The current push for standardization in our nation's classrooms via Common Core is all about convenience. Even the default structure of the age-segregated classroom has been to ease the burden for administrators, and has nothing to do with how children learn and develop. In any large group of 11 year olds, there will be kids on the cusp of puberty, while others are still living vicariously through GI Joe and Polly Pocket. Some will be reading YA books, the rest considering Captain Underpants as challenging literature. The girls will be enjoying most detail-oriented seat work, while the boys are fidgeting and getting detention as a reward for having excess energy.
This is not a recipe for educational success, nor is it 'all about the children'. It's all about not bothering the adults with the unique and changing needs of growing children, because educrats have checklists to complete and deadlines to meet and federal funding hoops to jump through.
What does that mean for homeschoolers?
Attitudes are contagious. Spend enough time with an angry person, and you wind up feeling cranky. Hang out with an optimist, and no cloud will be without its silver lining.
As homeschooling parents, we can be influenced by prevailing attitudes in education - the impulse to compare children to each other, to use national 'norms' to measure their progress, and apply labels where some bike riding and tree climbing would be more appropriate.
We may hear the siren call of curriculum, burying our heads in the latest catalogs, looking for that perfect resource that will answer our child's learning needs, as if all that our child requires in order to learn is the right textbook.
We take all the responsibility for our child's learning upon ourselves. We do all the research, look through all the catalogs, create schedules and spend hours on lesson plans. Seldom are our children involved in this process until 'school starts'.
We say we are independent homeschoolers, but we often use the same methods of the system we've left behind. It's comfortable, it's what we know, and sometimes it is more convenient to do it that way than deschool and try something different.
Our children are individuals who will change and grow over time, and there is no national norm by which we can measure them and still maintain any sort of respect for their unique personhood.
Learning doesn't require curriculum. Curriculum is a handy tool, but sometimes it's a crutch. It's too often what we fall back on when we don't know what else to do. It can become a liability when we blindly follow it in spite of every parental instinct telling us that it is faulty.
True learning involves being able to detect problems, and knowing how to apply knowledge and skills in solving them. Does your curriculum do that? Or does it present disconnected facts for rote memorization and regular regurgitation on a test?
Parents are not really the homeschoolers - our children are. They are the ones who need to forge their path to their future and own their education. At some point we stop cutting up their food in bite-size pieces, but for some reason we don't want to let go of the knife and fork when it comes to academics. Give them the catalogs and let them create their own course of study, choose their resources, and map out their schedules. Let them set their goals and assess their own progress.
I know, I know, I hear all the protests, I know all those fears. But like I said; education is not convenient. It's not about the school, the teacher, the national standards, or the textbooks. The last thing any homeschooler should be thinking is, "But this is the way we've always done it".
Internalizing information, developing core competencies, and transferring this knowledge into real world applications are the skill and character building blocks of the person your child will become. This can't be boxed, packaged, marketed, or measured.
Don't get caught up in all the talk about Common Core and federal standards and national norms. It won't be easy to swim against current events in education, but you must focus on providing your child with the guidance and challenges they need to obtain a well-rounded education. Because the methods used in traditional schools to make education convenient for teachers and administrators rob kids of opportunities for genuine learning.