Before Christmas, I managed to gather a small group of homeschooling friends to meet and drink and let our kids run wild. This probably doesn’t sound difficult to you, but in Hong Kong, homeschooling is technically illegal. There aren’t a ton of us. Anyway, it was interesting. Basically, the only thing we all have in common is that our kids don’t attend a traditional school.
There’s this one guy who is really outspoken about his disdain of traditional education. He refers to schools as ‘sausage factories’ and he has resisted all pressure to buy into a homeschooling curriculum. He says he educates his kid through every day activity–counting change and writing thank you notes. In the States, this is a radical unschooling approach, and it seems to work well for some families. I love this family because they’re really into the outdoors, and so are we. He has never once turned me down when I call him last minute and am all, “Hey, pack your bag. We’re going hiking.” As an added bonus, he’s local Hong Kong Chinese, which means he knows a hell of a lot more than I do about all things Hong Kong. He also reminds me regularly that there is more than one way to skin a cat.
There’s this one woman who hails from not so far from where I hail from. Like, really not far. Like, almost the same zip code. Her reasons for wanting to homeschool are many and they include a desire to educate her kids in a religious environment. She uses a classical approach to homeschooling, which means her kids study classic literature, ancient history, and Latin. I love this family because this woman stresses out about homeschooling almost as much as I do. It doesn’t come easily or naturally to her, and she sees it as a personal sacrifice that she is willing to make for her kids. She’s honest about her struggles and limitations, completely disarming. She also has a strong set of morals and values which she’s handing down to her lovely children. Obviously, my family is not religious, but morality is a huge part of why we homeschool too.
And then there are two women (Dutch and British) who pulled their kids out of an alternative school when they realized that the school was bankrupt despite the ridiculously high tuition they paid. These families have managed to hire one of the defected teachers to come to their houses and teach their kids. It’s homeschooling farmed out, and it seems to be working really well for them. I love these families because they’re good people. Home education was not their first choice, and they are constantly trying to find the right fit for their kids. I admire their willingness to go against the grain in favor of what they think is best for their families.
It’s a small group, but it’s full of good people. By talking with them, I was finally able to pinpoint what wasn’t working about our old curriculum. We’ve started changing over to a more classical approach. I started this homeschool journey thinking that I didn’t want to drill a bunch of facts into my kids’ brains. I kinda wanted to just take them hiking a lot, if I’m honest. Bake some cookies. Maybe read some poetry. But as we progressed, I realized that, actually, that wasn’t fulfilling to any of us. My kiddos are smarter than I gave them credit for. As it turns out, I’m also more motivated than I thought. Plus, all the research seems to say that actually, kids do need all those facts. If they want to get into college. Or get a job. Or hold their own at a swanky cocktail party.
Now, I’m going to say this quietly, so I’m not judged too harshly for my optimism. Y’all, even though my kids wear me the hell out, it is exhilarating to teach them. I don’t know what they would’ve learned had they gotten on the bus this year. Maybe more, maybe less. But I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to watch all of those lightbulb moments this year, and I know, without a doubt, that I’m leaving a lasting impression on them that learning is cool, exciting, and real high up on our list of priorities.
Plus, I had completely forgotten about Mesopotamia, so it’s a good refresher.