don’t blink

To adore or to abhore the common core.
October 24, 2013, 7:32 pm
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We’ve been homeschooling for a while now. We have our groove and if someone asked us what style of homeschooling we align ourselves with I would probably say that we are eclectic homeschoolers. We don’t do Charlotte Mason but we have, we aren’t strictly Traditional but sometimes we do that too. We are mostly Project based but by no means 100%. We have danced to the beat of our own drum and that has suited us very well. I am blessed to have lots of friends with kids my kids age. I hear all the outrage about the common core but didn’t really understand it or want to understand it. I figured it was just going to be another thing that would make me feel bad about being a homeschooler, make me feel like I wasn’t doing enough. On a run the other week I grilled my friend Melida about the common core, she’s a recent graduate and a new ESL teacher here in NYC. I asked what it was and she gave me a good understanding of it…but the one question I had was “does anyone believe in the common core”…are there ANY teachers the buy into what it represents. After our conversation I began to ask others both in education and just regular parents if they believed in the common core or if they knew any educators that believed in the common core…still no one was saying they even remotely liked it. Well, today I met a women that believes in the common core! And she is a homeschooler and a retired public school teacher. I had a bout a 30 minute conversation with this women, she has been homeschooling since 1998 and is now homeschooling her last child, a daughter 10 years old. She said she thinks the common core is great. That it being implemented poorly but that the idea behind it is exactly what we need. The powers that be implemented a similar program when she was still teaching and she supported it then as she does the common core now. I tell this long story not because I am judging her opinion or the method she uses for homeschooling but because it gave me pause in how I think about my homeschooling. I was raised to go against the grain. Conformity was somewhat frowned upon by my parents. So it has been my tendency to find the “alternative” in teaching to find the thing that is at least slightly left of center and make that part of our homeschooling methodology. But listening to this women speak of how well her son was doing after being homeschooled in alignment to the school standards made me question my motives in our homeschooling. She boasted how her son passed all his regency exams with no problem, how he had learn to work around his ADHD and found himself succeeding as a coast guard. She was proud and she should have been. She has been around the homeschooling block and I, though not new to homeschooling, clearly came off as a little green.  She made is seem simple. Research the common core, know the standards and shoot to educate above those standards. I know that this is her story, I understand that everyone needs to do what is right for their kids and their family and that this whole homeschooling thing is about individualized education. I know, I know, I know. Ugh. But then there is the self doubt. A bad day, a bad week of homeschooling can make you feel like, well just like it isn’t worth it, and it isn’t working. I can usually brush the feelings off. I know it happens and it especially happens with homeschoolers. But lately I have been struggling a bit. Not with lessons, or getting the kids to do their work but grappling with the feeling of, are they getting enough. Will they know enough. Could they pass the test. I’ve always said before that the test don’t matter and they don’t.  I have a pretty good idea that if my kids did have to take a standardized test this year that they wouldn’t pass. Not because they aren’t bright, but because we just haven’t made what they are “supposed” to be learning a focus, our focus has been on what they want to learn. If the test was a test about robotics and falcons, Fin would ace it. But he could not  write a 5 paragraph essay on the subject with an intro and a conclusion. According to some local parents this is what  will be expected come standardized test time. In my heart of hearts, I really don’t care about the standardized test, I don’t want my kids to care about it or even know about it. But the truth of the matter is they will have to take the stupid tests. My opinion has been, passing or not passing is irrelevant as I don’t buy the relevancy of the test or its content. But this is from where I stand. If what I read is correct then this common core thing could affect college acceptance even potential career options. So is my eclectic nature going to sabotage the future of my kids? My goal in schooling has always been to grow-up do-ers and makers. To teach my kids to love learning, embrace the questions in life and seek the answers with passion. But should I be doing that with one foot in the schools standards box? Is what I want for them going to be enough if the landscape of education and career options becomes as vapid and apathetic as our political system? I want more for them than to be good test takers, but if that is what they might need to be, do I owe it to them to teach them a little of that? My gut tells me I know better than that. That even though the education and occupational landscape may change for them becoming more “standardized”…that there will still be a place somewhere for creativity, for passion and for thirsty learning. That they will be able to find a place where they and their education allows them the opportunity to soar. Fingers crossed.