Feeling kvetchy

I've been feeling vaguely irritable all day, and I find this mood hasn't left me when it is time to sit down and write a blog post. Consider yourself warned, because I probably won't be very popular with a certain segment of people.

Most of you know we have homeschooled for nearly 22 years now, if you include that homeschool pre-school co-op I did with M. ages and ages ago. During those 22 years, a lot has changed. Homeschooling has gone from just became legal in all 50 states to a much larger movement that is seen as a target market ripe for the picking by anyone who makes or sells anything vaguely educational. The other change over the past 22 years is the rise of the internet and all those small electronic devises with which we surround ourselves. It's a whole new homeschooling world, and I often feel like the crotchety grandmother.

While there are many things that I could find irksome in this new homeschooling world, the one that most irritates me is the use of computers for homeschooling. (I know, I've written about this before, but sheesh people, it just gets worse!) Over the past few days, the number of requests by new homeschoolers for others to share good internet-based curricula for their young children has been crazy. We're talking five year olds here, for whom parents think it is okay and "educational" to be plunked in front a screen and let the computer do the teaching.

This. Is. Not. Homeschooling.

Do I need to say it again? It might be some vague sort of education happening at home, but it is not homeschooling. Heck, the parent isn't even doing the education, the dang computer is. I can't help but think the child would be better off in a classroom where at least he or she is interacting with a live person and having actual discussions, using real materials, and utilizing multiple senses.

It's as if some of the new generation of homeschooling parents want the benefits without the work. Because you know what? Homeschooling takes work and it takes time. There are no short-cuts to education. Our school day might not look like a traditional school day, but that does not mean it is not heavy on the parental involvement. Committing to homeschooling means committing to spending a lot of time with your children.

I know that sometimes children and parents can clash over the teaching and learning process. I've experienced that... many times. I also know that many parents mistake this clash for the signal that they cannot teach their children. They are misinterpreting what this means. More often than not, any issues with homeschooling are family dynamic issues and not educational ones. The intensity of relationship that happens when you are spending such close amounts of time together acts as a catalyst for exposing parts of a relationship which need work. I've also discovered that more often than not, the part of the relationship that needs work is usually on my end and not my child's. The clashes often happen when my personal expectations are at odds with what my child needs. I have spent a lot of time over the past 22 years re-examining my personal educational expectations and asking myself why I find them so important. Like most of parenting, it is a humbling experience.

Fear can also play into the clash of expectations. It can be a scary thing to take your child's education into your own hands, and the fear of ruining your child isn't helped by the scare tactics used by curriculum publishers. In truth, the recipe for what creates a successful adult is as varied as the number of adults. We are all unique individuals, and what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. This diversity is often frightening, because it means that there is no one 'right' way, and humans like predictability and formula. It requires less thinking on our part. Yet just because one video curriculum touts itself as the key to future success, those are just words with no basis in reality. They don't know your child, much less what is best for your child. The don't know, no matter how often or how loudly they say they do.

What do children need to learn? Parents who love them and talk to them about many things. A chance to use all of their senses in exploring and investigating. Books, good books, challenging books, all sorts of books read to them and discussed with them. Children need free time to figure out things on their own. They need outdoor play where they can explore, run, jump, challenge themselves, or just sit and watch the ants on the sidewalk for an hour. Everyone needs opportunities to create things that are important to them. And social relationships with a wide variety of people and ages in various settings. This is what a child needs to learn.

This is precisely what computers cannot provide. Computers can teach facts and require certain facts to be spewed back. They offer no room for questions, creativity, conversations, shades of grey, flexible thinking, love, or humor. Education is more than facts. Life is more than just getting the right answer. Do not waste these precious years where you could be the one to open the door to this utterly fascinating and beautiful world to your children with the poor substitute of a screen.


Anonymous said…
OH! Please do NOT apologize about this! What you've written is EXACTLY what I've needed to hear/read. I'm "new" to homeschooling. My oldest will be seven next week. I've been seeing so many other home schooling families gush over computer programs for a certain subject and it has been so confusing to me. I find myself wondering if I'm misunderstanding one of the goals, or if I'm missing something? I'm not. Thank you! I needed this gentle push to "stay the course."

Also, please be the crotchety grandmother, the rest of us need you!!!

Joanne said…
thank you Elizabeth thank you and thank you again. just what I needed this afternoon.
Donna said…
Perfect and timely.
And don't get me started on workbooks for preschoolers! My homeschooling is far far from perfect and does come with different constraints. I struggle with the "doing enough" gremlin. I like things that fit neatly into boxes. Keep challenging me!

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