My 10 year old son was reading a joke book the other day. Many of the jokes had to do with school. You know, the standard types of jokes that have to do with cafeteria food and wise alec answers to teachers' questions. The ones that make us nod our heads and remember those days of standing in line. The ones with which we share a common experience with just about every other kid who goes to school.
As Jason was making the observation that "school lunches must really be bad, Mom" I realized that there are things on which he is missing out. And I don't mean just bad lunches in the cafeteria. He is missing out on that shared school experience.
I had a very good school experience. I enjoyed school and was good at it. I had some wonderful teachers (my Latin and AP English teachers come to mind). They helped me learn to think and introduced me to many new ideas.
I also was in the band and spent many after school hours hanging around the band room with friends, going on bus trips, learning how to work with other kids to achieve a goal. I recently attended my high school band reunion and had so much fun reliving fun moments, memories of teachers and generally our glory days of school. It was a lot of fun and brought back a lot of warm memories.
One of the things that I had to come to terms with before we started homeschooling was the fact that my children would indeed miss out on things by not going to school. And so would I. I would never be a band parent and would never see my child in a school play.
As I thought about this though, I realized that was OK. Because while my kids will not have the same types of "school memories" that I did, they will have their own memories which will be just as fond to them as mine are to me.
I think that many homeschoolers can be quick to say that our kids are not missing out on anything by not being in school (hence the joke about beating a homeschooled kid up in the bathroom at home to recreate the "school experience"). But I don't think that is really fair.
Our kids are missing out on things by not being in school. Good teachers, interesting projects, unique, positive experiences that can only happen in a school environment. While some schools do have their downsides, they also have their upsides. I have heard of some teachers and school-based programs that make me a little jealous and cause me to have brief doubts about what I am doing with my kids.
But what I keep coming back around to is that kids in school are missing out on just as many great things by not being homeschooled. My kids have the opportunity to experience many things that kids in school never will.
And interestingly enough, I am finding that there are opportunities outside of school for my kids to experience many traditional school types of things if they want. Our local homeschool group put on a play recently (my boys choose not to participate but enjoyed watching it) and even the marching band experience is possible, if they want, through the Drum Corps International program.
In my mind it is not so much a "school=bad" "homeschool=good" dichotomy. But rather a choice each parent needs to make for their kids knowing that each option has pros and cons and neither is "wrong". They are just different and what might be right for me may not be right for someone else.
So, yes, my kids are missing out on things by not being in school. But that is the nature of life...by choosing to do one thing, you are choosing not to do something else. Going down a certain path means that other paths are left unexplored.
Obviously (since I have chosen this path for my kids) I feel that what they are missing is more then made up for by what they are gaining.
And that makes homeschooling "right" for me.
Stephanie is constantly trying to find that elusive state of balance in her life while enjoying her two energetic yet vastly different boys. You can read about their ongoing exploits on her blog, Throwing Marshmallows.