Home Education Magazine
March-April 2004 - Articles and Columns
The Road Less Traveled - Linda Dobson
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Choice is good. I mean, how often would we go to a restaurant if we always got stuck with the one dish it prepared that day? How many times would we return to the clothing store if it sold only blue polo shirts? What if the paint store just carried beige?
I'm beginning to wonder, however, if the Information/Technology Age hasn't taken choice into the land of absurd excess. Mind you, decision-making has never been my strong suit. I am fully capable of considering the relative merits of sending a package via the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, or FedEx for hours. But I've recently had cause to look into alternatives for telephone/Internet service as well as health insurance. I figure if I could do nothing but read the collecting literature for 16 hours each day I could make an informed decision in, oh, about two to three months. This alone seems like a good reason to make an uninformed decision, but then ever-nagging in the back of my mind are all those warnings that doing so will "cost you hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars." Heaven knows I work too hard for money to just give it away (with the notable exception, of course, of the sizeable chunk I send off to the U.S. government each April). So, much like a deer caught in the glare of a car's headlights, not knowing which way to turn, I don't move. Needing to understand so many options, fear of making the wrong decision delays any choice at all.
I couldn't help but think of the new world of supposed choice in education in general or, more specifically, the proliferation of labels and, by default, choices, within the homeschooling sphere today. I can imagine little ol' indecisive me spending six months studying the relative merits of unit studies versus Charlotte Mason, only to hear about unschooling, which would send me back to the starting gate. Toss in eclectic homeschooling, with the possibility of combining the perceived best of all approaches, and it's almost certain I would have needed to take a break from my research to attend my previously-a-Kindergartner's public high school graduation ceremony.
I'd say my kids and I are pretty fortunate that we homeschooled when we did. Sure, I still feel a tinge of guilt when I hear of all the wonderful group activities currently available to local homeschoolers that didn't exist when my kids were little because there was no group to speak of. (I was amazed when a homeschooling friend visited and shared word that the support group had three different activities to choose from on the upcoming Halloween day.) But increased quantity of social activities aside, back then the actual choice was mercifully simple. One chose homeschooling. Period. No adjectives defined or steered the course. There were no guidebooks or packaged tours to remove the guesswork, so every family did a lot of guessing. As you might imagine, this led to a good share of false starts, wrong turns, and missed busses, commonly known as mistakes. But those with a positive bent called them learning opportunities and kept on easing down the road, just a tad wiser each time. By doing things wrong in their family's homeschooling, those who were "just plain homeschooling" also discovered what was uniquely right for their children.
All of those learning opportunities never get to rear their ugly -- but very enlightening -- heads when one begins walking down a homeschooling path that is well-paved, bearing sign posts, and, yes, sometimes sporting billboards. Even that which may be terribly wrong for a particular child isn't quite so readily obvious because, after all, the sign posts indicate he's exactly where he should be.
Multiple choice in homeschooling may just turn out to be too much of a good thing -- too much information to consider prior to the first stroll down the path. Or worse, so much to consider that one delays that stroll, in the meantime missing out on the valuable lessons only experience -- and mistakes -- can provide.
Don't get overly involved in the plethora of homeschooling choices available today. If you decide to choose homeschooling, that's good enough. Then just do it, whatever "it" may be to you. And, surprise! You'll find the most important guide to informed choice already lives with you. It's your child who has all the information you need, and you'll discover that's "just enough" of a good thing.
© 2004 Linda Dobson
March-April 2004 - Articles and Columns
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