Monday, September 7, 2009

A Different Year

Last week I signed Kieron and Paddy up for K12 through the California charter school option.

Several of the families in our local micro homeschool group are enrolled or have been enrolled. I have been researching and asking questions and pondering for a couple of years now and finally decided to go with it, with my husband's blessing, of course.

I've been asked Why? by people that know me and know my classical, unschooling, Ambleside-y, free-wheeling tendencies. Up until last year with Sean and this year with Brendan's community college we've never had a child enrolled in the public school system (though Aidan was allied with them to some extent when he used to receive speech therapy through the school). So having four kids total who are registered with the state is brand new for us. That was probably the hardest thing for my husband and me to get past. There is nothing inherently wrong with a free or tax-payer paid public education -- I was just recently reading a case by Catholic convert Orestes Brownson on the subject --- but obviously there are some philosophical concerns. In my family's case, the reasons for staying away from public-school-funding were more mid-level concerns than fundamental ones. Why should we? Is it necessary for us? What kind of freedom do we trade in for the benefits? That kind of thing.

Obviously there are advantages to being enrolled in K12, but for most of those, there are corresponding disadvantages. I could make a pro and con chart; actually, I did make one. The main thing that pushed me towards the "Pro" side, whereas in the past we stayed on the "Con" side, was that this year seemed like the best year of all years to try it out.

  • I "only" have three homeschooled kids and no preschoolers. The program tends to require a substantial time commitment so in the past it would have been difficult to manage for our family.
  • The two kids I am enrolling are in 8th and 1st grade respectively. Those seem like good entry-point years (I didn't enroll Aidan, at least not at this point -- he has an IEP and in other ways it would be a different situation -- I need to find out more, at least).
  • The 2 enrolled kids are already roughly doing the level of work the program would have them do. It's not exactly the KIND of thing I normally have them do, but it's not entirely dissimilar, either. I'll have to save the compare and contrast specifics for a future post when I'm more in touch with how it will actually work out in detail.
  • The older kids are all going to various other schools -- Brendan to community college, Clare to private college, Sean to public high school. So it's already a very "school" type year.
So those are my reasons for taking the step this year rather than last year or next year or several years ago when the program first came out or never. I can't really say much more because I have no real clue how it will work out for us. Obviously it's a departure from what we've done in the past but this is also in so many ways already a Year of Departure from What We've Done in the Past.

I must say in fairness that what I've seen of it so far I like very much. K12's technology is good. I admire good technology. Like good syntax, it is generally a sign of good thinking. It's hard to fake good computer logistics. Bad thinkers produce muddled code just as they produce muddled sentences and paragraphs. The reverse is NOT always true.... that is, bad code or sentence structure doesn't ALWAYS mean bad thinking. Sometimes it only means ignorance of the method, which is different.

I can only speak for their interface so far, since we haven't embarked on the actual curriculum yet. And good technology is definitely not the same as good education; it CAN hinder it, because education (ie, learning) only incidentally overlaps with efficiency. However, INefficiency generally speaking is harmful to education, ie learning. In other words, it's like the Hippocratic Oath -- "first do no harm" which is my problem with a lot of structured schooling, that it is incompetent and potentially harmful for that reason.

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