This week, our son spent most of a day at one of the local schools while they hosted a multi-school speech meet. One of our neighbors, who judges speech, invited our son to attend with her because she knows he does public speaking contests in 4-H. He had a really good time, although this school isn't at the top of his list if he would attend public school in the fall. This is the school for which I have a higher comfort level, so...we'll see.
The day after the speech meet, three of my kids and I were invited by one of the elementary teachers to attend a presentation in their class room. I took the opportunity to speak with the school principal about scheduling a day for our son to spend shadowing his peers. He was very open and enthusiastic about the possibility of our son attending their school, and he was eager to share the things that make it a good school. I agree with him about several of the points he made, but there's one thing that has stuck with me: He mentioned several times how this teacher or that teacher really pushes the students and how the students are pushed in this way and pushed in that way. He never once said anything about encouraging the students to find their passions, to learn a love of learning, or anything about the students pushing themselves. This bothers me.
I've found that when given the freedom to explore topics that interest them, our children have found different areas they're passionate about. They push themselves far more than I would ever dream of doing in these areas, and so much learning takes place that wouldn't happen if they were being pushed by me to move on to the next chapter, the next topic, the next test prep. (My son has learned more algebra from pursuing his love of writing and coding computer games than he has from the spendy algebra course he's been working through this year.) I MUCH prefer this model of learning to anything else I've encountered. As the parent/teacher, my goal is to get my children/students to a place where they have the ability to find information they need and a love of learning that propels them to do so.
My son has written out a map of the goals he wants to accomplish over the next two years. They include becoming a pilot, travelling to Italy, writing a 3D online multi-player RPG game, and performing in public singing and playing guitar. Completing his education at home, we have the ability to craft an education experience that will provide him with the freedom and opportunity to reach these goals while obtaining a wonderful education. The goals and dreams become part of the education -- not something to work at in the time left after being "pushed" to meet someone else's goals of what an education should be.
It's going to be interesting to see if my initial impressions of the school remain the same after our son spends time going to classes and after digging deeper into what sort of education experience they can provide. I'm going to try really hard to be open to what they have to offer despite my initial skepticism.