This is an old column of mine, but I thought I’d resurrect it given a recent tweet I read about home schooling. It was an extraordinary and very valuable experience for my son (and me).
I’ve recently become exposed to a secret world. One in which mere mortals rarely can glimpse. This world is populated by strange, passionate humans who apparently see things in a different light from the rest of us. They also reek of happiness and contentment. They appear to be eclectic in their approach to life and their children are like mini Renaissance Men and Women. No, I’m not talking about a cult, Scientology, or even Hollywood but, gulp, the underground world of home schooling!
See, as a bonifide yuppie, when I became a parent, I expected my children to be perfect little academic achievers. They would, naturally, excel at school and attend one of the elite Universities they were born and destined to conquer. They would become doctors or lawyers (not in my life) or powerful players in the field of business. Teachers would praise them, they would letter in several sports and, having boys, they would be big men on campus, starting in pre-school of course!
But, reality was a tiny bit different. My boys were creative, rebellious (hmmm, where did they get that from) and emotionally rocked by my divorce. My oldest, shock of shock, didn’t get all “A’s” or get constant praise from his teachers. He didn’t even do his homework all of the time. As for sports, neither cared to play anything more strenuous than video games. They loved reading, music, movies, and various artistic endeavors. They weren’t me. What a shock!
Which brings me back to the mysterious world of home schooling. My older son did not conform to what primary education is today. He didn’t fit. He was in the middle, falling between the cracks, as he wasn’t a high academic achiever or a child with diagnosed learning or other disabilities. Our public schools know what to do with the handicapped child; the one with ADD and HDTV or whatever is the diagnosis of the moment. They don’t know what to do with a kid who is just hurting from the pain of his parent’s divorce, who falls between the cracks.
Enter this Dad into what home schooling provides. It’s not anything like I imagined. I’ve just begun to explore its mysteries and opportunities. My older son is leaving his Middle School and we are going to spend the rest of this school year exploring all the world has to offer, without the piles of homework, rigid State testing and other guidelines, or curriculum that is designed for the high achiever or other extreme, mentioned already. He’s going to find his passion. He’s going to spend time volunteering to read to the blind, on the radio. He’s going to spend time improving his skills at guitar, finishing his Bar Mitzvah prep without the pressure of those aforementioned piles of homework, come with me to “park day” on Tuesdays with other homeschoolers, and otherwise get to enjoy his childhood without all my previous expectations and without the strictures of public school as it now exists.
What a surprise!