Posted on: 06-12-2002 16:48
Alex Davis is 16 years old. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is being homeschooled. I sent him some questions by email and he's been nice enough to write me back. I post here the questions and his answers (with some very light editing, like capitalizing "I"s):
1.) Do you like homeschooling?
Yes. I love it. Because it gives me freedom to study the things I want to
learn about instead of what the school system believes is important. The
world is my classroom instead of the narrow confines of sitting at a desk
for 6 hours a day. What I love about homeschooling is FREEDOM. Freedom to
study what I want to study at my own pace. Freedom from rules and hall
passes. Freedom to decide when I want to go the bathroom.
In general I like homeschooling because it gives me freedom to discover and explore the world and come to my own opinions about what is important to me in life. It allows me to follow the subjects I am passionate about instead of being forced to study facts that mean nothing to me.
Homeschooling is a personal education that is different for each person's needs and interests. For example some prefer a rigorous school-at-home approach complete with workbooks and book reviews. Others prefer a more relaxed way of education (more where I come from) encouraging learning by living, also called unschooling, where a student studies a subject once he or she is motivated to do so. This means that many students go at different rates - a homeschooling friend of mine didn't learn to read until they were 10. This isn't a bad thing, but it's realistic, we don't all learn in the same way at the same rate. Unschooling is geared towards the self-directed and self-motivated student.
2.) Do you think your education would be better or worse in a public school?
It depends on your definition of education. What is a good education? Is it memorizing the dates of the American Revolution? Or is it learning what is interesting to you at your own pace through unique mentorships and independent projects? I think my education would be much worse if I were to be subjected to the machinery of the factory of massive compulsory schooling (public school).
[What I've got now] equals unique self-directed education, learning by living, freedom to follow my own interests. Public school equals loss of individuality, conformity, no time for what I'm interested in, cramming for the test then forgetting everything after it's over, filling my brain with meaningless facts instead of meaningful questions about what I am interested in.
3.) Do you homeschool at home or at other people's houses or where? Whom do you homeschool with?
This past semester I took Orchestra at CHS, two classes at PVCC (Tropical Ecology and Eastern Philosophy) studied History/Government/Philosophy/Economics with my Grandmother, photography with Alexandria Searls, theater at Live Arts, math workbook at home, for social studies I interned at the Virginia Organizing Project, for music I studied fiddle with the Blue Ridge Irish Music School, and I also founded a community garden, visited Puerto Rico, participated in a Lighthouse film workshop in which I created a film about the April 20th protest in DC, was a member of the peer education sexual assault awareness group VIVA: Voices for Interpersonal Violence Alternatives. So my homeschooling happens in the home, at other people's
house and in the larger community. Like I said the world is my classroom.
There are several homeschooling groups. I founded a classics book club that meets monthly. Last Fall I was with a Shakespeare club and there have been writer's groups etc. My Grandmother who founded the Observer (before it became conservative) is a mentor to me, as well as Ernie Reed, founder of
the Living Education Center, folks at Live Arts, Alexandria Searls (photographer and City Council candidate) and many other community minded folk. I homeschool with all different kinds of people from old to young.
4.) Does homeschooling cost much? (I'm assuming your folks get no help from
the government in terms of money for your education.)
It depends on how you want to homeschool. We're lucky: my father works for the Friends of the Library book sale so we get a lot of free books. Also my Grandmother (who is well off) finances many of the classes I take. Generally our method is very cheap: see where the student wants to go. For things
like photography which are expensive I used Alex's darkroom and Will May's darkroom (another photographer). I held a job for a while to pay for chemicals to start a film developing darkroom of my own. In general if there are price obstacles there are ways to go around it.
5.) How do you think education should be financed in America?
Imagine independent learning centers that would help self-motivated students
hook up with mentors and resources that would be financed by the government much in the same way public education is financed by the government now.