Go on any homeschool blog and you will find a lot about what is wrong with the public school system. We all seem to know something is broken. Yet, I believe wholeheartedly that the majority of parents and teachers, administrators and even politicians, start with the best intentions.
Recently, my local high school received national recognition for getting things very right. President Obama honored them with a visit for their Academies program. In a nutshell, local companies have partnered with the school to create special paths of expertise. One example of this is the Health Science and Law Academy. HCA is a major employer in the area and it makes perfect sense to train students for these types of jobs.
The best part of their program is it seems to be working. Graduation rates have gone up at this school over 20%. Not everyone wants to be an academic and there should be no shame in that. This school has decided valuable employment opportunities are just as honorable a goal as attending college and it seems to have given these students a realistic future. Perhaps there is even more wisdom in these career choices when you consider the costs of college and the risk of not finding employment even with a degree and sometimes two.
While we watched the speech my daughter, who is now a seventh grader, was impressed. This is, after all, the public school we are zoned for getting national praise for their educational system. I was stunned because this is the same school that used to sway friends and family over to my way of thinking about homeschooling .
“Well, you know, we’re zoned for McGavock.”
“Oh! I see! I don’t blame you.”
For years now I have been hearing about the improvements, but I filed it under “time will tell” and continued to think of the school as failing. Yet it can’t be ignored that in five years they have made some substantial changes. It is only natural we should take a moment and ask if we are missing out on a great opportunity. I mean, there is a bus that stops right on our street every school day ready to transport the kids to this nationally recognized and free institution. Yet when we compared what the school offers to her own goals they didn’t really match up. My daughter wants to be a linguist and study ancient history. At home she is coming along nicely with her Spanish and has learned to read and speak some Japanese on her own. Sending her back to school would not help her along her current chosen path. This is the problem with homeschooling for us: the deeper we dive into our own custom education, the more we could never go back to a sterilized, standardized set of goals.
The kids feel this way too. My oldest, who used to think returning to a high school would be great, is watching other high schoolers experiences and deciding that it really isn’t worth giving up the freedoms she has now. My son never even considers it. He even harbors a little fear that something will happen and we will have to stop homeschooling. My youngest daughter is only in kindergarten this year but can not imagine being dropped off for the day in a room full of other five-and six-year-olds. She prefers the company of older kids and adults even when they don’t always feel the same about having her tag along. When I try to visualize her in a room full of peers, I always see her leading a revolt. Yes, I think many trips to the principal would be in her future. And that would be sad because at the heart of it, she’s a natural leader who is often bored with ‘age-appropriate’ things and will not settle for less than what she knows she needs. If that spunk isn’t crushed out of her, it might just be her best feature as an adult.
So while friends and family shake their heads in wonder as to why we would actively opt out of a school that the President visited for its top notch education system, we will continue to chart our own custom courses for our own specialized lives.