Yvette Franklin, PhD. Lenoir City, TN.
Bono of U2 said it best, “All roads lead to where you are.” When it comes to the schooling of our children, we didn’t really plan to blaze new trails. As a public school teacher I never considered not sending my children to public school…until I had them. Then the general principles of education became very specific. These weren’t just students, they were my kids. They were each so different. It was a full-time job for us getting to know them, finding out what made them tick, discovering their strengths, helping them with their weaknesses, answering their questions, guiding them to living peaceably together. I couldn’t imagine them being one of 24 souls in a room for seven hours a day with a lone teacher, being marched to lunch, recess, and the bus. The transition from the familial home as the location for their exponential growth from infancy to five years to a large local school seemed to be a transaction that resulted in too much being given up. We thought we could supplement their learning, but they came home exhausted. We thought we could balance our eating habits with the industrial food model in the public school, but we had to fight daily against snacks, sodas, and sweet rewards. We thought we could be part of our local community, but the cost was their childhood as they had known it.
So, we disrupted the well-worn path and we withdrew from public school life and began our own learning journey with the home as the locus instead of an institution. Foucault had scared some sense into us: prisons, hospitals, schools. There were no lines or rows at home. Montessori wanted children to be responsible for their own learning and to follow their own interests and we could do that in the intimate home setting. Rousseau wanted us to get to enjoy the outdoors and let the child be central in learning and our home afforded woods and time to pursue their interests, Aquinas sought to connect the Divine to knowledge making and we could explore faith freely in the privacy of our home. Greene asked us to harness our imaginations and at home we could let the kids read, create, and play for extended periods. As a parent and educator I can answer these calls within my home, free from the constraints of bureaucracy, the need for management of large numbers of people, and the limitations of teacher/student ratios.
When we saw that the public school setting was not meeting the educational needs of our children and that school itself had an institutionalizing effect we made the choice to find another way. We have through the years purchased our own materials and curriculum, utilized cooperatives and private online classes to augment our home education, and as our older children approach high school we have even chosen a five-day private school option. However, the choice to return home is always available for a child if needs are not being met in the traditional school space.
It is, of course, a privilege to be able to have schooling choice. This privilege reveals our income, education levels, and health. This cannot be a just standard in a society rife with income disparity, disproportionate educational outcomes, and varying family unit composition. However, all roads lead to where you are, and since jumping the hegemonic track our educational road led our particular family home for the early years of our children’s lives. Home is not perfect. But home is where we have attempted to answer the best of the educational thinkers before us in our unique circumstance and it is where we hope to separate the arbitrary from the essential to raise productive, thoughtful people.