Dr. Clemens and the Stirred Pot

Here’s a rambling, meandering post on our family’s home schooling experiences. Our choice to home school has at times been a contentious issue, so I’ve been reluctant to write about it. Actually, for the last few years many of our decisions have been contentious. So, what the hell! Let’s stir the pot.

On a typical school day at our house: the Little One whines, the Middle One mopes, and the Big One pulls out her hair.

Some days are easier than others. Some days it’s like pulling teeth. Some days I envy parents who put their kids on the school bus five days a week.

Other days, most actually, I’m grateful to be here sharing their childhood with them.

Most days, although the Little One whines, the Middle One mopes, and the Big One pulls out her hair, we make it through just fine.

And sometimes a minor miracle happens. It’s the moment of recognition, when they finally get it; whatever something they couldn’t quite grasp is suddenly grasped and for that phenomenal moment the whining stops, the face lights up in a smile, high fives are served up all around, and all five of us do a happy dance in the middle of the living room and end up in a big hug. That’s why we home school.

Others, though, predict doom for our children. It seems as if in some circles, home schooling is akin to child neglect. In fact, two years into it, we’re still downright shunned by some family members. Without a “proper” education, I presume, our children will lack the tools necessary to compete in the workplace.

So, with a “proper” education, their life would be better, right? They’ll never face unemployment, bankruptcy, or foreclosure? They’ll never have health issues? They’ll never have to work a job that sucks? Etc., etc., etc.

I say “bah.” Human experience isn’t limited to your world-view Naysayer, it’s as deep and wide as the universe itself and changing by the second.

The school bus rolls by at 6:50 am while my kids sleep soundly. It rolls by again at 4:00 pm while my kids jump on the trampoline or tromp new trails through the woods in our back yard. While doing their schoolwork, if they want a drink of water, they get one. If they need to pee, they pee. We don’t make them stand in line for either of these activities. When they need help, we help them. When they’re doing just fine on their own, we leave them alone.

It’s the first week of December and our kindergartener just completed our state’s requirements for kindergarteners. The Middle One and the Big One are half finished with their respective grade levels, which is about right, I guess, compared to their school-attending peers.

Ask parents of school-age children and they’ll tell you the public school their child attends is great. Or they’ll say it’s horrible. Or they’ll say something like, “eh, it’s ok.” Public opinion runs the gamut – are the schools meeting expectations or aren’t they? The answer depends on whom you ask.

Samuel Clemens left school at 11 years old. With his fifth grade education he became arguably the greatest American author of his (or any) era and was later awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Oxford, Yale, and the University of Missouri. Dr. Clemens turned out ok. I could find a thousand more stories if I wanted to, of people dead and alive – uneducated (meaning self-educated) people who achieved extraordinary things and contributed immeasurably to the betterment of society. But I don’t want to. I’d rather spend the time teaching my kids how to learn.

Which, incidentally I didn’t learn in school. I taught myself.

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  1. Or kids are in public school, but we do put in a lot of home time too. So much of basic, elementary concepts in education seems to have been replaced by the “latest” PhD theory that someone influential wants to prove, that you just HAVE TO fill in the unattended blanks at home, or your kids will be frustrated, disheartened about their own abilities, and subsequently start dreading the learning they do in school. Which, of course, would be disastrous. So I guess, essentially, we straddle the fence on this issue, and yes – those aha-moments you get when you are able to lift the fog, are nothing short of priceless! Good post!

    • Thank you for commenting! You’re absolutely right about the ubiquitous PhD theories. Where are the ones telling you to trust yourself and your parenting abilities? “Your kids will likely grow up normal, statistically speaking” – where’s that headline?

      I think we take the whole thing too seriously. Yes we’ve got to do our best, but beyond that, we’ve got to laugh too. What good is education if they don’t grow up learning how to enjoy life?

      If they grow up and get a PhD but suffer from depression is that our fault too? Where’s the balance?

      I think the balance lies somewhere in between. Yes knowledge is good. So is laughing. Maybe we need more PhD theories to teach us how to laugh. 🙂

  2. I like this post, Kenny. Homeschooling is not as common in Switzerland but I find it intersting to consider it. Thanks for sharing your experience!


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