Refine. Hone. Distill. The self is a text, too.
Such a large portion of almost every American’s life is education: We do the mandatory baker’s dozen of school years and increasingly go on to undergraduate, post-graduate, and sometimes even doctoral work. This is no longer the country where my grandfather used an eighth-grade education to start his own business and support a family of six.
Coupled with the amount of time dedicated to education are the continually proliferating ways in which we are now able to access it, particularly since the propagation of for-profit schools and online education. To me, how we educate our children, what it is we deem important enough to drill into their memories, and the why — the end goal of it all — is clearly a complex conversation about a broken system. Also, my perspective of it is unlike a large majority of my peers’ in that I never attended a traditional public or private school.
Technically, I was home educated, but homeschool, -schooled, –schooling are the usual referents. (On a punctuation side note, you may still see the term written as the hyphenated home-school, but as the practice becomes more prolific, the kenning has dropped the hyphen). My mother (a supervisor in the lingo of the law) chose to homeschool my sister and me — entering first grade and kindergarten respectively — less than a year after Pennsylvania legalized it in 1988. This was a complicated topic at the time, and can still be attacked from psychological, social, cultural, and economic angles. In the future, I will devote some time to more personal treatments of being a homeschooled child, but the purpose here is to give a basic structure of the process. Many people with whom I’ve discussed homeschooling were shocked to discover that there are state-legislated requirements and that, when I graduated from high school, I received a state-certified diploma.
And to avoid going into vastly more detail than anyone could ever desire on this topic, I’ll end here with a mention of PA Homeschoolers (PHAA) — an accreditation agency begun in 1991 to provide homeschooled students with diplomas. In addition to the state’s prerequisites, PHAA has their own addendums, such as requiring secondary students to read at least twenty-five books beyond those which are necessary for basic subject instruction, and a minimum of four of those twenty-five must be pieces of literature deemed “classics.”
None of this is to say that homeschooling is necessarily “better” than the other types of education available to us; it is simply one of the options that can be a success or a failure, like all of the others, with its own advantages and disadvantages (which I’ll address in a later blog). Yet I find that, although homeschooling has been legalized for over twenty years and continues to gain supporters from a wide range of demographics, the process is still obscured by a haze of mystery and “Otherness”; I still experience open hostility from parents and educators who deem the practice to be selfish, unsubstantiated, or just too unknown to accept. So this is where I rig the framework of requirements within which I was educated so that you, the reader, can more fully appreciate the personal, anedcotal perspective of homeschooling with which I will follow this post in an attempt to illuminate an often-dismissed mode of teaching and edification.