Report on the proceedings of the Jedi Temple Academy

So azureavian asked, in part,

i would like to know more about how you go about schooling your kids now you are in a new place. i know at least one of them went to public school part time? do you still do that or are they now both home schooled exclusively?

(You can read the rest of her comment here.)

Actually, Fisher went to public school full-time, on a standard schedule, from kindergarten through second grade. I thought about homeschooling him last year, but he’d had a really phenomenal teacher for first grade and would be returning to her classroom for second grade. We gave him the choice of homeschooling or returning to public school last August. He chose a final year with Ms. F. and his classroom buddies.

Rhys was homeschooled for kindergarten last year, and this year we’re resuming the wild edu-ma-journey with both boys in tow.

So why did I choose to educate Fisher at home this year, instead of sending him back to a classroom school?

  • Third grade is the time, in Oregon as well as Colorado (and California… and, I believe, most other states), when "high-stakes" standardized testing begins. I am without exception opposed to standardized testing and to the kind of "teaching to the test" education that this sort of test demands, and I didn’t want Fisher participating in the whole rigmarole.
  • Although Fisher had a wonderful teacher, we still saw signs of a less than ideal classroom fit creeping in. I think I may have mentioned the Britney Spears worksheet he brought home last year (!); he also brought home reams of worksheets that were indifferently completed, but whose margins were filled with tiny, intricate drawings. He seemed to be learning one of the most toxic lessons I can recall picking up in school: that schoolwork is something to be rushed through as quickly as possible, expending the tiniest possible amount of effort, so that you can embark on projects of real interest to you… reading, drawing, or whatever.
  • One of the strongest core values I want to teach my children is self-determination: of deciding what they want to do and figuring out for themselves the path they need to take to get there. That may, at some point, involve formal schooling–for example, I can easily imagine Rhys enrolling in some higher-level math courses a few years down the road–or something else, such as an apprenticeship, self-guided research, volunteer work, taking a year off to backpack around South America, or whatever. I want them to see their options with clear eyes and a realistic attitude, not one that privileges classroom learning above any other form of knowledge. (This was a tough idea for me to accept, since I’m about the classroom-learningiest person around. Love books, love school, love tests. Wanna play Trivial Pursuit?) When I reflect on my own life/career, and more especially on the lives and careers of other people I know (Jim and my brother Benjamin foremost among them), what I see is the importance of pursuing your own passion rather than a mapped-out K-college track that seems to have producing well-trained and compliant workers as its primary goal.
  • Probably the most important reason: I like having our family home together, or not at home together. I like having the freedom to take a few days off and go camping, or to take a week off and go visit family, or to wake up at 9:30 and stay up past midnight if we all feel like it. I like having my boys around, and I think it’s better for them to be around us and doing what we do than kept in an age-segregated environment all day. (Age segregation… there’s another of my pet hobbyhorses. When’s the last time you spent the day with thirty other people born within eighteen months of your own birthday? Unnatural. Weird.)
  • Mass culture does not reflect our values. (Another thing I share with the Rainbow Resource folks, and probably with your average wacky Christian homeschooler!) I don’t like the shallow, consumerist, sexist, superstitious, looks-obsessed nature of popular culture, and I don’t want it taking up any more headspace than necessary in my kids’ brains. When Fisher started coming home last year throwing around epithets like "That’s so gay" and "Rhys, don’t act like a girl," I knew we were about done with a classroom school environment.
  • Classrooms are not for everybody. Fisher did fairly well in a traditional classroom, at least academically (though I have a feeling his grades would have started slipping dramatically in a couple of years). Rhys, however, would not. He’s not particularly verbal; he needs to touch and move things in order to learn; he gets lost and shunted to the side in a noisy group environment. I can easily see him being the kid who sits in the back of the classroom, never saying anything and never getting in trouble, quietly failing while no one notices. Fisher’s intelligence is the kind that comes up and smacks you in the face. Rhys’ is the kind that sneaks up behind you and then suddenly busts out with something mind-boggling. Would Rhys eventually adapt to a noisy, dog-eat-dog, sit-in-your-seat-and-finish-your-worksheet classroom atmosphere? Quite possibly; but I’m not willing to risk the sweet and unique personality he already has to determine it.

Well, there’s the "why" of the Jedi Temple Academy. Tomorrow, or maybe the next day, a little bit of the "how."

A parting question for you, though: What are you doing with your life now, and how much of it is directly related to your formal schooling vs. learning you’ve acquired for yourself on a need-to-know basis along the way? I’m really curious; I would love to know.

About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
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4 Responses to Report on the proceedings of the Jedi Temple Academy

  1. Magpie Ima says:

    That’s a great question (and a great post!). My favorite subjects in school were foreign languages and the only career I’ve ever had is teaching language. But I am one of the very few folks I know with a career in my major field of study.
    You’d think I’d be a lot more pro-school than I am, but maybe it’s all those years in school (as a student and a teacher) that make me want to keep my kids out. My oldest is now planning to go to school in September for the first time…as a high school freshman. Interesting times ahead, for sure.

  2. Audrey says:

    “I’m not willing to risk the sweet and unique personality he already has…”
    That would sum up one of my biggest reasons for homeschooling. I’ve seen too many really sweet kids — sweet, that is, until they’ve been in ps long enough to learn that sweet = fag/girlie/dork/geek/retard/etc. etc. etc.
    Thomas is a remarkably friendly, outgoing little boy. People keep telling me how he’d do so well in school because “he’d just be friends with everybody.” And, when they come to know him and recognise his intelligence they say he’d do so well in school because “he’d just ace every test.”
    So, according to them, he’d be a whiz at school through popularity and tests — neither of which has anything all to do with what I would call education, nor anything to do with I would call being a decent human being.
    And, that’s what I’m doing — educating a decent human being.

  3. Laelaps says:

    “What are you doing with your life now, and how much of it is directly related to your formal schooling vs. learning you’ve acquired for yourself on a need-to-know basis along the way?”
    I’d answer it if you didn’t already familiar with what I would say. 🙂 Actually thought, most of what I’ve mentally acquired hasn’t been “need to know” in a financial or academic sense, but more of a “I just gotsta know!” sort of thing where I would lose sleep if I did not feed my brain.

  4. Robin says:

    I popped over here from a link in Kris’ blog, Paradise Found. I LOVED your post. I think you have articulated just about every thought I’ve ever had on why we homeschool our youngest son. I have two college-aged children and my biggest regret in this world is not homeschooling them.
    Rhys’ personality characteristics sound exactly like my little guy. And yet he flourishes in our homeschool environment. I had many comments from neighbors and family members who thought he would only become more socially adept if he went to ps. But, lo and behold, he is now much more verbal and more likely to interact with others than he was before homeschooling.
    It was a big gamble for us to start homeschooling, but it has paid off in a big way. We all enjoy teaching and learning with each other.
    As for your last question, I went to cosmetology school (so not much formal education) and earned my living that way for over 20 years. But most of my education has been self-taught and I love learning new things. That is a love that I would like to pass on to my kids.
    Thank you for such a thought-provoking post! 🙂

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