Ross Hall, Homeschooling dad (believe me, a rarity)
In a word … boredom.
However, that answer will seem incredibly trite, so an explanation.
Public school through 4th grade. Perfect grades. No behavioral problems, etc. Parents with usual involvement in PTA, teacher’s meetings, etc. Boring. Bored.
The trouble started when our daughter was identified as “gifted”. In a nutshell, the school system (county-wide) is incredibly ill-prepared to teach and challenge gifted kids. I realized we had a big problem when, during a meeting with teachers and the principal, the principal stated “I have a school full of gifted children”, and “the County school administration does not endorse grade acceleration”. (See “A Nation Deceived” to understand why this was such a big deal to me).
The last straw was when I volunteered to read to our daughter’s class. I arrived early, and followed the class from the lunchroom, via the homeroom and then lockers, to the classroom where I was to read. Following the class on their travels, I was reminded of a caterpillar inching along – it took 35 minutes to get from the lunchroom to being seated at the desks. Now I was fascinated. How much time was my daughter spending during the school day as a caterpillar, versus time spent actually learning something? I sat down with my daughter, and reviewed her normal daily schedule. I concluded that she was presented with learning opportunities approximately 3 hours out of a 7 hour day. Hmm … I attempted some rudimentary math, and came to the conclusion that each child (of 20 in the class) has the maximum opportunity for 9 minutes of teacher’s personal attention during the school day … and that’s when the lightbulb flickered faintly! Even I might be able to devote more than 9 minutes of personalized attention each day for my daughter’s education.
Exit the school system.
Now we spend each day in perfect educational bliss!
Okay, just kidding. It is much more bizarre, and interesting, than that.
I have to admit that the first three months of her becoming a Minecraft Ninja were really scary. She was also doing a lot of other stuff, including violin, piano, and university level physics and astronomy courses, but the Minecraft was still scary.
After two or three months, she got over the Minecraft obsession, and things started to get really interesting. She developed a passion for digital graphics, which led to an interest in animation, which has led to an interest in writing fiction. She now has a Youtube channel (with several dozen subscribers), and is posting her stories to a writer’s website. And this activity has also led to a fairly vibrant social life online.
Lest you perceive that our daughter is a computer zombie, I should point out that she takes piano, violin, art, badminton, and Chinese classes. She also has regular playdates, and swimming sessions with her friends. We are currently studying the Art of Problem Solving math series, and investigating the history of Rome, primarily through discussion of SPQR, by Mary Beard.
My daughter is 10 years old. She is developing a passion for learning, and how to think critically. She is not bored.
I have the utmost respect for each of my daughter’s teachers while she was in school. Each one of them was hard-working, and caring (and probably underpaid). I am not so excited about the school system within which they labor (read John Taylor Gatto or Alfie Kohn for more detail).
This is not a rant about gifted kids in the school system. The US school system is actually doing a poor job of educating ALL of our kids (see Gatto again, and also review Sir Ken Robinson’s very entertaining and eye-opening TED talks).
I considered attempting to challenge our local school system to change, but decided that windmill was just too big. I do, however, find it interesting that the US homeschool population (approximately 2 million, or 3% of the school age population) continues to grow fairly rapidly. This suggests to me that more and more families are voting with their feet, and it is only a matter of time before this becomes a political issue that has to be faced.
It actually is a lot of fun to see our daughter venture into many different educational rabbit holes!