“Can I include audio books as reading materials?”
“Can my child study [a particular country], in depth, for world history?”
“Can I decide that my child’s done with the school year even though he hasn’t completely finished the curriculum?”…
I see questions like these (and others) online all the time. I like trying to share what I know to try to help these homeschool parents who are trying to figure out what they’re doing. And I understand that other people are doing the same: Trying to share what they know in order to help. Usually I’m fine with that even though a lot of people give out information that I disagree with.
But somehow it got to me this evening. The problem wasn’t that they disagreed. Neither was it that they were rude or nasty. Rather, I’d just had enough with people who mean well telling some person who is trying to figure out homeschooling that they cannot do it a particular way when the helpful person gives no clearly valid reason other than their own expertise or opinion.
In my experience, there is no one right way to homeschool–just as there’s no single clearly correct way to set up a school or to educate a child. I’ve seen LOTS of ways to homeschool. And while some ways aren’t ones I plan to try, it doesn’t mean that they can’t work for a different family with different children, needs, experiences, and circumstances than mine. Moreover, just because someone hasn’t seen something done a certain way before doesn’t mean that it can’t be done that way. We aren’t required to be cookie cutters; we can be innovative.
I’ve experienced so many more schools and homeschools than the vast majority. I attended at least thirteen schools before graduating from high school–so many that I’m not even sure of the actual total. As an adult, I’ve taught at a wide variety of public and private schools, as well as one Dept. of Defense Dependents School (which is rather like a mixture of public and private schools on an American military base overseas). I’ve also tutored students from more schools than I can count, and, as a homeschool support group leader and evaluator, I’ve talked in detail to hundreds, more likely thousands, of homeschool parents about how they educate their own. I’d like to think that I’ve learned a lot along the way about the vast possibilities of how children can be taught, and I certainly know that what some may advocate as the best teaching method today is not only not the only way to teach but in fact will likely be considered an outdated method in the very near future.
So, tonight I’m totally annoyed by the people who tell others, “No, you can’t do it that way.”
I’d like to tell them all, “But why can’t you? Do you say that because you personally haven’t experienced it done that way? Because it doesn’t sound right to you? Because it isn’t the way you’d do it? Or because it’s downright illegal and will cause a huge mess? Why? Why tell this person who’s trying to figure out the possibilities that their idea is invalid unless it fits your own realm of experience? And why state it as though it’s an absolute fact, when it is just your own opinion?”
There’s no law (at least there isn’t here in Florida) that says that audio books or read-alouds can’t be considered reading materials. In fact, Florida law doesn’t define what is meant by “reading materials” so there’s a lot of room there to consider other possible definitions. In fact, I took a graduate level course on teaching reading in which we were urged to make sure that students listened to books, without a copy of it in front of them, in order to increase their listening level and, in consequence, the level to which their own reading could rise. Maybe that’s not your experience, but if one school of thought puts it as a valid part of teaching reading, why can’t that other homeschool parent consider those audio books and read-alouds as reading materials? Particularly if they are just one part of reading instruction? (And don’t forget those students with physical limitations that might not be able to read without audio books and read-alouds.)
Why can’t studying a country other than your own, in great depth, count as world history? The history of any one country is inter-connected with those of others so a lot of the world could be studied through the study of a single country. Or that study may be a piece of a class in which the student then studies a few other countries in depth or focuses on some other view of history. It might not be the way that every school studies history, but I am sure some public or private school is doing it that way; so who’s to dictate (since it’s not against the law–at least not here in Florida) that a homeschool student can’t study world history in that fashion? Especially if the student is really interested in the country studied, the student may learn a great deal more than he would have through a textbook that bored him.
Who said that a parent can’t declare the school year to be over because most public and private schools here in Florida have ended their school years? Schools don’t make students stay until the texts are finished. In fact, it is rare for a school to finish a textbook and yet school students are allowed to end their school years.
Of course, homeschoolers don’t have to use the public schools as their standard or their ultimate goal, but if a public school can do something, why would we say that homeschoolers can’t follow suit but instead have to do things beyond what is required of public or private schools? Why add that burden to homeschool parents? Is that really helping them?