To Home-School or Not to Home-School
I’ve been an educator for more than three decades. During my first job, at a charter school in Texas, I taught a students whose only opportunity for formal education was being home-schooled by her mother. The mother was an ordained Catholic priest, not Christian, yet still taught her children at home. The mother had the kids read everything from the encyclical on Christian unity, Deus Mysterium, to obscure biblical texts to explain divinity.
This extreme example of home-schooling, like many examples of home-schooling, was steeped in a very biblical vision of schooling, which said the children should have a firm grip on what they learned because they would be relying on it for the rest of their lives.
Luckily, I got to teach a different kind of home-schooling philosophy to this student’s peers, i.e., instilling real skills and knowledge for them to use in an academic environment and preparing them for a more practical education. What emerged was a set of goals and guidelines for learning that included science, religion, social justice, math, technology, and more.
Home-schooling was almost not an option because the students were so far removed from the classroom, and at times, the teacher would think, Why even bother? Their mother would remind her: If we want better outcomes, we must allow our children to take ownership of their learning, and we must let them explore and experiment within the context of their upbringing.
Most importantly, we emphasized literacy. We stressed the importance of using standards and assessments so that students could see how they were improving. While differentiating and diverting their attention from textbooks and standardized tests was critical to giving them a true appreciation of learning, there was a real responsibility and focus on the actual content of the school’s curriculum. There was no room for vague questions like, “What do I get to be remembered for?” Our students, in essence, became ongoing classrooms for teachers’ understanding of basic texts, the larger meaning of the story, and the scaffolding they would later apply to the theory and application of the content.