Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Is public high school all that perky?

"Still, secondary school also has plenty of perks," writes a teenaged former homeschooler, now enrolled in public high school.
"Government funding provides us with a vast array of resources generally not available to those who learn at home, while student initiative has led to the creation of a dizzying number of extracurricular opportunities.

"Then, of course, there is the adventure of it all. During my first week I wrote a math exam, forgot my lunch, got lost multiple times, misplaced a textbook, and learned how to use a combination lock. Luckily, I did not make the same mistake as my sister and put the thing on backwards."
Hmmm...guess what? Those are the same sorts of things I did my first week in high school. And my first day in grade 7-and-8-school...I couldn't figure out why the teacher didn't call my name; turned out I was in the wrong homeroom. And my first week in a new elementary school...I got lost coming back from the washrooms. And my new third-grade teacher thought that another girl and I who had similar names must be the same person and only prepared for one of us. Yes, I did exist, in spite of multiple attempts to leave me off the list. And I was never homeschooled, so at least you can't blame that...I was just the kind of kid that those things happened to.

But more to the point, what's this former homeschooler doing going on about the "vast array of resources generally not available to those who learn at home?" You would think she, of all people, would know better.

Now in the case of our Apprentice, we did decide to avail ourselves of an easily-accessible drama class (although many homeschoolers participate in homeschool or community theater opportunities) and science lab (just because it was something The Apprentice thought would be interesting). Also we could not manage to replicate a hairstyling classroom at home, something that's offered at our local high school though not at most others. Those tentative forays into public education evolved quickly into pretty much of a full-time thing for the Apprentice, once she realized that she was already partway to a diploma and that having that piece of paper might not be a bad thing. But I'm thinking of homeschoolers who have worked in family businesses and who have devoted countless hours to special interests such as music...some who ride horses, some who volunteer at pioneer museums, some who raise soybeans, some who raise ducks, and some who just raise kids...and many of them have come up with many marvellous resources and activities that aren't offered at any public schools around here. (Here's just one random blog post about a homeschool family doing interesting things.) I know a mom with a Ph.D. in chemistry who inspires others with her homeschool science resourcefulness, and another who sent a message today reminding us that she'll be starting up French classes again. (This same lady has also started writing and directing musical-theater shows in our homeschooling community--too bad the Apprentice missed out on those.)

"Even though I have studied the theory of multiculturalism, I never had a proper comprehension of what the word meant until I stepped through the doors of my high school," says the columnist. But I'm thinking, just in the group of local homeschoolers we know, of families who have travelled to Kenya, Egypt and Ireland; of a young lady who has decided to "nanny" for a short time for a missionary family in Europe. And people who have hosted exchange students for shorter or longer periods, and our friends at the Abarbablog whose children grew up around international students (and one of whom has travelled to Uganda with the AbarbaPapa). (The older AbarbaKids have moved on to public high school as well--much like our Apprentice, they had strong interests in various subjects and didn't feel as if they were relinquishing control by enrolling in school.)

And then there are our online friends, more people whose children homeschooled all the way through high school and who don't seem to have missed out on much of that vast array. Here's just one:
"The HG met with two history advisors to discuss her 50 page paper. They tell her it is outstanding work, they've not seen work of this caliber from an undergrad before, and encourage her to look into contacting a state historical society and getting it published as a small book. There are some changes she needs to make, but they are so pleased with her work that they tell her she can do this over the summer, and they will each devote some time to helping her with the project- overseeing her work, suggesting lines of additional research, and helping with the query letter."--"Other Nifty News" posted on The Common Room
So yes, I'm glad overall that our Apprentice found her feet in the halls of a public high school. There was a time for her to take that on, and she did it in a way that worked for her. It's given her specific opportunities that might not have happened for her otherwise, and...ironically...maybe has even increased her sense of control over her own education. Because she came from a background of independent learning, she's never felt like she had to be one of a "thundering herd of teenage sheep" or that she was being forced to take a lot of useless classes she had no interest in. She's there, most days, because she wants to be there. She's even reviewing extra chemistry (which she isn't even taking right now) because she wants to write the upcoming Avogadro Exam (a competition that almost 5,000 chemistry students wrote last year). (And just for the record...she's been there three years now and still has problems getting her locker open.)

So if she's made good use of the school resources...does that leave us back where we started with our "used-to-homeschool" columnist? That if homeschooling was small and, according to her account, somewhat restricted, then public high school is bigger and offers so much more? The article ends with this statement:
"The best part of school is that it has forced me to expand my horizons, to depart from my comfort zone and gain a better understanding of the world we live in."*
Not necessarily so. For some students, yes. For others--the world itself is big enough to be a wonderful classroom.

*The funny thing about that is that I've heard older students (particularly the dropouts and late-in-life autodidacts) say exactly the same thing...about homeschooling.


Jeanne said...

Oh, I do like this post, Mama Squirrel!!

Here Here

Jacque said...

And I wonder what her opinion will be in 20 years or when she has children of her own and wants the best for them. When the government plays a little different role in her life than providing her with "public school opportunities".

I wonder if her description of "the best" will change a bit for her children?
Our worldviews, our own wants and especially our age play so much into this. :)
Thanks for sharing!

Jeanne said...

I've linked to this post - hope you don't mind!!

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