Monday, April 18, 2011

Lessons from Home Schooling: An Approach to Quaker Education?

 In considering the positions I have read regarding the issue of Quaker schools, I have found myself writing a bit here and there in response.  Inevitably, my responses grow too long for comment and must become their own blog post.  Here is one.  More will likely follow.

Can Home Schooling models be utilized to extend the benefits of Quaker education to kids in public schools?

In the discussion about private Quaker schools, I am annoyed when all of us who can't use this option gripe at each other.  Pretty senseless.  The reality is that most of us can't afford private schools and/or are faced with the reality that there just aren't enough private Quaker schools available for Friends in the United States.  Unless we plan to start building Quaker schools in every village, the discussion quickly become irrelevant for the lion's share of Friends.  So where does that leave us?  Home school and public school.

Sometimes I think the home school/public school/private school debate becomes a bit black and white.  When we frame these choices as either/or, we miss out on all kinds of possibilities.  Home schoolers don't do all their education at home.  We often use our public schools' resources.  We make use of community centers, libraries, museums, family, and friends.  We buy, borrow, rent, or swap private lessons, curricula, lesson plans, and courses.  Likewise, kids who go to public school do not receive all their education on campus. Their parents, like me, are teaching them at home too.

I like the idea of part-time home schooling for those kids whose folks cannot or do not wish to home school full time.  What I've learned as a home schooling mom is that there is no real "school day."  Learning can take place at any time.  It can take place outside of the context of brick and mortar classrooms, and it doesn't have to fit within the rules of institutionalized educational formats.  I believe we can extend home schooling principles to all Quaker kids as a means of ensuring that our children receive the best Friends can offer young people whether or not an affordable Quaker school is nearby.

Although I'm interested in the question of whether or not Friends' private schools are too expensive for ordinary folks, my primary interest lies in exploring alternatives to institutional mindsets regarding educational theory.  My interest lies in the question of whether or not we are willing to meet people where they are.  Do we have the will to provide a strong Quaker foundation for our kids whether they go to a Friends' school, a public school, or are schooled at home?  Do our communities ( local, regional, national, and online) provide accessible materials and enthusiastic support to Quaker parents and Quaker kids?  Are we responsive to the diversity of needs in our community?  Are we creative?  Approachable?  Curious?  Do young Friends feel welcome in our meetings?  Do grown-up Friends give time and attention to the children of their meeting or do they segregate them, silence them, and ignore them?  Although I'm not yet sure how we should proceed in light of the answers to these questions, I still feel that we can make it possible for every young person who grows up among Friends, whether a graduate of a Friends' school, a public school, or their parents' kitchen table school, to confidently say, "I had a Quaker education."


Lone Star Ma said...

Mmmmm. I do not really wish I could have home-schooled my kids as I do not feel I am the right person to be in charge of their mathematics and science instruction (I do like the idea of homeschooling them for English and social studies!), although I do miss them an awful lot during the daytime. I have the desire and calling to be a mother at home with my kids instead of employed away from them, though, and I do feel like I "couldn't". Certainly, I could have (we wouldn't have starved)and certainly it was a choice and certainly I live a more comfortable middle class lifestyle with our two jobs than quite a number of homeschooling families I know who are living on one income - but there's a big But. I couldn't have provided my kids with health insurance if we did not have two incomes - that was the one thing that scrimping and living more simply would not have been enough to cover. I can see what you mean, but I think this is what a lot of mothers mean when they say they "can't". As a married mother, we would never have qualified for Medicaid, and health insurance is a deal breaker for me - I won't put my children in the position of not having adequate access to health care. Had it not been for "choosing" to make sure my children had access to health care, I would have chosen to stay home with them and scrimp and save. Like you say, I really think we should all have the right to better choices.

Hystery said...

Lone Star Ma,
I would put you in the category of one who doesn't home school full time because it is not financially a wise decision (and health care is a huge consideration) and because you don't feel it is the best choice for your kids educationally. It is so very important that none of us ever has to feel pressured to stay home and/or home school. Gosh, that would be awful!

I do imagine, at least from the comments you've shared with me, that you are actually already a home schooler in the sense that I wished to communicate here meaning one who educates their children at home. That's what my parents did. I went to public school, but my home was also an environment rich in learning experience.

That's what I'd like to communicate to Friends...not that home schooling itself is or even can be the panacea given our diverse personal circumstances, but that the model of home school has something to teach beyond its own obvious confines. Friends don't really have just a couple choices...public or private. We are all already our kids' teachers. (And by "we" I mean all Friends not just parents.) Friends can help parents provide materials and experience to kids that enhance a Quaker education. Public school, Catholic school, Waldorf or Montessori, home school, private tutors...whatever. The location and approach shouldn't stand in the way of us seriously addressing an obligation to provide a Quaker education to those who want it.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hello Hystery,

And another advantage to homeschooling (for those parents who have the gumption and the energy) is that children are more likely to experience learning holistically and creatively, and to miss all the 'dead' time and p.c. stuff.

Of course, I am speaking theoretically, since I was a public high school teacher. Well, I know of all the negatives of why not to send your kids to public school.

Thankfully, our kids had grandparents who made it possible for them to go most of the time to very good private schools.

Not that there aren't some cases when public school is great. My daughter attended public school in the second grade. Her teacher was one of the best creative educators I've ever seen. At one point when they were studying nature, she turned the whole classroom into a colorful jungle, etc.

It would seem the central advantage of Quaker education or homeschooling is that a child's education can have a natural spiritual focus throughout.

In the Light,

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