This is a guest post from Angel Mulhearn who is mother to two kids ages 5 and 3. Prior to that she was a kindergarten teacher. Angel is also my sister-in-law who lives on the farm next door to ours.  She took her son out of school a few months ago. This is the list of reasons she wrote to explain to people who asked why she was doing it. 

1. Sitting still for 7 hours a day is not developmentally appropriate for children who are 5 or 6 years old. 
The first week of school, our son was beyond exhausted at the end of the day. Our normally energetic, spirited boy who loves to ride his bike, climb trees in the yard, and run away from “bad guys” was too tired to play outside. Even on the most beautiful warm days of September and October, he would say he wanted to “go inside to rest.”

My husband and I thought it would take time for him to adjust to the long school day. Six weeks into school, his behavior only worsened. He fluctuated between being despondent and clingy to irritable and cantankerous. The slightest event would send him into a fit of inconsolable crying.

We kept my son home from school three days within the first six weeks of school, because we thought he physically could not handle the rigor of attending school those days. After the third absence, we received a letter in the mail with a copy of his attendance record threatening that legally he can only miss up to five days of parent-excused absences in any given semester. (In other words, the school does not trust parents to make intelligent decisions for their children’s health and well being).

2. School interferes with his innate desire to learn and his creativity.
Children are naturally curious and eager to discover the world where they live. My son loves to read and with his own initiative has learned a great deal about space, plants, the water cycle, and other subjects. Ask him the order of the planets or which planet he would like to visit, and he will enthusiastically answer.

Before he started kindergarten, our son would draw intricate pictures and write elaborate, creative stories with multiple pages of story lines and illustrations. Since the start of school, he does not have the energy or enthusiasm for such imaginative work.

During the school day, he has no choice in what or how he learns, with recess being his only opportunity to play.

Upon returning home from school, my son has exactly 3 hours to do homework, practice piano, eat dinner, take a bath, and read stories before bed. This leaves little or no time for playing. Every night, kindergarteners from his school have homework.

The teacher informed us that if a student does not complete his homework at home, he will use recess time to complete it. One night, I worked with my son to complete all of his homework, except I did not force him to color the assigned picture. With a degree in early childhood development and eight years of teaching experience, I rationalized that the four pages of coloring worksheets sent home that day was enough fine motor practice. The next day, he was held in from recess to color the picture.

3. Worksheets are not developmentally appropriate for kindergarten.
I understand teachers are under immense pressure from government mandates and administrators to teach prescribed curriculum and facilitate more and more standardized tests. However, five year olds are still five year olds, and they should be learning through play. Period.

“Play is the work of the child.” – Maria Montessori

“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” – Carl Jung

If you doubt children can learn through play, please learn about Tools of the Mind. It is an early childhood approach to preschool and kindergarten that centers on play. It was featured in the New York Times bestseller, Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It’s not just possible for children to learn through play; they learn so much better through play.

In one school district in the U.S., teachers were selected at random to teach the traditional curriculum or Tools of the Mind. The spring standardized tests revealed theTools of the Mind classrooms were almost a full year ahead of their peers in the regular classrooms.

Personally, I have used Tools of the Mind in my kindergarten classroom the two years I taught kindergarten and witnessed the success first hand. Learning through play is not only possible but imperative for children.

4. The rewards and punishments offered at schools undermine children’s intrinsic motivation to learn.
In the first week of school, my son came home dismayed. He said, “I sat on the carpet and listened to the teacher like I should, but I didn’t get a Rosie Buck.”

Over and over again, research has proven the more external motivators given to children, the less intrinsic motivation children have. With this knowledge, why do educators continue to offer rewards for every little sign of “good behavior?”

Look at the tasks teachers are asking students to complete. Would you be motivated to spend a week or more completing a standardized test? Would you want to fill out another meaningless worksheet? Instead of asking, “How can we motivate students?” We should be asking, “Why aren’t students motivated?”

