School Schmool

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I’m all for homeschooling, just let me know which ‘home’ I should drop my children off at.

Today was the Bear’s first day of public school. Although, according to Tom Hodgkinson of The Idle Parent, homeschooling would be preferable. There are many homeschooling parents out there who are advocates of bypassing the system in order to better engage in child-directed learning or perhaps avoid some of the negative outcomes that the ‘system’ can produce.

Alas, I’m more of a work-for-change-within-the-system kinda gal. I’m also more than happy to have some child/parent separation. Therefore, enrolling the Bear in our local community public school was a no-brainer. And, no, there were no tears shed this morning as we dropped her off.

I think it is interesting how slow parenting has become inextricably linked with shunning the so-called shackles of the school structure. I understand the desire to have more control over your day so that you can offer children downtime, a chance for free play and child-directed learning opportunities. However, I wonder if homeschooling can also be a recipe for developing helicopter parents – parents are so intent on overseeing their children’s education that they have a hard time letting the kids develop independence. I do think that slow parenting can be accomplished by both the homeschoolers and public education supporters. At the same time, either type of parent can be prone to hyper parenting.

Here is how I hope public schooling will support my children. And I do say ‘support’ as there are many influences to an individual’s education.

1. I hope the education system supports my children in becoming literate. Sounds obvious, but all learning hereafter stems from my children being accomplished readers and writers.

2. I hope the education system inspires them to be self-learners. Afterall, if you’re motivated and resourceful you can really learn anything throughout life.

3. I hope the education system inspires them to be creative. Because I’m a big believer that ingenuity is the key ingredient in any definition of success.

4. And finally, but most importantly, I hope that the education system supports my children in becoming critical thinkers. Because, I want my kids to be critics of the systems they will inevitably be part of.

Beyond these four hopes, I think the rest is just icing on the cake.

I also want to add that many of the public school critics I have read come from Britain and America (I recently watched Waiting for Superman which documented the American system). The Canadian school system, while not without issues and critics, is fortunately one of the best ‘systems’ in the world to resign oneself to!

7 Responses to “School Schmool”

  1. 1 roma September 8, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I normally agree with your posts wholeheartedly Laura, but not this one – this might be another cultural difference between our two countries, and perhaps as I live in such a big city of almost 4 million people – given this, whether we go to public, private or homeschool, we’d have to live in a bubble not to be exposed to the diversity of this multi-cultural place!

    Public school providing exposure to differences and teaching them to be critical thinkers, more than anywhere else? Not in my experience…I did all my schooling in our public education system and see so many flaws that I don’t even consider public school an option for my children. i DO want them to learn, think critically and independently and be exposed to differences but whether I send them to public or private school, I’ll need to teach them this because I don’t think schools do that to a great extent. Some issues may be teacher related but most of them are system related. I applaud teachers who do their best under really restrictive circumstances.

    I’ll give a couple of examples but I have many: My niece is in 9th grade at THE school that is renowned as the best non-selective entry public school in the State. Real estate agents sell houses (at exorbitant prices) in the area on the basis the house is in that school zone so it’s upper middle class. Exposed to differences? nope, almost all the kids (my niece is a small minority whose grandparents bought in the area when it wasn’t expensive) are rich kids who are ‘the same’ and even in other areas, kids are just taught to conform – which I personally find boring.

    Independent and critical thinking? After being a straight A student all her life, she started failing math last year and my sister engaged a tutor. He reviewed Amber’s failed test: said, these are all RIGHT so my sis contacted the teacher and asked why she failed. Quoted response: She didn’t work it out the way I teach it- getting the right answer but not working it out my way means it’s wrong’. So she used her brain and worked it out in a way her tutor said they are taught at university but failed…Thinking for themselves? – quashed! you must conform.

    Values? In primary school, she missed out on school captain even though she won the popular vote because another mother told the principal if she didn’t give position to her daughter she would no longer give the school money (yes, government school!) – but i guess it teaches them young that money talks in this society so maybe a good thing in that context- but not so good for my niece’s confidence or anything else positive for any of the kids, including the girl who got the job!

    I moved to an area renowned for cheap housing (I worked here before I had children) but has a great mix of cultures, social classes, but also ummm, a higher than average crime rate. I like living here because it has everything BUT I am scared, yes, I admit it, to send my kids to the public schools here for safety reasons (because of real examples!) That’s one sort of difference I do not want to expose my kids to. My friend who is a qualified teacher in the public school system wants to homeschool her children, who attend my local primary school… hmmm.

