Thursday, March 31, 2011

Autonomy

Homeschooling is an act of liberation and an act of passion. It is an occasion to walk away from institutional images of life and to embrace a vision that is filled with personal meaning and unmistakable truths for our families. - Earl Gary Stevens

This is one of my very favourite quotes about choosing to learn at home with our children. And, since my child never went to a physical school, my main experience with "walking away from institutional images of life" was to walk away from DL enrollment.

Here are the things I feel that my family has gained through registering under Section 12 of the BC School Act:
  • complete ownership of our learning-at-home philosophy without reference to anyone else's view about education or child development
  • total control over my time as a parent; no worries about when I'm going to get to reporting this week
  • freedom from the artificial structure of a learning year... labour day weekend is just labour day weekend
  • record keeping is a matter of collecting our favourite projects and things and storing them as mementoes of my son's childhood rather than as "evidence of learning"
  • ability to hatch plots and make plans to have grand adventures and do fabulous things without having them translated into edu-speak and put into my son's school file
  • total honouring of my son's unique learning pace and style without having to compare it to artificial normative data about what kids are expected to do and when (and how)
  • complete freedom for my son to study anything he likes, whenever he likes, without feeling that it will be ignored in his student file because it's outside of the Learning Outcomes for his grade level
  • anything I write about my son's learning is truly a reflection of my delight in his growth and development as a person and I can write it whenever I feel like it (no obligations attached) and can do so while respecting my son's right to privacy about his life
  • and I can write whenever I want to, if I want to, and how I want to (without reference to institutionalized language about learning, based on out-dated theories that I don't agree with)
  • ability to choose to keep the "home" in homeschooling as we focus our activities on exactly what my son wants to do without worrying about outside perception or judgement
  • deeper trust in my own knowledge of my child and my own "expertise" as his parent
  • knowledge that my son won't be receiving "marks" on his student record that are based on a flawed (in my opinion) system of assessment
  • ability to make a decision about FSA participation without worrying about letting down someone else
  • no sense of accountability or responsibility to anyone except my own family, which means less stress all around

I admit, it was hard to walk away from DL. Really hard. Being enrolled had changed our lifestyle. It was tangible. And I regret that I let it happen. Somehow, in my concern to make sure we had enough to report on and did enough to cover off the LOs (even though I didn't "care" about them), we recreated school through community activities. And we became acclimatized to the hustle and bustle, dependent on the additional funding to make it happen.

We paid a price. I saw, very quickly, that most of the folks teaching classes did not share my values when it came to how children (not just my own) should be treated as learners. In effect, I subjected my child to the very attitudes that I had wished to avoid by keeping him out of school. We also became tired and grumpy. All of us. We were out of the house 6 days a week, often more than once a day. And that's when he was 5 and 6. 

Registration gave me the freedom to walk away from my own "institutional images of life" in a way that I would never have dreamed possible. Having my child learn at home through a DL wasn't enough for me... I needed a more definitive break from "the system" in order to fully break with expectations anchored in my past experience.

The qualitative improvement in our lives is astounding.

Not everyone reacts to DL like I did: there are folks who are able to shield themselves from any heavy feelings of obligation or accountability. Not everyone will appreciate or enjoy the freedom available to them through Registration: they may feel better knowing that a school and a certified teacher will guide and direct what they do at home with their children.

But, for our family, it's so nice to be back into our own skins again.