The front-page of the website for the magazine Brain, Child features an article on short-term homeschooling. (hat tip to Henry Cate at Why Homeschool) The article is easy on the eyes, perhaps because the magazine focuses on a literary approach. I like the observations made by someone who is outside mainstream homeschooling, but who has experienced the change from school to homeschool.
Brain, Child, Lexington, Virginia, One Good Year — A Look at Short-Term Homeschooling
But as the year went by and the complaints increased, I sympathized more and more with Julia’s plight, partly because of my own memories of public school drudgery, and partly because, as a professor of English, I understand the need for sabbaticals. If adults benefit from intellectual rejuvenation, then why not children? Why shouldn’t a child have time off to pursue her own research and writing?
A sabbatical year of homeschooling for school-age children may be an important development in the mainstream approach to children’s educations.
Still, I notice a theme that homeschoolers and their communities have not embraced part-timers. This harks back to a similar lament from public-school-at-home parents. I wonder if this is because the purposes of the various at-home-education methods are different, which means that the support bases must also differ in what they provide. The part-timers may also have problems similar to what I saw in military communities: transience. This results in a lack of ‘institutional memory’ so that there are no old-timers to guide the way. The transience also means that the rough ride of the first homeschooling year remains the snapshot of homeschooling. The family misses the mellower later years, especially if the parents intend to return the children to school and feel pressured to ‘keep up.’
I mean no put-down whatsoever for the efforts, but expecting all the benefits of homeschooling from a sabbatical imbued with keeping-up-with-the-educational-Joneses is like expecting to excel at gourmet cooking at a get-away-from-it-all cabin in the woods because you’re close to the mushrooms.
And of course, no two writers see a subject in the same way, so I find other points of disagreement, such as a reliance on the Department of Education’s recognition of part-time homeschoolers. The Department of Education defines part-timers as families in which the children spend less than 25 hours per week in school. Twenty-five hours per week in a five-day school week translates to five hours per day at school. Any child who spends five hours per day in school is schooled, though perhaps not as intensively as children who spend six hours per day there. The one hour per day difference doesn’t add up to much, although to an eight-year old watching the minute hand tick-toe its way to day’s end that reprieve must feel heaven-sent.
I enjoyed the reading of the article and it is one that I’ll probably go back to just for the sake of reading it. The author knows her craft. Still, the homeschooler in me sees her allegiance to the institutional world of schooling.
But in the meantime, my daughter needs more time away from Mom (excessive mothering is one of the most common concerns about homeschoolers). A third-party adult can often inspire a child more deeply than pleas from dear old Mother, which is why many homeschoolers hire tutors. In addition, the presence of a peer group in a public classroom can keep a child on task, who might, in a home setting, have problems staying focused, and the social diversity in the public schools can’t be matched in today’s homeschooling communities.
posted by Valerie