Adventures in sort-of unschooling

From one of my email groups

on August 22, 2012

I didn’t write this, but thought I’d share 🙂


If my son were in First Grade yesterday

School started yesterday and my son would have been in First Grade. If
he attended, he would have had to be outside at 6:50am when the bus
arrived. That means he would have had to be up by 6am at the latest,
which means that his 7pm bedtime would have been super important; he
melts down without 11 hours of sleep.

The classroom doors don’t open until 745, so he would have experienced
55 minutes of either being in transit or sitting in the cafeteria
quietly. From 745 to 8, he would have gotten settled at his desk. Then
it all starts at 8…the math centers, the literacy centers, the group
work…with no breaks (according to the class website) until 11am. He
would then get 40 minutes to eat and play before heading back to work.
Work would finish at 245. So, he would have approximately 7 hours of
continuous work, except for one 40 minute break. I think he might
completely explode!

He would come home with homework on every day except for Friday. So,
by the time he got home on the bus (around 330 pm), he would have 3
1/2 hours to unwind, eat, do homework, take a shower, play and go to
bed. Then it would start over.

In addition to the homework btw, we would be expected to drill him on
terms like “medial sounds” (for 6 year olds!), because it’s the
language of the NCLB tests. There’s a really long list of testing
words that the kids are expected to memorize each year, not because
they have any value or relevancy in their lives, but because it
improves testing.

He would have PE one day a week. He would have what they call “art” 1
day a week. He would no longer have the luxury of working on free art
all throughout the day with the pleasure of solitude, with a complete
lack of inhibiting rules. He’s very artistic. This would crush him.

We would no longer have the time to take all the “field trips” we
take. As a substitute, the First Grade class would take him to the
Science Center once (we go monthly), the Art Museum once (we go
monthly) and a pumpkin patch once (we would go anyway). If he were in
K last year, btw, there would have been a trip to the grocery store
(er, we go weekly) to learn about “healthy food”, even though our home
diet is FAR healthier than what he would eat at school.

In addition to all of this, there would be the constant barrage of
“spirit nights” and other strongly encouraged activities that occur
out of school hours. He would be fed candy in school, which we don’t
do at home. He would not be able to participate in the hot lunch
program, because they don’t have any regular vegetarian options
(unless mashed potatoes count). There would be a lot of hype to buy
and sell things in the interest of supporting the school. The school
would be promoted as a very needy entity, in the interest of winning
over the kids and families to the cause, and we would be guilted into
buying junk or peddling it to our relatives.

INSTEAD, my 6 year old got up when he felt well rested. He ate a slow
series of mini-breakfasts in the morning. He stayed in his PJs for a
long time. He PLAYED all day. He played and played and played so hard
that it seems to be work; it seems to be a genuine need. Of course,
there were educational moments amidst all this; you are homeschoolers
so I don’t need to describe that to you. But he had a completely
relaxed day with no pressure. I feel good about this.

Sometimes, I get anxious because I think that now we’re entering the
hard-core school years. Lots of people homeschool for K, but then they
send their kids to school. Starting in First Grade, school is
apparently all-business. When I think, “Oh no! He’d never be able to
attend school now because he missed the gentle K introduction to
meaningless coloring sheets, sticker charts and busy work.”, I do
things like read the school’s website. And then I feel really good
about the choice we made for him. I feel content and so does he.

Thanks for letting me share.


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