5. Schools smother children’s creativity and critical thinking.
I’ve worked as an educator and I’ve attended workshops on critical thinking skills; I’ve printed out and referenced Bloom’s Taxonomy. Every classroom in the country could have Bloom’s Taxonomy plastered to the walls, but it would not solve the problem of critical thinking.

Higher level thinking skills can only be practiced when students are encouraged to think freely and have their opinions and ideas valued. In traditional classrooms, the only ideas rewarded are the “correct answers.” This does not breed an environment for critical thinking. Too many classrooms foster mere anxiety and fear of failure.

After a month of school, I asked my husband to look through the papers and craft projects our son had brought home from school and find one, just one paper or project that showed some sort of self-expression or creativity. What did he find? Mostly coloring worksheets (e.g. color the leaf marked “red” red, color the scarecrow’s hat labeled “blue” blue, trace the numbers on the number line, etc.). He could not find one example of my son’s vivid imagination.

6. What the school values and what we value as a family does not align.
Of course we want our son to be able to follow directions and take instructions from another adult, but that is not the only or most important skill we want him to have. As far as I can tell, the school values “good” behavior over everything else– how to do what you’re told to reach the correct answer in order to not miss recess and possibly earn a Rosie Buck.

46 replies
  1. Kina
    Kina says:

    Great post. However, here I am almost crying every day not knowing if I am cut out for this. We were thrown into homeschooling due to a set of circumstances outside our control. And now my child (5 yrs) is becoming a force to be reckoned with, pushes my buttons, and refuses to do anything that resembles homeschooling. While my husband is insisting on him practicing reading, math, and all this other stuff. And I am right in the middle of this storm feeling like a complete failure and idiot.

    • Amy A
      Amy A says:

      Five-year-olds are still babies in my eyes. It is probably around age seven, eight, nine or ten (depending on the child’s ability to focus etc.) when a child is ready for “studies” without coersion.

      I am rereading the book _Your Competent Child_ since I recommended so often. Yes, I still recommend it. Check it out.

      • liz
        liz says:

        I agree. 5 year olds are just little ones. I have a 4.5 year old. Super bright kid. He loves to be read to, but not interested unlearning letters/sound. On one hand this drives me bonkers as I see him as one of these kids who could have been reading at 3, but as unschoolers(child led learners) we don’t push it. Up until 2 weeks ago he didn’t draw. Now he is daring with a lot of detail. He just wasn’t ready I guess. He plays dress up, puts on plays, makes things out of bungie cords. In the summer he is out with his brother pounding nails on wood. He loves arts and crafts. He asks to do dioramas frequently. But no….we don’t do any formal “lessons” with our almost 3 and 4.5 or even our 7 and 9 years olds. The figure it out :)
        Hang in there!

    • Jeff T.
      Jeff T. says:

      I would recommend stopping formal learning/lessons for a five year old.

      We’re unschoolers so were not really forcing curriculum on any of the kids, but even our STATE sponsored homeschooling accountability organization says 5/6 six year olds should just be playing.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      Kina, Im adopting this broken reccord solution for all moms having a hard time with their kids.

      Get help.

      Pay someone to come over. Even if for a few hours a day.

      Figure out how to do it. You would figure out how to pay for medicine if health depended on it right? Figure out how to get someone to come to your house and be with you. Or get your kid outside. Something.

      Family wasnt meant to be done alone.

      • Amy K.
        Amy K. says:

        I agree with all of this. Homeschooling sucked for us for the first few months because we were too isolated. We found a few programs we like and now my older son is out of the house for most of three days a week, my younger son two days a week. Might seem to school-y for some unschoolers, but it works great for us.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        “Family wasn’t meant to be done alone.” So profound. But I don’t hear people say this very often. So I wanted to highlight it. We need to say it more, to reassure each other.

