Looking For a Secular Florida Umbrella School?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Fortunately the term “homeschooling” covers a vast array of situations, otherwise, with my children now all in public school, I might have to alter the title SCHOLA to indicate my new status:

Secular Classical Homebody’s Odyssean Learning Adventure.

But I am still ultimately responsible for my children’s education even if they are attending an institutional facility six hours a day, five days a week, and again, fortunately, my children have come to understand the importance of a good education, so we enter the newest phase of our homeschooling effort: Complementary Homeschool.

I don’t mind the vocational aspects of their public schooling, Sarabelle is learning sewing, a third language (Japanese), and computer-aided design (CAD.) In the past I always planned to hire tutors or send the kids to take outside instruction in these subjects, but my follow-though was lacking. She is also taking art and science in well-equipped classrooms, two subjects my good intentions never got around to formally teaching. Sports was another area I had to delegate. The public school then works as a complement to our homeschool. It is my job to provide the formal education and the government’s to provide the hands-on training. Rather than looking at this arrangement as “supplementary,” as I’ve heard some after-schooling parents refer to it, where one portion is clearly lacking and inferior requiring the addition of some element to make it whole, I prefer to think of it as “complementary” defined as “two or more different things combining in such a way as to enhance or emphasize each other’s qualities.”

The girls, their father, and I are horrified by how easy their schoolwork is and by the quality of literature available in their school library. Grice (her new Aussie name) had one week to read Pixie Tricks, a mindless Scholastic publication more suited to a second or third grader, that actually took her about one hour to read and one hour to write a report. Thus far Sarabelle has had six pages of math homework that amounted to coloring in parts of wholes in order to comprehend fractions and Grice’s class has been studying all week how to read a bus or train schedule. Both Sarabelle and Grice jumped at my casual suggestion that they continue to work in their Saxon math books (I was thinking the same thing, Mom...) So weekend algebra lessons it is.

As far as my elaborately planned classical lessons*, I am studying Latin myself using Henle and plan to begin Wheelock’s alongside as a complement (there’s that word again) while continuing to enjoy the Greek excerpts in my Norton anthology, Herodotus being the current read. The mobile schoolhouse has been cannibalized, picked clean in order to provide government school supplies for the girls. As much as I wish I had thrown in some paperback classics of American literature for the kids to read, a major benefit of having a severely limited library is that good readers will read whatever is on hand, including the books they first thought too hard or boring.

* Boy, did Stephanie get this right in her post on introverts.

The biggest challenge we now face is how to get by in a society that is fiercely egalitarian. Nobody wants to hear how smart and advanced your children are. Elitism here results in the “Tall Poppy” effect: Australians are very encouraging and competitive, but when one rises above the rest, that one is swiftly and brutally cut down. Without killing their enthusiasm -- both Sarabelle and Grice have had their work singled out by the teachers as exemplary and Sarabelle always has her hand up ready to volunteer the answers -- I must caution them to be modest. We will have to keep our lights under a bushel.

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