This is an informal blog with ideas and tips for homeschooling parents, based on my own experience and research into the homeschooling community around Boston, as well as some more philosophical musings on education today.
For today, a bit of my own family’s story:
I have two teen sons who have now been through every type of local schooling found in this area. Thanks to our complex system of school choice, we don’t all end up going to the local elementary school. This, while it helps to equalize our education and integrate the Boston schools, is hard on communities and families. Relationships are fractured and families an grow distant when friends end up in different schools.
We had this experience when my kids were accepted into an excellent charter school for kindergarten. We lived in Jamaica Plain, and the school was in Dorchester. The long commute was daunting, and none of our local friends went to school there. After four years we had a sense of the pros and cons. The schools was passionate about education for the urban poor, but we didn’t belong to that demographic. There were kids with serious discipline problems in every class, and they would eat up much of the teacher’s energy.
But more significantly, I found myself at odds with the teaching philosophy that set fixed goals for such young kids. One of my sons “fell behind” the benchmark for reading at his grade-level. He was tested for every known learning disability, and nothing came up. In the end, he was just a little slow in that area, and didn’t really like to read. The stress of the testing and the labelling was the final straw for that school. And it’s been a problem I’ve reckoned with at every pubic school my sons have attended.
My biggest motivation for creating JP Green School is my sense that we are rushing our kids, submitting them to constant judgement (in the form of tests), and thereby teaching them to dislike learning itself. This isn’t education–this is the opposite of education.
We left that school for a great Montessori school just outside of Boston, and spent 8 happy years there. Montessori taught me much of what I know about child-directed learning, creating an environment of joy, and a community of love and support. I use those principles every day when I teach at JP Green School.
Over time, however, I came to see that much of that environment could be created at much lower cost, within a community of homeschoolers. Our beloved school cost about 20k/year. This is very cheap for a private school, many of which cost twice that! But it’s still an outrageous sum and could easily be almost 1/2 the income of a middle-class family.
I’ll continue the story of my own family later. Right now I’ll just end with my current working budget for a happy homeschooling experience. By my calculations, a family can homeschool a child easily for 8k/year. Of course it can also be done for less, depending on how self-directed the child is, and how much the parents are available. But I’m working from my “optimal scenario”, which is what I devised for my own homeschooler. (More later on that story.)
In this figure I’m assuming 2-3 days/week in a program like JP Green School, Parts and Crafts, or Macomber Center. These free schools are not cheap, but they’re well worth a few thousand a year to give the child and the family a home-base for their experience. Those few days can then be supplemented with a variety of wonderful courses, workshops, and programs all over the city, and also self-guided or community-led study.
In upcoming blogs I’ll feature a few of the local free schools and what they offer.