Recently, I read a wordpress blog where a soon-to-be-retiring teacher was letting off some frustrations. One comment she made was that she never heard of a home schooled child failing. This was not meant in a positive manner, as she was speaking to a fictional parent of a failing public school child. I didn’t want to start a war with the author or try to hi-jack her post, but I would like to air the home school side of that statement.
For those who aren’t familiar with me, I am from a family of teachers on both of my parent’s sides, including my father. I got a degree in earth science, graduating from the school’s education department. I taught before having children. I have two children in public school and one who is home schooled.
Before we withdrew our middle child from public school, there were a slew of problems. She has sensory processing disorder which wasn’t diagnosed until near the end of fourth grade. At the point of diagnosis, she had already been in private counseling for nearly a year as we knew something was going on with her, but thought it leaned toward temper issues. Private occupational therapy began right after diagnosis – we had wonderful insurance coverage and an established confidence in/relationship with a local therapy center for children due to my son’s speech issues.
The school didn’t like that DD2’s treatments were private and not through the school, which caused conflict. The school didn’t listen to my husband and I. We were asked the same questions every time we were called to the school (mostly me). One day the principal called my husband instead of me – DH called me as he needed to cancel a meeting and arrange a few things before getting to the school. I got to the school to find the principal leaving (this is about 5 minutes after I hung up with DH). DD2 was not being sent home, the principal had not planned on speaking to DH, yet DH was called to the school to evidently make the point that calling me was ineffective.
I’m drifting from the “failing” point. During her fifth grade year, DD2 often turned in assignments with blanks or question marks. They simply got marked as zeros and life moved on (failing). I get it. Public school can’t address each individual need. Again, I grew up with public school teachers all around me and I taught in public school before having children.
Let’s see what happens on the home school side.
DD2 was withdrawn from public school just before the end of first semester. We hadn’t thrown out any of her school papers yet, so I went through them and re-wrote every question which had been left blank or answered with a question mark. This happened mainly in daily math and English warm-ups. When DD2 did the re-written assignments (she was not told they were re-written), she did fine. Often she got 100%. The difference was the environment. The difference was that her teacher, me, was able to address her individual challenges. It turns out that she felt too intimidated to ask questions in p.s. and would shut down instead. She also couldn’t bring herself to skip a question when frustrated, which would lead to the end of time and a fail.
Home school parents, of those whom I’m aware, don’t accept incomplete assignments. The child is held responsible for the work. It’s a lot more realistic to be held to it when you are the only student, or one of a handful instead of being a face in the crowd whom the teacher simply doesn’t have time to single out. It’s hard to fail when your worst effort is not accepted.
Fast forward to today: DD2 is now a sophomore and is still home schooled. She would probably be doing poorly in public school, although she loves learning and is smart as a whip. This is not just my motherly view. Non-relatives have observed her brains at work.
Why is public school not the fit for DD2? Because it’s way too loud, for one thing. She can’t handle all of the excess noise and schools today seem to allow much more than in days of my youth (personal observation of several different schools, not just relayed through DD2). For a sensory child, p.s. is a nightmare of sensory overload. The next time you’re in a school, look at the walls. They are covered with brightly colored posters/assignments/rules/etc. There isn’t a blank wall in our middle or high school, nor was there in the elementary.
P.s. was social torment for DD2. Anyone who’s ever been to p.s. remembers how merciless kids are toward anyone different. I don’t care how many thousands of ‘no tolerance’ policies exist, kids will always pick on the different and they are smart enough to not get caught in the act.
Especially once children begin switching classes every 50 minutes, a p.s. teacher won’t necessarily have the exposure to the child to see the big picture challenges. My daughter hates open-ended questions and will start to stammer when asked for her opinion of what she just read. This would be a fail-and-move-on in p.s. because they don’t have time to get to the root of the problem. Here, I see her work across the subjects and can identify and target those problems.
In p.s, kids obey the bell. In home school, kids have more flexibility. I’ve worked very diligently to get my daughter to be able to set a subject aside when it’s frustrating her. That’s still difficult for her because she wants to conquer the subject, and walking away for a time feels like defeat. She’s still learning (accepting) that this strategy is effective. On the flip side, she might really be in the zone on a particular subject and not be ready to put it down at the end of 50 minutes. That’s okay here too.
DD2 has difficulty asking for help. P.S. teachers don’t have time to ferret out the kids who have issues like this. Fail and move on. Home school can be tailored to get through the problem. From the start, I’ve made DD2’s work largely independent. She knows where I am and has to seek me out with questions. That doesn’t mean that I don’t observe/listen to/ keep track and jump in when needed, it just means that I’m putting her in a situation where she needs to work on her problem.
I am not trying to paint a picture where public school is evil and home school is the shining example of all that is good in the world. I am tired of home school being belittled and sneered at. There are good and bad teachers in p.s. I’ve personally had and seen both. There are good and bad home school parents. Again, I’ve seen both.
I know that there is a general attitude in the p.s. world toward home school. I’ve heard the comments from teacher’s lips before I was married or even considered that I would one day home school. I saw my p.s. father’s attitude change as he saw my daughter grow after beginning home school.
Tolerance is a buzz word these days, especially in public school. How about a little open-minded thinking toward alternative ways to educate? After all – isn’t it really supposed to be about the children?