A fractured village

June is like December, I’ve noticed. Leading up to Christmas we go to concerts, milk the budget for gift money, and spend fun times with relatives and friends.

This past week or so I’ve sat in on a rehearsal for the Meistersinger’s choral group from OSU (all-male; great voices; nice looking!), attended the Eugene Gleemen’s concert (another group of men, though somewhat older even than myself), and been privileged to hear the South Eugene High School choir concert (wowza, exceptional singers/musicians).

We have given gifts to graduating seniors (money, what else?) and enjoyed a party for my cousin Lidiana at her home, where long lost aunts and uncles appeared to dispense hugs and advice.

As I did six months ago, I anticipate a solstice, though back then it would herald celebrating Christ’s birth, a new year, and dark months to navigate. Today I’m expecting golden, warm days, hours to ponder theological and literary writings, and freedom from schoolwork (at least, the supervision of said work). I will also assist my son in planning for the next (his final, yikes!) year of high school education.

Amid this looking forward, striding into next phases season, I pause for my annual reflection on raising (training? rearing?) children the way I decided to attempt it.

From the rear of a full gymnasium Thursday night I watched homeschool students graduate. Cameras raised above heads as the program progressed for 14 young people, some in caps and gowns of varying hue, others attired to suit their own styles.

Their mannerisms were pure teenager. Creativity shown in their slideshow presentations and speeches. In turn they accepted certificates of completion and crossed the stage to embrace glowing parents. It was a night less conventional than graduation at a public high, but it wasn’t so different. I caught no defensiveness or us-against-them sentiments among the crowd.

Which made me wonder anew why there’s been a fuss lately over homeschooling in this area. Two years ago the state education board sent letters to districts warning they’d lose funding unless they stopped allowing alternative education facilities access to services. (I’m ignorant of exact details involved in the district rule changes, but they basically made local school board members very afraid.)

One Eugene school district had worked for a decade with an innovative group of homeschool parents who’d started Homesource, a technology resource center for parents and students. The district superintendent recognized his community could only benefit from having a good relationship with tax-paying, voting homeschool families. He and the parents hammered out details so that the district would receive money per each homeschool kid in the Homesource classes, and Homesource could receive some funds.

The idea succeeded. My children, like most of their friends, took classes part-time that were usually taught by somebody’s parent. These supplemented what we did at home. They allowed Victoria to get four years of Latin, plus horseback riding and karate. My son took Japanese and pre-Physics. Newspaper articles applauded the venture.

Last summer, though, other school districts and the state board nearly shut Homesource down. Hearing a few of my local board members debate the value of alt ed programs gave me an eerie feeling, to say the least.

Their reason for concern about homeschoolers is not failures of the parents’ efforts to educate their children. It centers on the alternative methods we use being “unfair.” Public school kids have to be in crowded classrooms. Their parents may not have time to work with the schools. Because of this, no money should go to homeschool families.

I guess I could see a problem if my children were only able to attend poorly-funded public schools under detrimental conditions, and someone else rode into the district demanding money for their kids to stay home and be pampered by a tutor or something. I don’t know if that’s the picture these district people have constructed.

But I well remember the worried looks, gasps, and pleadings from some people the year I started homeschooling Victoria. The general sentiment then was that we parents would ruin our charges, because we weren’t following established educational methods. A sort of hand washing occurred in many cases, with people employed by teacher unions and the bureaucracy tisking over the actions of those poor, deluded parents who thought they’d get their kids to college on their own.

It wasn’t the exclusive opinion by any means. My teacher mom and school district employed mother-in-law both supported my launch into homeschooling with their grandkids. Though they didn’t understand quite what motivated me, they never withheld their love and support.

But it’s painful to see my community on some level withholding support of children. The main problem is homeschool families are doing things differently. Sure, a bureaucrat here and there gets others worked up in fear over us taking “their” money. But the system can and has functioned fine for districts given at least some money for a child when they’d otherwise get none from families who separated completely from the district.

I’d like to sprint from the conflictive educational scene as soon as my son graduates, nary a backward glance at the state and local powers that be. I can’t, though, because I’ve helped start something. I’ll have grandkids someday (most likely), and their parents may want to homeschool them. And where will things stand then? I’ve got to keep up with the times and stay involved. Just as I appreciated folks being there for me as I strove to do the best I knew for my kids, I need to be around and savvy to support the next generation.

So that’s all to say I’ll probably rant again next year!


elixir said…
Yea! Rant on. I am SO grateful for the community of homeschool parents there in Eugene. It gives me the confidence and resources to attempt to homeschool my own. You have affected more than your own children and grandchildren.
Cherie said…
Oh boy, Deanna, you are singing my song here! You know that I totally know what you mean. Same road as you in many ways, our daugthers even went to horseback riding classes together. I'll be in the home schooling arena for some time, yet.

I'm a radical - "keep your hands off my kids!"

I had strangers AND my OWN family condemning me for the first several years, and yes, I was thought to be ruining the kids, surely I was turning them into ignorant nose-pickers who'd never attend, let along graduate college. Wrong they were! And now, many of them brag about the kids, me, and my homeschooling efforts - all without me doing anything more than standing my ground.

Just like you.

We shall stand together, and maybe one day carpool our granddaughters to horseback riding lessons together!
Deanna said…
Elixir, that's encouraging. Thanks.

Cherie, here's to grandkid carpools when we're old and gray (wait...)!
Cherie said…
Yes, wait! Not old. Not gray. Just sorta, on the way.

Won't we be silly, funny, brooding, blind, and deaf grannies together!
Cecily said…
crazy machinations of people's minds hey... I find reverse discrimination insidious and incredible - if that's relevant here, which it kind of is! What I'm trying to say is that people will say anything to point the finger at other people and they can't even recognise the craziness of their arguments! (My younger brother was home schooled, I'm infinitely glad I was not... My father was slightly crazy with some of his thinking and I have enough to work through without having been inculcated with his schooling ideas too! I guess that means I'm on the fence on this issue!)
Deanna said…
Cherie, they won't know what to do with us, I agree. (They being the general public, I guess.) :o)

Cecily, thanks for your honest input. I agree pointing fingers in order to make everyone conform is wrong. It's also true that homeschooling has its down side as well as any other educational method. I'm sorry if your brother suffered as a result of being homeschooled. I won't go on about how I suffered under public education; you can find it in my archives from about a year ago. We do the best we can. What counts, I guess and maybe you agree, is remaining committed to helping the children learn, rather than to maintaining a certain system.