        Penelope

        • Amy A
          Amy A says:

          After reading the book _The Continuum Concept_ when my older was an infant, it was apparent to me that I needed a ‘tribe’ of my own to help me parent.

          I spent a good many years trying to find my ‘tribe’–from relatives to strangers.

          Unfortunately, there’s a big difference between being born into a tribe which is dedicated to making things work, and trying to create one as an adult with strangers or with relatives who are too busy.

          I never found it.

          But I will tell you what I learned from this experience.

          I learned that desperation attracts desperation. From there, I learned that there is absolutely no way to get around working through whatever it was that caused me to be desperate for help in my parenting.

          I would wager that a good many at-home parents, just like I did, have some sort of unrealistic expectations which keep them from being at-peace with where they are. For example, thinking they need to be more outwardly-successful (having a perfectly-kept home, kids enrolled in tons of classes/activities, kids studying x number of hours a day, having a perfectly-fit body, creating perfect meals, completing creative projects left-and-right, having dates with partner, posting amazing vacation photos on Facebook and Instagram, for example)

          When it comes right down to it, parenting is in the be-ing. Being with whatever is going on. Being with our children just as they are, just as we are. Being with ourselves as parents.

          There’s no one that we can hire who will help us BE. The only way out is through. And parenting is about going through it, and learning, learning, learning about ourselves and life.

          So my generic advice to all parents is to slow down and be curious about what is happening in each moment. Be present. There’s no where to hurry to. Right now is it. This is life.

          It took me more years than I would have liked to learn this. But thanks to parenting alone, I was forced to learn this. And I’m so glad I did.

          Of course, I think people should get help if it comes easily and naturally…while being self-aware.

    • Angel
      Angel says:

      Kina, hang in there! The first few months were really rough for us, too. It helped to talk with other homeschooling moms.

      I kept thinking I wasn’t doing enough, but then I realized my kids were playing more and learning more when I got out of their way.

      I agree with the suggestions of getting out of the house, finding support, and taking a month off from official homeschooling. I enjoyed reading about Thomas Jefferson education, a very minimalist approach to homeschooling.

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      I can’t stop thinking about this. He’s only 5. Do you remember what you did in school when you were 5? Does your husband. That would be better than this.

      Do you know what I did in school when I was 5? We colored, cut pasted, heard stories PLAYED.

      The modernization of education for young children (or old ones) has not proven to be an improvement.

  2. Mark Kenski
    Mark Kenski says:

    Wow, Angel. You’ve journeyed from the very heart of the system to the stunning realization that things are not what they seem–in fact, they are quite often the opposite–and had the courage to set off on a different and very difficult path.

    You’ll find, I trust, that it does not have to be a lonely path. You’ve joined a growing legion of parents who said “no,” and put their children and their family first. Welcome!

    And Kina, your family is on the new path but your husband is still trying to have his feet land on the steps of the old path; no wonder he’s stumbling. And tripping you. You’re both going to need to take your eyes off the old maps you have been given and look at where you’re really walking now, and base your steps on the ground you’re on.

    You could start by reading back through older posts on Penelope’s blog. She went through, as we all did with some variation, the stages, the feelings, the struggles you’re facing now. The commenters too, have left valuable commentary, with links to resources, explanations and materials you can use as a guide.

    I suggest you read 5 posts here and the comments each night–maybe an hour–and your husband should do the same. In a month, your husband and you will be on the same page, have a much better handle on what you’re doing, and feel that, while things will often be challenging, it is a very worthwhile challenge, and you can get through it.

    That’s the prescription.

    As a band aid, call a halt for the moment to regroup, for that same month while you and your husband take time to educate yourself. Let your child detoxify from the process–if it is this hard on you right now, how is he supposed to process it so fast? Let him be a 5 year old, and play, while you and your husband take a little time to be adults and get straightened out. You have to work as a team, and you can’t do that until you have the same game plan.