    SO what am I going to do when my children reach school age? I honestly don’t know yet, but definitely not public school, unless we move. I have enrolled both in the local private school (my eldest is not even 2) because I believed it was the ‘safest’ option, but will it teach them to be critical and independent thinkers? I think not, I’ll have to do that, just as I would if I sent them to public school.

    Homeschooling? I am now considering this after many years of my own ignorance and perceptions – although I still have some concerns/questions that I need answered before undertaking that journey. I know two families – a conservative Catholic with four kids, the other is one of my best friends, is Jewish but not religious, bordering on hippy-like and one of your readers! (sorry for this description A but just showing contrasts ;-)) with one child.

    Exposure to differences? ABSOLUTELY! They’re both from very different backgrounds, suburbs, socio-economic classes, and they both belong to networks of homeschooling families who are so diverse and enable kids to interact with ‘different’ people so much more than a local public or private school when most of the city is distributed according to ‘class’. there are city-wide networks which is great for diversity. And teaching kids to be independent, critical thinkers? Yeop, for many reasons I am still learning about but because they have the opportunity to learn and not just be taught and are not expected to conform – by peers, by teachers etc – the homeschooled kids I know actually embrace being different and do think independently and critically! But the success of this also depends on the teachers, in this case the parents….

    Having said that, each child, parent and family and even school, network and city is different so experiences can be positive or negative everywhere. But, in contrast to my previous beliefs, I do see that homeschooling does expose kids to many more differences than ‘schooling’ families can imagine, it’s just another concern that has now been crossed off my list as i investigate the best option for my children and family in our circumstances.

    I am just a bit disheartened with our education system right now but not all people have negative experiences at schools and I think that largely depends on the children themselves and their parents too 🙂

    And for a different perspective on the ‘school system’ from a marketing guy in the US;)

    • 2 Mama Tortoise September 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm


      THank you SO much for your thoughtful reply! I just want to reiterate that I am all for home schooling. In theory, I think that it can be a wonderful education. My problem is ME. I’m not prepared to stay at home and educate my children.

      It sounds like the Australian system is very similar to the States with the idea that you must be in certain districts in order to get into the ‘best’ schools. And as you casually mention private schooling, I had to think for a moment about the option for my kids – I can’t even name a private school in Edmonton and I don’t know anyone who sends their kids to one. So, yes, there must be big cultural differences.

      That said, the topic of education in any country within any system is a fickle subject. There are the ‘must-have’ schooling requirements, but I am a strong believer that formal education is only one component of how we mould the next generation. We all home-school our kids in a sense when we engage them in our worlds, their homes and the world around them.

      I’m sorry to hear about the schooling difficulties for you. It must be very distressing for any parent when they know that initial decisions in where their kids go to school may affect them in the long-term. I can only suggest that the inequities should be used as examples for children to think critically about their country/system. Isn’t education a human right? Maybe the situation is ripe for some political agitation!

      I’m sure you’ll make the right decision for you and your family when the time comes. Take care,

      • 3 roma September 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm

        Hopefully you are right re the last comment! However, I (finally) just read your Mr Hodgkinson’s the Idle Parent (walking out of the library the other day, it was right in my face saying borrow me, borrow me!) and I think he has got the ideal solution to my issues with school- private tutor for half a day (or teacher! ) with about five kids and then the afternoons free! Hmm, now where will I find those other three kids…. haha.

        Take care Laura and thanks for making me aware of that book – it was awesome.


  2. 4 Big Mama September 4, 2011 at 5:15 am

    I agree with all the above but would add one more item I have come to expect from a Canadian public school system. As we interact with other of different abilities, beliefs, and, racial backgrounds we have more opportunity to view the vast differences in our society and hopefully come to accept and understand other people. In a country where most students attend private education or home schooling they interact with students of the same background and social level and abilities, this tends
    (not always) in an “old school “mentality and a bred distrust of others not of their social group.
    What do you think?

    • 5 Mama Tortoise September 6, 2011 at 8:33 am

      Thanks for commenting!

      I do agree that public school does offer these opportunities to be view differences or be different. And there is MUCH value in this. Although I would add that many Edmonton schools are still grouped according to class or neighbourhood. The Bear and Banana are attending what (appears) to be a very middle class school when compared to other inner-city schools that surround us. So while they will be exposed to some differences, it would naiive to think that they are being thrown into some huge mixing pot of difference.


  3. 6 Pattie September 3, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Yeah for public school! Where else can children truly learn the value of being different and to be exposed to different ways of thinking? I think public schools are essential for creating critical thinkers!!!

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