Thursday, May 5, 2011

What do you get when you cross an overly licentious individual with an encyclopedia?

I might be opening a giant can of worms here, so I'll say right up front, I don't know how I feel about all this.  But I value what I hear from y'all quite highly, so here's what happened, and let's talk about it.

When Peggy and I were in an antique store last week up in PA, I was waiting to buy some old LIFE magazines when I saw four people huddled around an old book. Apparently, the book was a now-outdated volume on astronomy.  

Any book on astronomy is outdated as soon as someone with a telescope finds a new planet or asteroid flying around, anyway.

But in this case, a youngster, male, roughly ten years of age, was holding forth on the shortcoming and inaccuracies he had found in the book.  For one thing, I am quite certain that this young fella knows a lot more about what's up in the sky than I do.  I do remember the mnemonic device M VEM J SUN, which helped us learn the planets in order: Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune.  In those days, Pluto was a dog in the pre-frozen Disney era, and then it became a planet, and now it isn't again. But that is all I know, I'm telling you, and if this young man was discoursing on how and why the book was wrong, I'd have had to take him at his word.

But the man who ran the store was beaming! And the boy's parents were a-beam! And the boy beamed more brightly than the sun! They beamed all four, as he explained why the book was wrong.  And then he continued ranting about how much he knew about all this, and why didn't someone just let HIM write a book, and everyone else is just dumb dumb dumb, and the man who ran the store beamed no more.  The parents and the boy were the only three beamers left, as they turned to foray more deeply into the aged merchandise, the better for Einstein, Jr., to find more things that have changed since the day they were made.

And here comes the kicker:  As they ankled by me, triumphantly, I noticed that the buy wore a t-shirt with this printed on front:

 I was able to find the image at right through a quick Google search.  There are thousands of images for this, which I take to be the defiant slogan of the homeschool community.  These parents were definitely, defiantly, proud of their unsocialized little asteroid.

I look at it this way: people who are very smart and well-educated and sensible, and who have the time and inclination to do so, should, by all means, school their children at home IF they can also find a way to incorporate socialization into the curriculum.  Being unsocialized is one of four ways NOT to go through life, the others being (say it with me) "Fat, drunk and stupid."  

As to the education aspect, again, if you know what you're doing, go ahead.  It's just that I once talked to a person who said, "I don't want no kid of mine in no public school.  They don't teach 'em nothin'!" See, it's been my experience that people don't talk that way to me at noon, and then speak like John Gielgud when they get home.  Bad grammar sticks around, even when people try to bring out the good.  

And even people who use good grammar and teach it to their kids are not apt to be scholars in every field, which is why schools employ more than one teacher.  There are math teachers, science teachers, history teachers, French teachers,  physical education teachers, metal shop teachers, home ec teachers, fried shrimp, shrimp salad and...well, you know.  Being well-intended and following an approved curriculum guide: is that enough?  

And the socialization skills that come from being in a building with others of the same age can't be replaced by sitting at the kitchen table while mom cooks dinner and talks about the Peloponnesian Wars.  There's a real skill in asking out a girl during a class break and then, five minutes later, having to go to the front of the class and solve for 'x' in a complicated equation.  Depending on the girl's answer, the equation of your life may or may not have just become more complicated, and you still have to solve for 'x'.

So, again, I'd like some opinions on homeschooling from those who have tried it or even those who have not.  I can see that a capable parent or two would make a fine teacher, but there is more to school than readin', writin' and cipherin'.  There's socializin', too!

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