    A month of playing is not going to set your child back, it will give him a breather, a chance for his mind to heal. It will give him time to see you as his mother instead of as his adversary.

    An in a month, you’ll all be far more ready to move forward with at least some confidence.

    • Angel
      Angel says:

      Mark, thank you! It really has helped to reach out to other homeschooling parents. It can feel lonely.

      I love your recommendation for Kina. I think a month of playing would be beneficial for everyone!

    • UnschoolingMama
      UnschoolingMama says:

      I would guess she put her son in school for the same reason most do: it’s the cultural norm. Maybe she had doubts, but still hoped the system would work for her son. Maybe her husband wasn’t on board with homeschooling at first, but when he saw what school was doing to their son had a change of heart. My husband was skeptical about homeschooling until he saw first hand what schools are like. Now he meets up with and talks homeschooling with other dads he has connected with at work who also have partners homeschooling. It’s hard at first to set aside your beliefs in what schools should be (inspiring, nurturing places of otherwise inaccessible knowledge and experience) with what they really are.

      I really appreciated this post. I love posts about why people decide to homeschool. It is a great conversation to have because many parents face these same challenges, but mistakenly blame the particular teacher, or school, rather than the system as a whole. I also am a former early childhood teacher who decided to homeschool after witnessing bright, passionate little kids struggling in classes that were completely developmentally inappropriate (in my case, this was preschool). I’d enjoy reading more from Angel as her family continues to homeschool.

      • Jennifa
        Jennifa says:

        Unschooling Mama, I agree. It is a nice post that summarizes many ideas very well.

        It just seemed odd, living next door to Penelope, being related even, and having an education degree. It seemed like some things would have come together earlier than they did.

        But I am far away in commenter-land, so in real-time it must feel different.

        However it does reinforce my thinking that homeschooling will never be mainstream. Maybe I am just looking for verification at this point, but most people do not have a Penelope next door, nor seek one out on the internet. So if it took Angel this long to come to this conclusion, when much of the data was staring right back at her….I just don’t have faith that the majority of parents would ever come to the same conclusion. Most are dependent on educators, and many educators can’t figure this out (or least figure it out enough to make a change) after years of higher education and experience in the system.

        See, now I am sounding mean again! i don’t want to, but I get frustrated for kids that are never going to see anything outside public K-12.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          You’re right. School will be here for a long time.

          Im just of the opinion that we are separating as social classes back to a rich/poor society. Most families I know send their kids to private school (they do so so they can go to work for the most part.)

          A lot of people don’t even realize there is another option besides school. Our culture is very ingrained in it.

        • Amy A
          Amy A says:

          I think there will always be parents who happily pass on some of the parenting responsibilities to someone else. School is a socially-acceptable way of doing that.

          Kids can still drop out at age 16 (I think?) I sure wish I would have.

        • UnschoolingMama
          UnschoolingMama says:

          Jennifa, you said: “So if it took Angel this long to come to this conclusion, when much of the data was staring right back at her….I just don’t have faith that the majority of parents would ever come to the same conclusion.”

          The parents I know who homeschool (or plan to when their children are old enough) are individuals who have, for a long time, questioned authority. Some of my homeschooling friends are libertarians and want very small government with very limited control. Some do not vaccinate their children on the typical schedule. Some choose home birth or at least natural birth with midwives because they are skeptical about traditional hospital-based birthing practices. Most of them choose to eat organically, locally grown food because they distrust conventionally grown food processes. Most of them are jaded with organized religion. All of them are not all of these things, but they ALL are in their late 20’s and early 30’s, from upper-middle class families, holding down professional level jobs and making a lower-middle class wage. I’m also of this demographic and hold some of those beliefs.

