libertarian Unschooling |
or When are we supposed to teach our children that when adults ask
they don't really want to know the answers?
By N. S. GILL
Copyright 1993 © N.S. Gill
My decision to homeschool started when I was pregnant, as an inspired
response to the question, "where will you send your child to school?"
and grew as I saw the problems of the public schools repeated in the private
ones, as I read the available homeschooling literature, and as I argued
with friends about homeschooling.
The few dealings my son and I have had with the public school have only
served to increase my fervor. However, for the first five years of my son's
life, the only people I knew who were homeschooling were one neighbor and
the couple whom I had talked into doing the same with their children, and
the family that they, in turn, had persuaded to homeschool.
When my son turned three he had his preschool screening. Today I am
apologetic about having allowed my son to undergo this outrage, but then
I wasn't even conscious of what an imposition this was. All the ramifications
of homeschooling had not yet crystallized in my minds. The pre-school screening,
however, turned out to be one of the major pieces of ammunition I had in
the fight against friends and family who opposed homeschooling.
My son's score was somewhat better than his age suggested, but not as
high as it would have been had the test had any relevance to his life--instead
of being a test of how well he had been inculturated. Did he know how to
do all the things that children in proper daycare do? No. He had been at
home with me all the time. Would he follow a strange woman's instructions
and give the right answer? No. He didn't like the test administrator or
her meaningless test.
Answering depended on his mood. The woman asked him to identify certain
colors. Colorblind, my son failed that part of the test. Since he had never
enjoyed playing with blocks, he was unable to rearrange the blocks as rapidly
as she wanted. Next, she asked him to write some letters; then she counted
the strokes. No matter that my son's E didn't look like an E, it took four
strokes and was ipso facto, right. No matter that his A was made using
an L upside down all in one stroke, almost attached to an upright leg and
a horizontal bar. It took three strokes and was, therefore, correct. He
got in trouble, though, for his F that took four strokes (she'd probably
have penalized medieval scribes who used two strokes to round a C) and
for his inability to pronounce the letter correctly. (Actually, I got in
trouble for that one because I wasn't worried.)
He could not hop on one foot (my fault, of course, since I had failed
to train him in this part of his required orderly progression of developmental
skills) although he liked that part of the test and would have kept trying
until he had succeeded if she'd have let him, but she had other tasks for
He was to determine which of two very obvious items was bigger. He answered
several of these inane comparisons without hesitation, but then grew bored.
So, when she asked him which was bigger, a mouse or a dog, my son answered
using his hands to show relative size, "A mouse is this big, a dog
is this big, but a dinosaur is REALLY big." He wanted to give this
apparently very stupid woman some real help. She repeated her question
a couple of times, and my son repeated his answer. He refused to answer
any further questions.
As I said, I regret having put my son through this test, although it
did prepare him for the same sort of test at the doctor's office, and it
made me aware of what aspects of intellectual development were fostered
by the establishment. Obviously helpfulness and original thinking were
not. My friends agreed with me that if that's the way accomplishment and
maturity are gauged by the schools, that my son would do miserably in them.
One friend, a former teacher, ordered the Hegeners' The Home School Reader
for me. Another friend, a welfare worker, became an informal advocate for
This is the first year I will have to give my son (now seven) the schools'
achievement test. I am almost certain that it will be just as irrelevant
and difficult for him to answer as the first--not because he's stupid or
ignorant. How can he be when he learns arithmetic by beating me daily in
Cribbage and social studies by discussing the Rush Limbaugh Program?
Originally printed in The Grapevine (1993)
Copyright © 1996 &
1997 N. S. Gill.
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