Zach is my son, age 12, whom I partially homeschool. We started this part-time homeschool experiment in the Fall as an alternative to full-time middle school. After all, does anyone want to be in middle school all day long? Kids these days tend to be rushed, stressed and sleep-deprived. How in the world does one juggle school, homework, music lessons, art lessons, sports, friends, boy scouts, and family? Many experts claim that it is normal for adolescents to withdraw from their family, to spend less time talking with and learning from their parents and other family members as they navigate the larger waters of society. Sure, teens desire and need more independence and privacy. And if the rest of the list is considered sacrosanct, then something's got to give --- therefore family ties get shortchanged just when a child becomes a teenager and could benefit from strong family support. However, if one decides that school --- that time-wasting, bureaucratic, autocratic, mind-numbing, peer-pressuring concentration of hormone challenged adolescents --- does not have to be an all day obligation (nor perhaps an obligation at all) then kids can have the benefit of art, music, scouts, sports, while developing friendships, autonomy, independence without sacrificing their family life completely.
At least, that's the hope. Zach is only 12. So far he is growing in independence and still likes his parents. Time will tell, but I think we are on the right track. Of course I worry about the decision. Do we do enough academics? Does he get enough socializing? Do we continue this or send him back to school full time? What about high school? All parenting decisions are stressful, how do we know we are doing the right thing? Are we doing the "optimal" thing? Is there even such a thing as optimal? Most of the time I relax, but sometimes, I worry.
Academics? Yes, they are important. Does full time regular school develop a person's passions for academic progress or does school put artificial burdens on a child that numbs his desire to learn? School has been great for Band and Lab Science. He's already ahead in mathematics. At home, we are working our way through an Algebra text (9th grade work while he is only in 6th grade) and he is doing very well in an on-line high school honors level course in Logic. We are dabbling around with Latin, probably ignoring social studies (although we have the time to read and discuss the newspaper, especially the editorial section, over lunch and he enjoys reading or listening to history books). He still reads for pleasure, will write without too much of a battle, has improved his essay writing skills. I want him to write more, though. That's to be my focus for the spring. Not to slack on the writing.
Art was a concern, a reason for considering homeschooling in the first place. Zach has always been motivated to draw. He described things visually in detail using a sophisticated color vocabulary from very early on. (Sally Melville has this ridiculous theory that kids at first can only see primary colors, gradually their brains allow them to distinguish secondary colors and then tertiary by the time they are 8 or 9!)
He does have talent, but talent is just a piece of the picture. Without hard work and instruction, all that talent ain't gonna do him a lick of good. So, should art lessons be just one more of the add-ons in addition to school and homework? Or should significant art classes replace some of the tedious monotony of regular school? Well, I've already answered that. These are some of the results. The three charcoal drawings Zach made in his real, honest-to-goodness, not available in middle school, studio art class. The watercolor is from an impromptu lesson from a friend of the family, an artist and art instructor.
What with art class, boy scouts, piano & french horn lessons and practice, ski lessons, Ultimate Frisbee, knitting, learning to cook, playing video games with friends, learning computer programming from his dad, building a DDR pad, adequate sleep... who has time for school?