          I think that once you question one source of authority (whether it’s government, organized religion, big pharma/health care, conventional food sources), your mindset is primed to question other areas, including education. I also happened to have a background in teaching, so I came to my conclusion about school vs. homeschool early, in comparison to my friends, when my son was still an infant. If I hadn’t already questioned other sources of authority, I don’t know if I would have come to the conclusion so quickly. Maybe we would have enrolled in a Montessori school to “try it out.” Maybe I would have been persuaded by neighbors that our neighborhood school really was fantastic, like they say.

          I think people my age (late 20’s to early 30’s) are especially jaded because we are part of the generation told we could do anything with a college degree and have graduated with major debt to realize otherwise. Other people of other ages and experiences also reach these conclusions too, of course.

          It might take longer for certain people to reach this point of questioning/challenging authority if they had few previous reasons to do so. But I do think that more and more people are questioning as least ONE source of authority, and so maybe that will lead more people to also question mass education.

          • Amy A
            Amy A says:

            ” I think that once you question one source of authority…your mindset is primed to question other areas, including education.”

            Completely agree. For me, it started with wanting childbirth my own way, not someone else’s protocols. It all snowballed from there.

    • Amy A
      Amy A says:

      Giving school a shot helps to solidify parenting beliefs. She can now say she knows what it is like as a parent, not just as a former student or a teacher. Once you know, there is no way to claim ignorance.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Jennifa,

      I ask myself how many public school educators put their children in public schools. I read a few months ago one public educator works to pay for her own kid to go to private school in Los Angeles. The people that I know who work in public schools don’t send their kids to public school themselves. I would love to see some real empirical data on this and I’m sure it changes based on region on population.

    • Angel
      Angel says:

      Jennifa, I have been a part of some beautiful, fun, creative, play-based kindergartens. I was hoping my son’s kindergarten class would resemble those. I had no idea it would be so drastically different. I am grateful we pulled him as soon as we did- only six weeks into school. I certainly know better for my daughter.

  3. Fatcat
    Fatcat says:

    Kina, it will get better. Within the framework of your husband insisting on a traditional school model that does not work, I realize that you are in a very hard place. See if you can convince your husband to let you do unit studies the rest of the year or a curriculum like “Five in a Row”. You are not a failure. Hang in there. (From a mom who has been doing this for 11 years and felt like you feel 11 years ago.) Sorry to hijack your comment stream Penelope.

  4. Amy A
    Amy A says:

    I’m glad you wrote this post.

    This is spot-on:

    “In other words, the school does not trust parents to make intelligent decisions for their children’s health and well being.”

    I have nothing to do with anyone who or any institution that undermines my parenting and values.

    I question any institutionalizing of (including making curriculum for) “play”. Contrived, controlled and reeking of “agenda”–no matter how cute the packaging. The same goes for teaching children critical thinking.

    School cannot replace family time, values and homelife. No programs and curriculum are going to change that. It can’t be fixed. So they ought to stick with the unbiased factual studies and leave the artificial fluff out of it.

    When people realize school is set up to condition citizens for government’s (and those it is in bed with) purposes, nothing is surprising really. Of course it wants parents out of the picture (or at least to make parents feel incompetent beyond being school-rule enforcers) and to manipulate every waking hour of kids’ lives.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      The sad fact is that there are kids that come from neglected homes.

      The rules are put in place for the lowest common denomentor.

    • Jenn Gold
      Jenn Gold says:

      Your comment was so well done Amy A. I agree 100%!!!

      It is just really disheartening to me when you start to be able to understand the “Whys” – Why is the system set up this way, Why do this to kids…

      More than stating the problem, when you get ot the root of the problems, then you start knowing too much !

      I dont really like swimming upstream but gosh…. I just have to really!

      • Amy A
        Amy A says:

        Hey, thanks, Jenn.

        Yeah, I have to divert my focus from what’s going on with the big agendas “out there” much of the time so I don’t get swallowed up in hopelessness. But I don’t want to be oblivious and it makes me itchy to not speak up. Certain people speaking up is what opened my eyes, and I appreciate them so much for doing so. Enough conscious people *can* turn things around.

