When choosing a public school, we all know the drill. We want “A” rated schools. We check various forums for comments from attending families. We try to live in areas with long standing, highly rated schools. What I find ironic is not once did my wife and I even consider looking at the actual curriculum. We didn’t look at the structure of their day, or the classroom environment.
As I mentioned in a previous post, public schools are generally speaking, an apples to apples comparison. We don’t actually get a choice about anything with our public schools except our choice of geography. With homeschooling, the first hurdle is to decide what you even want. You’ve already decided you don’t want apples, so what do you choose? Oranges? Figs? Pomegranates? Are you going to insist on organic only? Perhaps you’ll actually grow your own. All of the choices the public schools have taken away from you, homeschooling gives back in spades.
Unfortunately, given this many options with no obvious common boundaries to provide direct analysis, our brains tend to freeze up. Many, like us, come into homeschooling with a litany of reasons NOT to use public schools. Not surprisingly (in retrospect), that is not even close to the same thing as having a list of reasons TO do homeschooling. We in fact did investigate private school options. We looked at them without considering cost (that would come later only if we decided we wanted that route) because we wanted to know if they in fact provided anything better to make the cost worthwhile. The differences [and similarities] between public and private schools was educational and did indeed help us start forming specific homeschooling goals.
Some of those goals included:
College Preparation: Like the public schools, we recognize the need to prepare our boys for college. The question at hand was exactly how. In Florida, this includes state scholarship initiatives, dual enrollment (taking college classes in High School), Advanced Placement (AP) classes, etc. We wanted to make sure we did not lose these options if we could avoid it.
Learning to Learn: To our mind and according to our experience, one of the critical failures of the public school was make students responsible for much of their learning and provide little to no guidance on how to manage that. Any learning method that resembles concrete shoes and the deep end of the pool is a fail.
Well Rounded Education: In my day, this was the educational motto, although technical majors, such as Engineering were already starting to move away from this. Our goal was to bring it back.
Learning to Mastery: Too many subjects depend directly on mastering the pre-requisite classes, especially Mathematics. Even other subjects where there is no obvious connection, there are patterns and similarities you will never pick up on if you do just the minimum to pass the test.
Make Learning Fun: This comes in many forms. Modern educational gamification is one. Going out into the world and seeing what you are studying about in action. And then there is the simple need to sometimes stop and just go outside and run around with no purpose at all.
Avoid Artificial Anxiety: Life is tough enough without making up nonsense to stress over. This is not a case of “coddling” but rather recognition of a plan in the process of failing. i.e., most test anxiety comes from not being properly prepared or comfortable with the material which means you’ve not yet mastered the material and you’re most likely not having fun.
Next, we’ll look into how we translated these goals into an implementation…