Saturday, May 19, 2012

What Home School is NOT Going to Look Like

I don't exactly know what home-schooling A. Peevie will look like--but I have a pretty good idea of what it will NOT look like.

It will not look like A. Peevie and me sitting at the dining room table, with me as teacher and A. Peevie as student. For one thing, our dining room table is far too cluttered for that to work.

It will not look like A. Peevie doing spelling workbooks and reading history textbooks and writing papers.

It will not look like traditional school--except when we choose a traditional classroom approach to a particular subject. We may, for example, request permission for A. Peevie to attend the freshman biology class at our local high school. Our initial forays into this experiment in part-time public schooling have been so far unsuccessful.

Illinois law stipulates that public schools are compelled

To accept in part-time attendance in the regular education program of the district pupils enrolled in nonpublic schools if there is sufficient space in the public school desired to be attended. Request for attendance in the following school year must be submitted by the nonpublic school principal to the public school before May 1. Request may be made only to those public schools located in the district where the child attending the nonpublic school resides.

So I called the school, and wrote a letter (from me, the principal of Peevie Academy of Fun and Learning, or PAFL) requesting possible part-time enrollment for A. Peevie for the fall. The counselor said she'd never heard of such an arrangement; and she referred me to the assistant principal. The assistant principal had also never received a request for part-time attendance by a home-schooled student; and he said he'd do some research and get back to me. One consideration, he said, is that the school is already at or above its intended capacity.

[It does not make sense to me that the school would be required to accept him for full-time enrollment, but would be permitted to deny him admittance for one class. Does that make sense to you? I believe that either way, the school received funding for every enrolled student, whether that student is enrolled part- or full-time.]

I hope that most of A. Peevie's learning will be autodidactic and driven by his own passions. I can envision him starting a reading group with other kids who want to read classic horror fiction by Poe, Shelley, Stevenson, et al. I think he might be interested in participating in a Model United Nations program. My friend Zaby directed my attention to RadioLab, a public radio show "where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy and human experience." Perhaps this might become part of A. Peevie's science curriculum.

As the word gets out about this whole nutty home school thing, some people are skeptical--but a surprising number are supportive beyond the call of friendship. The mom of one of A. Peevie's good friends offered to tutor him in math and chemistry. Zaby put together an annotated list of potential resources and ideas for us to investigate. And X-Mom has already offered her insider intel to help me begin to get my brain around the alien notions of home 
schooling and un-schooling; and she has offered to include A. Peevie in her own home school academy as we see fit, and we hope this will be a symbiotic relationship.

This whole process has raised the intriguing question: What does a kid need to learn in high school? and also: What does an 18-year-old need to make his way in the world? What are the foundational pillars of education?

I'm pretty sure that the traditional academic model does not have a corner on the market for the answers to these questions. It's still unsettling, and a bit scary; but also: I'm convinced that for A. Peevie, at least, we will be able to do at least as well, and probably better, than any high school at preparing him for what comes next.


jeanie said...

So now I am wondering if it is too late for me to go back to school--this whole "Not Home School" sounds fun.

Eve Bradshaw said...

Jeanie--it is never to late to Un-School.