My son is 4 years old, and next September, he’s supposed to enter “the system” and start school. My wife and I have been exploring options for his schooling until he’s old enough to make his own decisions about it.
We were planning on having him attend the private school at which I work, but we really can’t afford it. We might be able to manage the tuition for each year by sacrificing our ability to save for our retirement, but we can’t afford the $10,000 deposit. Although this private school is an extension of the education system and they do some things I disagree with (mandatory homework, grades, age grouping), they also do a lot of things right (student choice in some areas, lots of student leadership opportunities) and would do a fine job of “educating” my son.
We looked at the public school options in our area, but are worried about rolling the dice for our son’s education. We know how important it is that he has a good teacher and we want to make sure we have someone with whom we can communicate our concerns about how school works. Unfortunately, although there are many excellent teachers in the public system in British Columbia, very few of them will admit how damaging grades, homework, etc… are to student learning.
The problem is, I don’t want education to be done to my son like it’s some kind of disease with which we need to infect him. He is already plenty curious about the world and desperate to understand how it works.
So my wife and I are both doing research about homeschooling, unschooling, anything we can find which breaks the mold of a typical education. I worry that if I send my son to a regular school that they will indoctrinate him with things like limits to what is possible for him to do, gender stereotypes, etc…
We’ve had discussions about grades and recognize that they demotivate children from learning. For children who are doing poorly (in grades), they stop the learning process completely. For children who are getting good grades, they impose arbitrary limits on what the students are expected to be able to do.
We’ve talked about homework. My wife is worried that if I work in a system which requires students to do homework, will I be jeopardizing my job if I argue against it for my own son? I don’t give homework to my own students and this worries her not because she sees the homework as having any value, but because I work in a system which requires it and I’m rebelling against that system.
We both recognize that age groupings are a bit silly. My son has a friend who is 8, another who is 3, and so on. He doesn’t place boundaries on who he plays with (except that they have to be willing to play) and who his friends are. Why should we place boundaries on who he learns with, and what he learns?
We want our son to have tonnes of choice about what he learns. We recognize that when he is youngest he will have a bit less choice as he is less aware of the possibilities that exist, but we still want to instill in him a sense of self-managing his learning.
I might be considered somewhat of a radical in the education world. Perhaps most of us who write for the Cooperative Catalyst might be? My wife however? She would not consider herself a radical. However in very few conversations about these issues and some research she has done herself about the problems, my wife has recognized the problems in the education system. Obviously she has a lot of experience in said system and she remembers some of the awful experiences she went through and she is drawing upon those experiences to recognize that she doesn’t want the same thing for her son.
The question which is worrying both of us is, are we doing the right thing? Can we make this choice for our son? If he decides he wants to go to “regular” school later in life, will we have hampered his ability to “fit in”? Should we even be concerned about these issues?