Something I've been wondering about lately is the idea of grammar school. The more I homeschool my son, the more I don't understand what it's for. It can't be about the learning. It just can't. I was looking at a checklist for first grade and W knows everything on there (very well, I might add) without having been stuck at a desk for hours every day, taking stressful tests, being made to complete homework, being reprimanded by a stranger (I mean teacher) in front of his friends, or having his day completely controlled by someone else. This is what J's schools (3 of them) were like. I remember it fully. Looking back, all that misery was so pointless. W actually learned the entire first grade course of study (and most of the 2nd grade one) through merely being a kid and enjoying his life every day.
What made me ponder this today was something on the checklist called "ordinal numbers". I wasn't sure what kind of numbers that was and looked it up. Oh, ORDER-nal numbers - 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th. Gotcha. I have never even thought to explain that to W. I asked him (a few months ago) if he understood how to count in order and he said, yeah. So I said "first" and he continued with 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th. When he got to 28th I said thank you and he was on his way. Schools have lessons, homework, and tests on this, I swear. Just about everything on that first-grade outline are things kids will learn by just being the naturally curious kids that they are. Time, calendar, value of coins, plants, seeds, weather, sun, moon, stars, magnets, good eating habits, dressing for weather and activity(?), holidays, jobs.
After 1st grade, in our experience, the "required learning" for that grade can be done in a fun, gentle, interactive way. If it's not fun or if it doesn't apply to the child's life at that time, it will not be retained. I believe the best learning comes from interactive, hands-on fun, not stressful cram and dump for the test. I see it with K. Her US History teacher is a hip, interesting, fun guy. Their latest project is to work in groups to create a "rapumentary", a rap song about their chosen topic. Now that's interesting. On the other hand her journalism teacher rules with an iron fist, is a miserable nasty bitch (actually insults the kids), and will fail a child's project because it was in the "wrong" black and white notebook. K is so unhappy with this teacher and all of a sudden has no interest in that class - before school started she thought it would be her favorite. It truly breaks my heart.
J is now technically in the 6th grade - and according to the course of study, is at about a 6-8th grade level overall. It's interesting that this was all achieved by her without the unnecessary bullshit forced on schooled kids. Well, what about "socialization"? My kids know how to act around other kids and can function in society very well. I'll assume the real concern is about "socializ-ING" which is a different concept. From the first months of homeschooling J has had a pretty full social calendar. Just as a recent example, next Friday she's going to the movies with her friends, then that night she's got a birthday party, then Saturday a sleepover birthday party. These are real, true, deep friendships, too. But what about sports? the prom? learning an instrument? school trips? No thanks. And since homeschooling has shot through the roof over the past 5 years, all these things are available to us now if we want it.
I guess I just go through periods of wondering. Of course, some parents can't stand being with their kids all day (I've heard this numerous times from other moms - "ugh don't you need to get AWAY from them?"). And other parents have to work during the day. And there is that 30% (arguably) of kids who genuinely like school after 2nd grade. My own dd is one of those. A part of me hates the fact that a main reason schools were made compulsory was to keep the riff-raff off the streets. The other reason was following the Prussian school model of keeping people in their place by indoctrinating obedience in them from a young age. We can't have free thinkers causing conflict and messing up everything. The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto is available free online for everyone to read - the whole thing!
I have become the opposite of a public school parent who shakes their heads and wonders why the hell would anyone homeschool. It's just so wrong. The poor kids. They don't get to experience anything great. They must not have friends. They must be so socially backwards. They need to experience the "real world" (that's got to be my favorite). I mean, homeschooling's main ingredients for success are a curious kid and a dedicated parent in a rich, healthy, safe, fun environment. The kids are able to handle the rest.