Friday, February 25, 2011

Why no snow days for the home schoolers?

Last night we all tumbled into bed with a gentle rain pattering down and the (mistaken) idea that we were going to have little to no snow accumulation, according to the posted Winter Weather Advisory. I woke up coughing at about 5:15 and when I got out of bed to get a drink, I couldn't help but notice how strangely bright it seemed in the room. With a feeling of foreboding, I peeked through the blind and sure enough - there was snow. A LOT of snow. And it was blowing horizontally.

"Whuzzerdoin'?" my husband asked me drowsily, burrowing his head into his pillow. Zuzu, sleeping beside him, turned over on her back with all four paws in the air and sighed contentedly.

"Looking at the snow," I replied.

That woke him up a bit. "Diddit znow?" he mumbled, eyes blissfully closed. "Ow mudge?"

"Oh, about FIVE INCHES AND COUNTING," I announced with weary bitterness. Really, this is just ridiculous.

That woke him right up. He thrashed around in the blankets and began spluttering things at me that sounded like this: ARRRGH!!! LITTLE TO NO ACCUMULATION!! SICK OF THIS FRIGGING WINTER!! WHERE'S MY SHOVEL??!! ARRRGHHH!!!! %$#&$!!!!

I silently started getting dressed, thinking that I know two other people who were going to have the same reaction: Meelyn and Aisling. There have been so many snow days for the public schools this year -- and today is another one -- I've lost count. I've mentioned several times on Facebook that we don't have snow days here at Our Lady of Good Counsel and keep on pegging away through snow, sleet, hail and gloom of stormy afternoon. Several people have expressed surprise that I am such a big meanie, so I wanted to explain my bit of homeschooling philosophy in a place that allows me significantly more words-per-post than Facebook does.

First of all, home schooling is a completely different animal than public or private schooling. It just doesn't operate the same way, being a lot more efficient in the way time is managed. We don't have travel time, for one thing, and that makes the girls very happy because they're generally just yawning their way out of bed when their public/private school counterparts are already gathering their books from their lockers and heading off to their first class of the day.

Another way that home schooling is more efficient is that we don't have passing periods between classes or those moments of unavoidable delay when the students are filing into the room and taking their seats while the teacher does the attendance count. And we never have to deal with delaying the start of a lesson because someone doesn't have a book and someone else doesn't have paper and someone else doesn't have a pen and someone else's boyfriend just broke up with her so that she has to sit there and cry while her friends try to soothe her. And we don't have the discipline problems that keep so many teachers from being able to conduct their business and actually get through a planned lesson. These things were enormously frustrating to me as a classroom teacher.

The girls work for about six to six and a half hours a day and that is just what they spend on schoolwork; public and private school kids are actually at their schools for about six and a half hours, but only a portion of that time is actually allocated to study -- the books in the picture above are Aisling's and they include one of our many SAT reference books for her prep course, traditional logic, French vocabulary and world literature....and that's only part of them.

Meelyn and Aisling take a lunch break somewhere around noon and spend half an hour eating and relaxing. Both girls do geometry and composition and classes that require writing downstairs at the dining room table, but for subjects that require a lot of reading (world history and world lit this year) they have their favorite places to go: Meelyn goes upstairs to her room, which is cozily outfitted with a comfy place to read and Aisling curls up in the chair in front of the big window. They're usually accompanied by the dogs, Dobby upstairs and Zuzu down.

They'll be working today when everybody else is having a break for this reason: public and private schools go until the end of the school year: home schoolers go until the end of the books. In other words, even with make up days, there's only so long public schools can convene. Sooner or later, they're going to have to turn the kids loose in the summer. From my own experience I know that every single teacher out there HOPES to come to the end of the textbooks used in his or her classes, but that rarely happens. There's too much interruption, whether it's because of winter weather or too short a class period or a spirit convocation or whatever. It is a constant frustration and worry. One of the most freeing things about homeschooling is that we don't have a break off point where we have to abandon the books and go: the class continues until the very last page of each and every subject.

This is where the superior education of the typical home schooler really comes forward. We know a lot of public school kids and none of them are big, unmotivated dunces; they're great kids and I don't think they're receiving a horrible education by any means. I just think that home schoolers receive a better education. We can do so much more with our six hours, including taking on subjects like logic that most public school kids will never get a crack at. My kids have also studied more than a dozen of Shakespeare's plays (and even been to the Stratford Festival a couple of times), compared to the three studied in public school. Our physical education classes are real workouts at a real gym. (If it's extracurricular activites you want, there's really nothing closed to home schoolers anymore. If my husband and I weren't adamant about having family time and a life free of the stress of constant running, the girls could be in just about any activity you could name, up to and including speech and debate, girls' volleyball - which we participated in for three seasons during their middle school years - and all sorts of other tempting offerings.)

So when it comes to snow days, we just don't have the time. The girls have a lot to accomplish each day and they have to get it done in a timely manner so that they won't wind up sitting at the side of the pool at the swim club finishing up geometry in August. Meelyn had that experience a couple of years ago with Biology I and that was not an experience she'd care to repeat. Aisling learned from that mistake and has kept up with her work diligently.

Home schooling's ways and means are just....different. Snow days are one thing for the majority of students in the area - they have a chance to have a day to sleep in and be free from their normal daily responsibilities. But for the home schoolers, it's pay now so that they can play later, with the knowledge that every single subject has been completed down to the very last sentence in each textbook.

1 comment:

Kayte said...

I remember when the boys were little and the schools here had a snow day and they said, "What's a snow day?" I explained it and they said, "Oh, can we have a snow day, too?" Sure. We did and after about a couple of hours they said, "Can we go back to regular school day because snow days aren't that much fun." lol End of wanting snow days. Even now Matt does not care as much for them as there is always a price...additional days taken away when more fun things were in the works. And this year, delayed graduation for the seniors by 2 days.