        I have to believe the solution is focusing on and nurturing ones own family and circle of loved ones (not letting oneself be so distracted from those who matter most). This is where I reside and find peace. It is the one place where I don’t feel like I’m swimming upstream…

        • Angel
          Angel says:

          Amy A- great input! Thank you! I have been criticized for not keeping my son in public school and fighting for reform. My answer is always- I have to do what is best for my family first.

          I would really like to see public education completely reformed, but like you – it is very overwhelming to think about. My first step is sharing my thoughts on our experience. Any suggestions for what we can do next?

          • Amy A
            Amy A says:

            Hi, Angel,

            Wow, that’s pretty interesting that some people think you should keep your young child in school as a form of fighting for school change.

            I second Mark Kenski’s recommendation to check out John Taylor Gatto.

            My radical idea for education reform is this:

            *Parents* need resources for empowerment–supporting families to support themselves. A couple ideas: tax breaks for staying home with kids, free community centers / learning centers (with mentors on-site) for *families* to hang out in together.

            To me, education belongs in the family’s hands–each family with its own agenda, no one else’s.

            Off hand, without having dialogs with specific advocates and so forth, I have no idea how to advocate for that beyond focusing on and living what we believe in and speaking up in case anyone is open and listening.

            To have a better understanding of the intricacies of advocacy, I liked the book called _Push Back!: How to Take a Stand Against Groupthink, Bullies, Agitators, and Professional Manipulators_ by Beverly K. Eakman.

            Pushing against something seems to make it grow bigger and can create distraction rather than momentum. I prefer to spend most of my energy caring for myself and my kids, not fighting. But part of caring for myself is self-expression. LOL. It’s such a delicate dance.

  5. Linda
    Linda says:

    Great post– reminds me of the Harry Chapin song FLOWERS ARE RED from the 70s!
    When I studied early childhood education in the 80s, it was all about the importance of play (Piaget). Unfortunately, most parents and school administrators didn’t like it then, and they still don’t like it now. For some reason, our culture equates learning with structure and work–not with play–thus killing exploration and creativity from the very start.
    Learning can be so much more spontaneous and fun at home. Have a wonderful time growing and learning with your children. Yay for Play!

  6. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Sounds about right. Our K experience was eye opening as well. I would add that I think K-2 for sure should be play-based, exploring, discovering etc.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Not just K-2! As they grow, they may need it again.

      My seventh grader is going through some sort of massive growth spurt. He’s grown 5″ and 16 pounds in three months. So, while our unschooling days don’t have a ton of “schooly” structure to begin with, I’m giving him a couple weeks of just sleeping in, eating healthy, and playing.

      This is accompanied by cries of “no fair” from the Equity Police, aka my fourth grader.

      Heh.

  7. Carole
    Carole says:

    This is a great post.

    I wanted to comment in support of Kina – hang in there! Five year olds know how to push our buttons, whether homeschooled, public schooled, unschooled ….. ;) This is such a great opportunity for you to connect without power struggles. I really like ahaparenting.com for encouragement when it comes to me feeling that I need help getting out of a controlling pattern with my kids.

    Also I agree with other commenters that this is a great time to back off “formal” school work and just play or read fun books or go to parks and museums together!

    And yes, make sure you get breaks, too.

  8. Becca O
    Becca O says:

    Kina I understand our first year was tough my husband was very nervous of this homeschooling thing I learned to find things that were sort of curriculum but very gentle and play like, Oak Meadow, five in a row, Happy phonics, right start math. My husband realized our kids were flourishing and backed of and we have been able to relax ever slowly away from the school model.

  9. Kina
    Kina says:

    I realize I have somewhat hijacked the original post. I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention. Thank you all for your support and ideas.

  10. Mark Kenski
    Mark Kenski says:

    Angel, you said: “I would really like to see public education completely reformed, but like you – it is very overwhelming to think about. My first step is sharing my thoughts on our experience. Any suggestions for what we can do next?”

