A little over a month ago I was forced to make a decision: go to public school or continue homeschooling?
Mum was incapable of teaching any of the kids grades 1-10 at the time; her underhanded surgery had crippled her and left her bedridden, in and out of the hospital for two months. She relapsed one morning while I was the only other “adult” in the house and nearly died, had she not been rushed to the hospital. So I was left with a choice: when my textbooks came in the mail, I could begin work since my schooling does not require a “teacher”- Mum- to . But door #2 was looking very irresistible: I could enroll in a public high school until Mum’s condition returned to normal.
Why was I so drawn to the option of public school at first? As a Long Beach native, I am acquaintances with almost every kid in the area. I had not seen any of them in at least a couple years and although I did not particularly value most of the choices and ingenuity in the teenage crowd, the daily grind of constant socialization and clever back talking to teachers was looking mighty attractive.
Moreover, I have never attended a “normal” high school in the States. Half of my freshmen year was spent at El Papalote in Playa del Carmen, and homeschooling took off from there. I did know what to expect in the schools, but I was curious to experience it.
Lastly, and the best part of the public school scenario, was that I would really only be going until I could homeschool again, so grades and reputation among teachers meant nothing. If I took a big scan-tron test and bubbled in the letters to spell out my name, it wouldn’t matter. I would be loose from obligations or retribution, and free to have as much fun as I wanted without doing any work, like living an alternate life on primal instincts. My inner lioness let out of her cage to prowl, I would be even more unstoppable than I was when I cared about school.
Soon I was hit with the realization that all I would actually be doing in a public school is twiddling my fingers and wasting time that I could be gaining knowledge and moving forward with my future. The hours spent sitting in classroom after classroom and listening to disinterested teachers drone or hand out busy work would take over the time I could be writing poetry for my book, creating, innovating, and teaching myself more advanced subjects. I have the opportunity to work one-on-one and waste not a minute, while in public school teachers spend, off the bat, ten minutes trying to sedate a rowdy classroom.
If every kid had the opportunity to do school at their own pace, work on the problem as long as they need to find a solution, study classical subjects, and pursue their interests, I believe the teenage stereotypes of “school hater”, “bored”, “lost”, and “self-conscious” would evaporate. We are a creative generation, defined as boundary-pushers and innovators.
I recently took a jaunt to the art museum at California State University and got to see their exhibit “Talkin’ Bout A Generation: Millennials Through Their Own Lens”, an offshoot of the Barbara Klemm photography displayed around the walls that had underlined and made legendary the photographer’s time period. The Millennium exhibit asked students to define their generation in one picture, like Ms. Klemm, and one-hundred words explanation. The college students’ photographs primarily discussed the technology that became abound at the turning point of the millennium and has drawn controversy as to whether or not it is taking over lives. One photograph I appreciated in particular: a hundred different knickknacks, devices, trendy tee shirt slurs all laid out on a bed, representing our questioning, probing, searching, aspiring, but never being. We are a generation that strive to be defined, but in our search, we cease to be anything. Everything is seen from behind a screen and that is how this generation will be remembered. Behind a screen.
Can we seek to change this? I think it starts in the place where the youth are penned in and, in many cases, treated as juvenile and unaccountable delinquents. Take our youth out of a cookie-cutter environment and let them fashion a curriculum that interests and motivates them. They like sports? Introduce a class on sports marketing in addition to the trivium. Let the students take the reigns and maybe they will learn how to be accountable, instead of having others attempt to keep them accountable. Help them find a passion, something that interests them more than their phone so instead of defaulting to social media, they’ll take up astronomy, start a band, create a petition to change negative aspects of their community. In homeschooling, kids have time to test the waters. If we don’t change, we may wind up with presidents who give speeches in 150 characters through Twitter.
So what did I chose: homeschool in Classical Conversations or kick it in a Long Beach public school? In the end, the choice for me was obvious. Although conditions may not be ideal back in the place I joyfully left a year ago, fair weather never made a good story. As I’ve said before: we’re too adventurous to not push through, and turning the pages of books is far more valuable than staring at a bright rectangle. Stay tuned amigos!