- Learn at Your Own Pace. Public schools are constrained by their mission to deliver content that is aligned with a child's physical age. However, that's not how humans develop. Kids mature, both physically and cognitively, at different rates. Homeschooling allows you to accelerate, decelerate, or otherwise modify your curriculum to suit your child's cognitive readiness, free from the pressures inevitably exerted by standardized tests, teachers, and peers.
- Choose Your Own Instructional Strategy. There are so many pedigogical methods (styles of instruction - for example, Socratic, classical, Montesorri, etc.), each offering different and potentially exciting way to engage your child in learning. Homeschooling allows you to choose the pedigogical method that best suits your child ... or, better yet, to "mix and match" the best of several methods, creating a pedigogical approach customized to your child's learning style and intelligences.
- Values. This often means "Christian values" when it comes to the current homeschooling community, but I use the term in a much larger context. Every family has values - whether it's a belief in hard work, healthy/sustainable living, living for the moment, or caring for your family, your church, your community, or your world. Homeschooling is an opportunity to infuse those values not just into your child's life, but also into their curriculum. (And if one of your values happens to be spending quality time together as a family, homeschooling is definitely a step in the right direction!)
- Scheduling/Quality of Life. School is more than an intellectual constraint on your child; it's also a physical constraint on the family. Does your child have a vocation or passion that requires extra classes, lessons, or practices? Would you like to be able to expose your child to museums, natural wonders, historical sites - attractions that are typically open during school hours? Do you want to be able to travel as a family whenever you want - not just during the summer or spring break? Homeschooling allows you to wake up, eat, learn, take field trips, and vacation when you want - not when a school schedule dictates.
- Efficiency. Guess what? Homeschooling is efficient! Without lines and locker time, buses and set schedules, students are able to spend just as much time as they need on their academics - leaving all that time left over for other things.
- Authentic, Experiential Learning. Why do we teach our children to use textbooks, only to prepare them for careers and responsibilities that don't come with textbooks? Homeschooling allows students to learn from authentic materials, firsthand observation, and personal experience ... in short, the ways in which we, as adults, continue to learn throughout our lives.
- Functional Skills. Schools may do a decent job of teaching kids to be scholars, but they do a less consistent job of teaching kids to be mature and responsible adults. Homeschooling allows you to infuse critical functional skills - such as cooking, paying bills, working, and maintaining a household - into your child's curriculum.
- Social Skills. I know - this is more typically offered as an argument against homeschooling! But what's natural about learning your social skills in a building inhabited by 900 people who are exactly your same age and maturity level? The world is a much more complex place, and the sooner children learn to interact with the real world in real contexts, the better.
- Electives. Life is too short to limit a child's interests to only 2 electives per semester! Homeschooling allows you to expose your child to multiple non-academic interests at one time.
- Make Your Child Responsible for their Own Learning. Do your child a favor; make them responsible for their own learning as children, and they'll continue to learn for the rest of their lives. With apologies in advance for butchering a timeless (and timely) quote: Give a child a fish and they'll eat for a day; teach a child to fish and they'll eat for the rest of their lives. In a world that is becoming exponentially more complex every decade, is there any more important gift you can give your child than the gift of lifelong learning?
How can I be a public school teacher and yet also a fan of homeschooling? As I see it, there's no conflict. Our public/private schools provide an absolutely essential social safety net, ensuring that all children - no matter how constrained their family circumstances - receive an education sufficient to allow them to function as adults and citizens in this increasingly complex world. But for those families that have the option and the passion to homeschool, there are so many potential benefits. Here are some of them (in no particular order):
Standing in yet another long line to access the ladies room at a public venue, some of the ladies and I began discussing the advantages of being a man in this society - one of the foremost being that because they have an "express lane" option, men almost never have to loiter in long bathroom lines making conversation with a bunch of women waiting desperately to pee.
Below is a list of some of the insights that we came up with that night, combined with other suggestions I've picked up from friends and the web. My conclusion, with which James Brown would agree: "It's a man's world".
- Express line in public bathrooms
- No one expects you to wrap presents
- You don't have to plan the wedding
- No one notices if your wallets don't match your shoes
- Car salesmen don't condescend to you
- Haircuts take 5 minutes
- You can wear a white teeshirt to a waterpark
- You can enjoy a drink at a bar without getting hit on
- Grey hair and wrinkles make you look more distinguished
- 3 pairs of shoes are plenty
- When it comes to best friends, dogs are cheaper than diamonds
- No matter how long the trip, all you need is one suitcase
- You can hang out at bars without getting hit on
- People look at your face, not your chest, when they talk to you
- On hot days you can go topless
- What do I wear tonight? Suit, suit, or suit?
- You still get toys for Christmas
- Your shoes fit
- No pantyhose
- The world is your urinal
- Whole summer blockbuster movie season is for your benefit
- You gets sports channels; we get cooking channels
- People don't look surprised when you're good at math
- You never have to figure out how to use a tampon
- A friend is anyone who roots for the same team you do
- You can pee standing up
- No one expects you to write thank you letters
- No pink toys
- Movies don't need to be intelligent to be entertaining
- One swimsuit is plenty
- Career choices include cowboy, explorer, and pirate
- You don't have to lose weight before class reunions and weddings
- Bachelor parties are way more fun than bachelorette parties
- You can sit down in a chair without crossing your legs
- You can walk outside alone after dark
- Las Vegas
- No makeup
- Your tux doesn't make you look fat
- Dressing up for a party takes 10 minutes
- You can open your own jars
- No one expects you to order the salad
- When you sleep with more than one person, you're a player, not a slut
- Everyone knows how to spell your first name
- No morning sickness
- No bras
- You only have to shave one thing
- You don't have to be twice as smart as everyone else to get promoted
- No one expects you to look good in the morning
- You can wear hats without having to worry about hat-head
- You can change a tire without having to worry about breaking a nail
- Girls don't beg you to make out with your best friend
- No tan lines
- No hot wax
- Whether you choose boxes or briefs, they're both a heck of a lot more comfortable than a g-string
- Colleges want you (to balance out all the women)
- You make more money for doing the same work
- No line at fitting rooms
- No piercing required
- Friends only call when they have a reason
- You can travel overseas unescorted
- No one suspects you of having slept your way to the top
- Your sports teams are taken seriously
- Hallmark commercials don't make you cry
- You get Ginger or MaryAnne; we get Gilligan, the Skipper, or Mr. Howell
This book reminded me forcefully of the Greek tragedies one reads in college. From the very first pages you can see the calamity coming, but there's nothing anyone can do - not Ethan Frome, the tragic hero of this tale; not the tale's author, Edith Wharton; and certainly not the reader - to prevent it from unfolding.
Like a short story, the novel limits itself to just a few characters, a single plot, and a single theme - one even older than Greek tragedy: Ethan Frome, a simple Massachusetts farmer, finds himself married to one woman but in love with another.
You see the tragedy coming because such tales never come to a good end in real life either.
Frome's tragic flaw (Aristotle requires a fatal flaw, after all) is one that most of us probably share - believing that we have some sort of right to happiness. Alas, as this tale reminds us, fate doesn't always work that way.
Edith Wharton delivers the tale starkly, handing the narrative over to her characters and then stepping back to let them tell the tale in their own way. This has the effect of intensifying the feeling of mounting dread, because it eliminates, early on, any hope or expectation of intervention by an empathetic narrator. And since this isn't actually a Greek drama, there isn't much hope of divine intervention either.
If catharsis is as good for your soul as the Greeks posited, then you're bound to feel thoroughly cleansed after this well-crafted but bleak tale.