    With your education, your experience of both sides of this, your intellect, energy, character, your dedication to doing what’s right…I’d wager you can do a lot!

    Home schooling, by it’s nature, is a bit of a wild frontier. It seems like many of us started when we got here, seeking help with (and helping our new “neighbors” deal with) the hardships and challenges of this new frontier life we’ve chosen. I, for one, in 20+ years “out here” have not yet moved on to anything else. There is still a lot to do contributing to, and developing, our own little community.

    But for you—and critically for the people you can reach—the potential is huge to have a real impact on the educational system. Use your insight to speak to teachers in their own language, to put things in a context they will understand.

    There is an army out there: an army twice the size of the active duty forces of the US military, incidentally, of teachers that have made a deep commitment to improving the lives of kids. And they are trapped in a system that mocks that commitment. It corrupts the passion that drove them into education. Ultimately teachers are coerced to become destroyers of the most precious resource that exists in this world: the potential of our children to become more than we are, more than anyone has ever been.

    Many teachers cannot or will not articulate this because it is yet not fully conscious. It is just frustration, confusion, “just” feelings that are the natural response to being betrayed. And this is so even though most cannot say quite how the betrayal happened.

    This army is not happy with the state of things, and it will not take as much as one might think for them to be ready for war. Whether they know it or not, many teachers are looking for people to show them how to lead their own revolutions, large and small, that will bring the reform we all desire.

    I urge you to give this thought, and keep asking home schoolers you meet for their ideas to fertilize the ground for your own insights to grow.

    You have a blog, that is a fantastic place to start putting your thoughts together. When you gather the bits and pieces from here and there that you think might be pointing to answers, put ’em out there and see if people can add anything. In time, your theories, your books, will emerge like pictures emerge on film placed in developing fluid.

    When you get there, I’d love to read your book(s) on how enlightened teachers can work within the system to (step by tiny step in all likelihood) make it so that more kindergartens are more like the kindergartens you have taken part in that are good for kids, instead of the ones so many of our kids have suffered in. Many of the same ideas that are applicable to kindergarten will be applicable to all the grades of schooling. I bet most are.

    John Taylor Gatto stayed within the system running his own little revolution. Ironically, he was awarded lavishly by the very system he was trying to subvert. But there are only so many decades on the battleground that one human being can take. So he moved on to writing and speaking out about what needs to change.

    I have to say, when something prompts me to think about my heroes, John Taylor Gatto springs to mind before I get to the question mark in the question. He’s not only brilliant. He’s not only seen it all and done it all. His lion-hearted courage is a profound inspiration to anyone fighting an oppressive bureaucracy. To save yourself from having to re-invent, and for a little encouragement of your own, I’d strongly suggest getting your hands on anything you can written by him. Let him be one of the giants upon whose shoulders you stand.

    And that goes for anyone else who wants to play a part in this because I see a lot of you in the comments! Angel’s story shows very clearly that teachers are not the enemy, they are our best ally in this effort we’re so passionate about.

    How do we reform the education system? One teacher’s mind and heart at a time is a good place to start.

    • Angel
      Angel says:

      Wow! Thank you, Mark, for your thoughtful response. Truly, you have inspired me. I will definitely read up on John Taylor Gatto. I agree with everything you are saying- teachers are not the enemies. They should be empowered. Excellent feedback! Thank you again!

  11. mh
    mh says:

    This is a terrific guest post with interesting comments.

    It had me going back through much older posts (when I was much more involved in the conversation – heh!)

    One more reason to homeschool is that the kids find new instructors all the time.

    I’m raising boys. There’s a couple at our church who quilt, and one of my sons is really interested in learning this skill. I think part of it is the machinery – cutters and great stuff like that, part of it is the repetition and pattern that produces beauty, and part of it is the tactile nature of the work. But here he is, discussing quilting and trouble shooting with an adult man on a level I almost can’t follow.

