Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Learning Dangerously Newsletter #6

If you’re new, thanks for signing up! As promised, I’m giving away a copy of THE YEAR OF LEARNING DANGEROUSLY every week to new subscribers. This week, the winner is HM! HM, I’ll be in touch. A few years ago, I got to a page in this “Choose Your Own Adventure” book which I call life and opted for the “Homeschool your child” path. We like it pretty well; I mean, we’re still at it so it must be working for us. And then there are weeks like this past week where I long to flip back to that decision and go with “Start middle school at any of the many credible options around Los Angeles.” It’s not that Alice has been especially thirteen; she’s a fundamentally sound person. It’s not that I’m suddenly flummoxed by how to teach her something; when you’re me and your child is taking Chinese and Chemistry, you’re fully aware that you shouldn’t touch the shiny academic things because you’ll break them. No, what’s humbling me lately, what’s making me look longingly at the parental drop-off line at the local middle school, is the very largeness of what we’re trying to do. Are we giving her enough, making sure she’s ready to go and do whatever she wants to do, whatever that turns out to be? I’m not saying “What if I don’t get my ‘I have a child a PRINCETON’ bumper sticker!?!?!!” I’m saying what if, with all the best of intentions, we’re doing this child a real disservice? What if my love for her is giving me a blind spot the size of the Indian Ocean for something she’s simply can’t do and Future Alice is going to be really hurt by what Present Quinn didn’t notice. Maybe I’m just Wyle E. Coyote, legs bicycling through the air a mile above the desert that second before he looks down and realizes...oh. I can tell you she’s happy enough, but I can’t know for certain if she’s educated enough. And yet I know the things she’s doing, and I know the opportunities and responsibilities she’s had the luxury of taking on thanks to homeschooling. I know the studies which show that homeschoolers, on average, do better on standardized tests than bricks-and-mortar students. In one small study, the homeschoolers outpaced even their private school cohorts on the ACT. And what if she isn’t perfectly educated this day or even this year? Let’s assume we’re screwing something up and she has a great big gap where some learning should be. I have to have faith that we’ll find it and fix it, she’ll learn it when it’s necessary for something she wants or maybe it wasn’t all that critical anyway. I casually said before that she’s happy enough, but I have plenty of friends with children the early teen years that are very not happy right now. It’s easier to add something to a happy brain than a miserable one. So we homeschool for one more day. All this to say, if you’re thinking about homeschooling and wondering if you’d always need to be serenely confident it was the right choice, I’m here to say that at least one homeschool parent is the occasional wreck and the kid still manages to be thriving. Now, to the link of the week, a video which even this mathphobe watched all the way to the end (and learned a few things). It might be a way to helping a visual learner truly understand some rather abstract concepts. As the mother of a girl, it’s also heartening to hear STEM materials being taught by what sounds like a confident, happy young woman. And here’s my tip of the week for parents of teens, homeschooled or not, who live in Los Angeles; read this: http://www.piercecollege.edu/offices/transfer_center/CROSS%20ENROLLMENT%20POLICY-PROCEDURES.pdf If your teen takes classes at Pierce and earns a decent grade, they can take classes at the highly sought-after UCLA for only $24 a credit. When you factor in that high school students can take up to 11 credits a semester for free, that might be the best bang for your educational buck I’ve seen in quite a while. Imagine getting their freshman year done before they even graduate high school for a couple of hundred dollars! If your child has their heart set on a particular university, make sure they accept transfers. Have a great week and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to write me at the “Year of Learning Dangerously” page on Facebook. Q

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