summer4jul's Blog

"Loving people through education, religion, and politics."

School in Greek Means Learning in One’s Leisure Time

bg noah readingThe only emotion I have about homeschooling Noah is relief. No regret at all, just relief. I’m sure his teachers and therapists meant well at school, but I can’t, just can’t, with a clear conscience let them raise him anymore. I’m actually a big public school buff; I have a teaching degree and am an education activist. Also, I talked my second born son into a degree in early childhood education because I knew he’d be great at it- (he’s currently selling cars). Maybe I just know too much now, but I can’t push my special needs child to do the Common Core standards, to show he’s making a year’s worth of progress for a child of his chronological age, and have him prepare for standardized tests. I can’t approach his education from a deficit model anymore. Not to sound cliché, but he’s so much more than a test score.

Noah is technically in the third grade, but we are doing second grade work for now. I want to make sure he knows the basics. I want to teach him in concrete ways that he understands. He’s non-verbal and is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. We have slowed way down. We go on field trips every week, go to the library, do some reading and writing, and do a math program on the computer. Today we are going to do a science experiment with milk, food coloring and dish soap that we saw on Facebook. Is it in the third (or second) grade standards? Nope! But it looks fun so we’re doing it. My daughter, 11 year old Leah (who I’m also homeschooling and who is currently building a Lego village worthy of an expert architect/engineer), will totally get the “why” of the experiment. So, it’s a win-win if you ask me.

I wish I was brave enough to just use the “unschooling” method. My dream would be to travel and learn new things everyday. We could become expert crabbers in Maryland, learn about the Indians in Oklahoma, or read Hemingway in the Florida Keys. Of course it would be child/interest led. My friend Mandy says unschoolers are weird and as it is, we only have one income, and that income doesn’t allow the time (or money) for expansive travel. So for now, I have all of the Common Core curriculum printed out and high-lighted, (just following state law), so that we can touch on the main ideas-but we are going to do so much more (or less, depending on how you look at it). My kids will love learning, reading, googling, building, writing, inventing, helping others, and enjoy just being kids. It’s hard to break the every subject every day taught by a teacher mentality (especially when everyone asks what we did today). They sleep in, which is better for them according to experts, and can even use the restroom whenever they want. Don’t worry, they get “socialization” at church, at the local art gallery where they get to do an art project once a week, and at their Friday night bowling league. Oh, and we’re going to join the YMCA too for exercise (and winter swimming!).

bg stepping stonesLife is slower now, more peaceful. I don’t have that nagging feeling I had last year when I felt that they weren’t getting a good education. Noah was being rushed, Leah was bored with test prep (have I mentioned that education nowadays is all about the almighty standardized tests that rank and sort students, teachers, and schools?) I can raise Noah my way. I tried, I really did, getting him therapists, having him deal with strict teachers, sitting through painful IEP meetings, having him miss recess time to finish his work, and the worst…missing an Accelerated Reading party because he didn’t have enough points to go. (Oh, and he was the ONLY ONE!) That day resulted in tears from Noah and me not understanding how the only special needs child in the class was excluded at the last minute from a school-wide party that he was really excited about. (Turns out it was a misunderstanding; his intervention specialist was out of town and would have let him go if she knew he was the only one left out.) But, the damage was done, and although Noah is over it, I am left with a irreparable broken heart.

Will Noah be college and career ready without the everyday grit and rigor that is Common Core? Will he decide in a few years that he wants to go to school? Will our activism fix the current state of education and make it equal to the politicians’ kids’ private schools? You know, schools with small class sizes, filled with electives and the arts, with recess, and independent student-led studies that find and build on a student’s strengths? I don’t know what the future holds, but I know my kids are enjoying being kids, are safe, and love learning about this big crazy world…even if Cleveland is as far as we can go for now.

bg noah watering grill


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