Saturday, May 7, 2011


I got my first homeschool catalogue today.  Yes, I know it's a little premature, but I have always liked reading my mom's, so I decided to request some of my own.  I know which way I'm leaning--KONOS and Sonlight, with very little formal schooling in the early years, and heavy on science, math, history and critical thinking later on.  But I am homeschooling for the sole reason of being able to tailor the curriculum to meet an individual child's needs, so until Josh is older I won't make final decisions.  And even then, I want to stay flexible.

But for all my pro-homeschooling thoughts, I also know there will come a time when we need to put Josh in a private or public school, at least part time.  I would love to think that I can teach all grades and all subjects, but I can't, and I don't want Josh alone struggling through a textbook.  One thing I have noticed in homeschooling graduates is a serious lack of understanding and knowledge of upper level math and science.  I certainly had no opportunity to do lab sciences until college, and I do feel that my math in high school was lacking.  Yes, I have a thorough understanding of human biology and anatomy and physiology, and a passing knowledge of basic chemistry(at least acid/base), but it is nowhere near where I need to be in order to teach my child.   So if I cannot find someway for him to take lab sciences and higher level math as a teenager(and I'm not crazy about sending my 15-year-old to a community college), Josh will eventually find himself in a regular school.

Why is this important?  I have met people(mostly homeschoolers with no college education, but some public schoolers as well) who have no idea what makes a sound scientific study.  They don't know how to decipher what they read, so they rely on websites with dubious information and books to explain it to them.  Can I tell you how many people I have met who have no idea that for a scientific study to be considered sound, it has to be reproducible?  That is, the same study could be done in any random population and have the same results.  Or don't know how to tell if a study has been done in a randomized, large population, and why that is important? It is hard to read and understand drug trials, for instance, if you don't know what the terms mean, or the difference between an agonist and an antagonist drug, or you aren't sure about nerve receptors.  I took a poll recently and discovered that the majority of people think that formaldehyde is a dangerous toxin(it is, in large amounts--but our bodies produce it in small amounts every day, and it poses no threat in small amounts). These are things I learned in my basic, general education biology class at a community college, and things that I think are very important for my son to learn.

In this information age, where all sorts of conflicting information is available on the internet, I think it is very important for my children to have not only a solid grip on math and science, but also know how to critically evaluate the information they receive.   I have no interest in teaching my children what to think, but instead I want them to know how to evaluate those thoughts.   I want them to understand the different arguments of an issue and know for themselves what they think about it, whether it is gay rights, vaccinations, educational structures, or the type of church they feel most comfortable in. 
And I don't believe that I can do this all my own.  I don't believe that I can give my children every educational opportunity they need at my own dining room table.

So someday, though it saddens me, my children will probably leave my door for a formal school.  It may be third grade or seventh grade or ninth grade, but it will happen.  Until then, though, I hope to use our time together to instill a love of learning and a love of critical thought in my children, and when it's time, I will know to let them go.