do is that thing over there and the two are worlds apart. And their children are suffering for it. Like the kids who hate to read whose parents didn't read aloud to them, and whose parents don't themselves read. Is it any wonder that the child feels books are unnecessary? Or the kids who have been shoved in front of the TV since babyhood and wanted to be kept entertained by technology or placed in so many adult supervised organized events---do we wonder why they don't lay in the grass looking for shapes in the clouds? Or why they don't know how to entertain themselves or even how to play? Or how some get into a panic if they are not told what to do every second of the day, unable to organize themselves or to be at peace with an open schedule and peace and quiet?
(I would love to tell detailed stories to back this all up but it would get me into trouble with friends, relatives and acquaintances in the community. You will have to trust me that I have examples of all of these things.)
Then I hear statistics about American adults that are pathetic. Like statistics quoted by David Baldacci at the 2009 National Book Festival's opening remarks on September 26th (televised by CSPAN's BookTV), paraphrased:
Of American college graduates, 70% will never read a book again after their graduation and 80% will never read a newspaper.
The book and newspaper reading of non-college graduates is even less.
And 50% of American adults read at the two lowest levels of literacy.
And that 3/4 of adults that can read choose not to read.
So with all that in mind I think I'm doing pretty darned well with my kids. So far they have always been homeschooled. Raised with attachment parenting that allows for close bonds with parents and raised primarily by their birth mother, they have been raised by the two people who love them most in this world. Even if my kids do someday wind up in school I know they have a good foundational education as well as excellent role models in parents who are themselves autodidacts, readers of books, newspapers, magazines and journals. Their parents are independent thinkers who read information from numerous sources with conflicting opinions and come to their own conclusions. Their parents talk to others, who want such discussion, about our views and the reasons behind it, rather than parroting back sound bites provided by various propaganda machines, talking heads or pundits.
I think my kids will turn out pretty darned well. I know I've put a lot of thought and effort into my kids. That can only take them so far. They are right at an age when realizing that they must take personal responsibility for their education is becoming clearer. I can lead them to water but I can't make them drink. I can set up a good environment and give them healthy parameters, good limits, and encouragement. I can't take over their learning and do it for them, though. They also have to work to learn what they need to know and to learn to push through adversity when learning doesn't come quickly or simply.
I'll leave you with this quote from David Baldacci at the conference noted above. If you like this please find a way to hear his whole speech.
"America, a land of liberty founded on ideals that were carefully thought out by immensely well read people, could well be lost. Knowledge is what makes us civilized, tolerant and caring. Our ability to read and think, forming our own opinions and not simply chanting back what we're told to believe is really the only thing that separates us from those societies that don't care about concepts like rights and personal liberties, where very few control the thoughts of millions. Where people who cannot achieve what they want through reasoned argument do so with their fists. These are the very same forces which we are in battle with today."
He goes on to discuss literacy and how it is directly tied to ignorance and how of our own choice, people choose to be ignorant and illiterate, which is a shame.