First posted April 2006 (which makes it fifteen years ago); edited slightly. The Apprentice was fourteen, still homeschooling that spring, but later in the year she started part time at the local high school. Ponytails was eight and a half. Crayons/Lydia was almost five.
"Mom makes us work too hard." "Not another book!" "School is hard." If my children were talking Barbies, they might echo that unfortunate doll (who had her conversation chip yanked for saying that math is too hard). Yes, the Apprentice and Ponytails do complain about school, lest you think that these Shakespeare-reading progeny do everything excellently without ever needing to be prodded (that's only true of other peoples' children, right?). After all, The Apprentice isn't planning on going to university anyway...she alternates between interests in hairdressing/cosmetics, photography, and computer information systems (maybe she'll figure out a way to do all of them). Why does this stuff matter?
[2021 update: The Apprentice did a hairstyling apprenticeship first, but also studied science/math at university, and now works in computer information systems.]So I have some alternatives. I could buy a fill-in-the-blanks homeschool curriculum instead of boring them with Thomas More or Winston Churchill. (Jane Austen and Charles Dickens don't get the "boring" face, for some reason.) I could let them follow their own interests completely. I could buy some of those prepared novel studies, comprehension workbooks, language textbooks, and spend a lot more time teaching them to write five-sentence paragraphs. (Squirrelings, that's not meant to be a threat--some homeschoolers spend a lot of time on those things because that's just the way they do school, and it works for them.)
I could send them to public school, so that they could develop the the following characteristics of current university students. (This list comes from the story "Educating the next wave" in a local newspaper. I'm only including some of them.)
* "Doing" is more important than "knowing." In other words, what you know is less important than knowing where to get the answer. "You don't have to master the subject anymore," Sharpe said. [Associate Professor Bob Sharpe of Wilfrid Laurier University, who led a seminar about preparing for the next generation of students.]Or we can keep on reading writers who are much wiser and better educated than we are, taking what we can from their thoughts, and making our responses to their books a central part of Treehouse homeschooling.
* They have zero tolerance for delays. When they send an e-mail to a professor, they want an answer immediately.
* They're consumers rather than producers of knowledge.
* They blur the lines between consumer and creator by sampling information on the Internet and producing new forms of expression. (That last one, in particular, intrigues me. It sounds like one of those creative report card comments that really means "He cheated on his term paper.")
In spite of the grousing, there are those moments when I know that what we're doing is what we're supposed to be doing. Like when Ponytails asked for a James Whitcomb Riley poetry book at a booksale last year, or The Apprentice kindly found me a volume of Tennyson at this year's sale. Or when I found The Apprentice reading her Canadian history book without being reminded, or saw Ponytails poring over a map of Narnia. Or when The Apprentice found a creative way to make her science experiment work even though somebody discarded the plastic pop bottle she was hoarding. (Sorry.) Or when Ponytails was genuinely sad at finishing a biography of Galileo. Or when Crayons read me back part of the Charlotte's Web chapter we'd just finished together.
We'll try to understand that delays happen...there are disappointments...and that not everything's fun (though something can be enjoyable in its own way without being fun). Maybe the Squirrelings will be strange enough to think that knowing something is even more valuable than knowing where to look it up (or where to copy it from the Internet). Maybe when we've read Utopia and How to Read a Book and Whatever Happened to Justice, there won't be so many blurry lines. Maybe they will be subversive enough to think that they can be producers as well as consumers of knowledge.
If they turned out like that, I wouldn't mind at all.