    Another son loves pipe organs. Seriously. He researches the most beautiful ones in Europe, he follows the progress of an organ restoration project in Esslingen, Germany – to the point where now he studies german language so he can learn more. He wants to travel to Germany. It turns out our trumpeter friend also has a passion for pipe organs, so those two just revel in these esoteric conversations. My son absolutely lights up when he talks about this. On a trip to Phoenix, AZ, we stopped at a place called Organ Stop Pizza, with an absolutely enormous old pipe organ used for daily live entertainment. Again, he waylaid the organist on a break for a long discussion.

    Where will these pursuits lead? I don’t know. I didn’t decide they should get interested in these areas of interest, but I give them space and time.

    To me, the thing is that they are able to draw in mentors and experts who can give them the specialized instruction they want. How great is that?

    The world is full of great teachers. Very few of them work in schools.

  12. mh
    mh says:

    … Then again, another great thing about homeschooling is the freedom it gives kids to do just nothing.

    My adorable son relaxes by turning Far Side cartoons into 3-D scenes. So fun.

    Homeschool is freedom.

  13. exschoollibrarian
    exschoollibrarian says:

    I thought that I was going to be a public school librarian. I most definitely will not.

    After a brief and eye-opening stint as a public school librarian for which I have been working my tail off earning a Masters degree, I gracefully, quickly, and forever said adieu. My future children will not attend public school. I will not return to work in public education as it stands.

    Why, you ask? Because there is no education going on in public education. As was expressed by Angel, students are not allowed to be creative, to express themselves, to THINK! Call me idealistic, but I could not abide the turning of a generations’ brains to mush with standardized everything, one-size-fits-all curriculum, and the preoccupation with data no one really knows how to synthesize.

    Right now, public education is in a state of turmoil operating on the idea that if we take all kinds of tests, and implement every “research-based” program, and spend a bunch of money, even if it’s poorly spent, everything will be okey-dokey. I hope that a change will come soon; otherwise the chasm between “the haves”, who see this disaster and have the means to remove their children from it, and “the havenots”, who may not realize what is occurring and/or don’t have the means to act accordingly, will only deepening to create a society, separate and very, very unequal.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Thank you for commenting here.

      What can we do to get the word out to the “have nots”? And how can we best support them?

      I read about Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem’s Children’s Zone and I am amazed at the resources that can be assembled to help the poor… But then I read that the goal is to close the “achievement gaps” as measured by the same old bogus tests that the “haves” already quit taking. It’s pointless.

      HCZ focuses on parenting and cultural change, as best it can, but it measures by testing, testing, testing.

      Maybe that’s the price of poverty experiments: to expand, there must be statistical “proof.” But the people who benefit from the school status-quo are unlikely to accept any sort of proof whatsoever. The game is rigged in favor of stasis.

      Public schools are a jobs program, not an educational endeavor.

      Glimmer of hope in the news this week: it was reported that black families are estimated to make up 10% of the homeschoolers now. “The Many Reasons to Homeschool”. I’ve been saying for five years that minority homeschoolers are an invisible but encouraging trend.

  14. Sallie Borrink
    Sallie Borrink says:

    This is so fantastic. I just shared it on my FB page because it is something parents need to hear over and over again.

    Parents who homeschool need to hear it because we all are tempted to falter and wonder if we’re making a mistake (even when we know we aren’t).

    Parents still in the system need to hear these kinds of stories over and over again so they will find the courage to say, “Enough!” and depart.

    I’m a former teacher who had my epiphany when I was teaching first grade (before I had my daughter). I realized one day there was no way I would want my future child to be in my class. I was a very good teacher in a good school and I knew there was no way I wanted this for my child.

    My favorite stories are ones like this – told by other former teachers because they have an entire additional layer to their experiences they share.

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