The writer of this article is a mental refugee from the public school system, too, except unlike myself, she is still working in the system. Her advice to parents looking for answers to their issues in education is often to leave school and homeschool, and she offers 12 excellent reasons why; I would add that these are the 12 most compelling reasons for coming to HoneyFern, as well. We are a hybrid private/home school, which means you get the accreditation of a private school with the flexibility and individualization of a home school. The list, annotated:
1. Learning is customized, not standardized. Students at HoneyFern follow their own curriculum; we work together for science labs and on special projects, but other subjects are based on what a student wants to study (or what they need for their future goals). This can be a challenging part of the school, as many students who come out of public school are institutionalized and don't know how to direct their own learning. It is a lot of freedom to have.
2. Associate with those you enjoy rather than those who share your birth year. I have always been a proponent of multi-age, looping classrooms. As a small school, we try very hard to have a mix of students who enjoy each other, too, and this summer we are planning several get togethers for new students to relax and get to know them, thereby reducing first-day anxiety.
3. Freedom to learn with their tools. We still have some texting restrictions during the day (please don't disturb your friends in public school!), but otherwise students can bring in and learn with their iPhones, iPads, iWhatevers.
4. Socialize with those who share your passions not your zip code. We are identifying mentors, teachers and learning partners who we can work with, something that would be difficult if not impossible for a traditional classroom.
5. Real life measures are better than bubble tests. We take a standardized test at the end of the year for accreditation, but I am not even sure what is on it. We also test our adopted stream, publish our writing nationally and compete in several national academic competitions every year. Which do you think students get more out of?
6. Don't just read about doing stuff. Do stuff! Building a community garden, designing a future city, going to see plays...check.
7. Travel when you want. Flexibility in our schedule makes this a possibility for all of our families!
8. You are more than a number. This is hard for institutionalized kids who are used to melting into the back row, and when I talk to prosepctive families, I point this out. Not everybody actually wants to be front and center, and it is difficult when your teacher knows exactly what you are capable of and when you are not doing it. Sometimes kids say this is what they want...but it's not really. A big consideration.
9. Do work you value. This is a big one for me. Students need to care AT LEAST as much about their own success as I do, and one way to get there is to let them guide their course of study to things they value. Some students are not interested in figuring this out, though, and I don't blame them; I blame the factory model public education they receive, the one that leads them by the nose from meaningless task to meaningless task. The longer students are in this model, the harder it is for them to even know what it is they want to learn because "learning" has become an onerous task. There is no joy, no fun and, thus, no value.
10. Independence is valued over dependence. I am a facilitator, a gatherer of resources and, at times, a clarifier. Ask me a question, and I will ask you one back or give you the tools to answer the question. Sometimes we sit down and figure it out together, but generally the goal is for independent, self-sufficient learners. Again, see #9. If it is valuable to the student, they will be motivated to learn and be more independent.
11. You don't have to waste time learning with standardized tests. How does one even "learn with" standardized tests? An oxymoron.
12. No more meaningless worksheets and reports. Does this mean that there are no worksheets or reports? Not necessarily. The key word here is "meaningless."
It is s big step to eschew the traditional public education, and some people are not ready for it. Whenever I think of how we learn as adults, though, I don't imagine rows of same-age adults (a class of only 40-year-olds) sitting in rows, plodding mindlessly from one 50-minute class lecture to another. Why should our kids be warehoused in the same way?