Monday, April 30, 2007

One of the (Innumerable) Reasons Why We Homeschool

[Welcome, Junkyardblogites! Glad to have you browse the Woundup.]

[Welcome, also, to Susie-Q&A readers! Most of my homeschool stuff resides at The Inner Dad, but the really brainless stuff generally finds its way over here. Enjoy!]

Mrs. Woody tossed another one my way that instantly drove my blood pressure right off the scale. "Listen to this," she intoned. "Kindergartners in Pennsylvania are in school from 8:40 in the morning to 3:10 in the afternoon with no recess!"

I beg your pardon?

"Kindergartners?" I asked, certain I'd not heard her correctly.

"Kindergartners!" she affirmed. "Kids have to play! It's part of how they learn!"

There was a lot more to this discussion, but these were the salient points.

Mrs. Woody and I homeschool for a multitude of reasons. At the top of that very long list is the incompetence of education "professionals" to provide anything remotely resembling a true education to the children of this nation. I say that with all affection towards those dedicated people for whom education is a way of life and a cause to which they have sworn undying allegiance.

The rest of that industry are the biggest morons I've ever encountered. Including most members of Congress.

1. I have never in my adult life heard persuasive evidence that children — especially small children — must be cooped up in class for longer hours every day with less play time. How is this in any way justified? I'm sorry, but as both a parent and a former child (keep your opinions of "former" to yourselves, please) I refuse to buy into this hysteria. Children are children, and must be allowed to burn off their incredible reserves of energy throughout the day. For heaven's sake, have none of these so-called "experts" ever heard of metabolism? My own, as a child, was ridiculous. I burned off calories while I was eating, and still had energy to spare when I got home so I could build entire forts out of the bricks that Dad had earmarked for the steps leading up to our do-it-yourself gazebo that ultimately blew down in Santa Ana winds approximately two weeks after we finished cementing those same bricks in place. That's the kind of metabolism I had, and it stayed with me, right up until I married a half-Latina, half-Italian (She-Who-Is-NOT-Mrs.-Woody) whose mother thought I had rickets. At that point my metabolism finally surrendered, but I was well into my twenties by that time.

Children must play, and they need to do it rather frequently throughout the day. Insisting that they spend that precious childhood play time in a classroom with their little minds wandering everywhere but on the chalkboard is criminal.

The activists-with-very-little-brain who promote mandatory preschool will not be far behind.

2. Perhaps Pennsylvania school officials in Woodland Hills think it's a boat-load of fun, sitting in one of those stuffy, overcrowded schools for seven and a half hours with only a break for lunch and no recess. Perhaps they feel that the kids are getting the state's money's worth by saving them that $47 million for 15 minutes' worth of recess time.

Perhaps Pennsylvania school officials are idiots.

Tell you what, I propose a compromise: Let's make it mandatory for anyone wishing to be a Pennsylvania school official — elected or otherwise — to sit in those same stuffy schools for twelve hours a day (because, you know, they're adults and everything) and see how long it takes before the district psychologist diagnoses them as being ADD or ADHD. About one month, would be my guess.

3. Speaking of ADD, I have to tell you another reason why we homeschool. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that my incredibly bright, eager, sensitive, and exceptionally intelligent elder Woodyette would by now have been identified as an ADD child by whatever school shrink she might have seen. The fact is that her imagination, which has spawned entire universes, would have long since gotten her into all kinds of trouble with conventional educators by this time. She can't help it. Fantasy is important to this young lady, and she thrives on being master of her many environments. Does this mean she is in any way dysfunctional? Of course not. But no teacher who is held to lesson plans, increasingly restrictive curriculum choices, and pressure to teach to the tests could possibly have the patience to deal with such a child without playing the Attention Deficit card.

Because this child is frighteningly like her Dad was at that age, I also know that she will all too soon grow out of this fantasy stage of her young life. It will be a sad thing to watch as parents. Another one of those "our little girl is growing up!" mixed blessings that mark every milestone along the path. My baby sister may crow about never having to buy another diaper in her life, but the cockiness won't last. All too soon those sweet little boys of hers won't want quite so many hugs anymore, and will really really wish that she wouldn't walk with them everywhere they have to go. It just happens.

But teachers nowadays don't — can't, really — have the kind of patience that recognizes the true needs of those kids as they achieve those less definable milestones; the ones you won't find in any lesson plan.

That's all I really wanted to say about this issue. I know that, somewhere deep down in the lumps of coal that serve as their hearts, professional educators everywhere really want only what's best for kids in this country. I just wish to heck they'd take a few moments and remember what it was like to be kids themselves, and quit punishing our kids for it.

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