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How To Homeschool

Uncle CHiN

Dear Uncle CHiN,

Boy, do I wish I could get my skeptical mother to support our decision to homeschool. Any suggestions?

Signed, Still-Seeking-Parental-Approval-After-All-These-Years

Dear Still-Seeking,

For many parents the decision to homeschool comes after a good deal of soul-searching research and careful investigation. Itís only natural after making such a weighty decision to hope your significant others will be be just as enthusiastic about it as you are. Keep in mind, your mother probably isnít quite up to speed on all the issues youíve just spent months mulling over and is naturally more comfortable with the conventional, institutionalized, one-size-fits-all model of education. Let me suggest a little reverse psychology. Instead of trying to convince Grandma of the wonders of homeschooling, see if you canít reshape her thinking about sending her little grand-darlings off to school.

Invest in a copy of John Taylor Gattoís book, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, and encourage your mother to read it. What this award-winning, New York State Teacher of the Year has to say about his 26 years of teaching in the public school system is a head-turning indictment of the industrial model of education and the cumulative effect of teaching methods in todayís schools. (Uncle CHiN believes this small book should be mandatory reading for families and teachers everywhere!) At the very least, it will give you and your mom some valuable new insights to ponder.

Then, just for fun, begin collecting newspaper and magazine articles dealing with education and tactfully slip them in your motherís direction. You will notice the vast majority of these articles carry a consistently troubling message about whatís happening in todayís classrooms. Hereís a headline Uncle CHiN tucked into his scrapbook this very morning: "Science Test Gives State Black Eye—California Students Rank 4th From Bottom." Of course, the idea here is to add a bit of ammunition to your argument, but keep in mind there is a good chance Mom wonít be totally swayed by these news clippings. As Mr. Gatto points out, most people tend to be complacently certain these problems are happening in somebody elseís back yard, not at the school Junior is attending five blocks down the street.

Still, keep your fingers crossed and give it some time. As your scrapbook grows and her grandchildren flourish, your mother may even come to view your decision to homeschool as a heroic act of responsibility amidst the rising tide of educational mediocrity and public denial.

Meanwhile, the most rewarding thing you can do is to include your mother in the joys of your homeschooling lifestyle whenever possible. Bring her to your support group meetings and let her get to know other homeschooling families in action. (This may dispel a few hidden prejudices or stereotypes.) Put Mom on the mailing list of your favorite homeschooling catalogs and inform her youíve just solved her dilemma over what to buy John and Sally for Christmas this year. Invite her to participate in your unit study on California History and celebrate its completion with an extended family field-trip to Sutterís Fort. Get Mom on-line and enrich family communications while inspiring your young writers through the magic medium of email. Who doesnít secretly delight in hearing those three electronic words: "Youíve got mail!"

Finally, take her to park day get-togethers, chances are sheíll be impressed with the "social skills" of the young people and the pioneering dedication of the parents. Where else do you find a large, multi-aged group of children playing harmoniously together while their parents sit around the picnic table discussing curriculum choices and teaching methods, planning field trips, creating classes, or sharing books and resources--all in the name of enriching their children?

Homeschooling is more than a way to educate children, itís a rewarding way for families to live and learn together. Keep up the good work, and before you know it Grandma will be bragging about you right along with those talented, homeschooled grand kids of hers.

With Love, Your Uncle CHiN

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