The Look

Hey!  It’s Nathan guest writing once again.  I wrote this piece as a contrast essay for my English class earlier this month.  Thanks for reading!

It’s an unconscious reaction.  Strangers just can’t help but do a double take when they first discover that my siblings and I were home educated.  They describe us as “surprisingly normal and social.”  Their reaction reveals an underlying notion that homeschoolers are supposed to be strange, that they are somehow supposed to be different from their public school peers.  These experiences have taught me that although public and home educated students are actually quite similar, there exist major differences in how their respective education systems approach social exposure, academic scheduling, and athletic opportunity.

The first difference is in the way students learn social skills.  In public schools, the students learn through inoculation, adapting social skills in a largely untampered environment.  Most social interaction occurs between the student and his peers, then the skills learned in these interactions are extrapolated to interactions between the student and his elders.  The student must also adapt to certain social norms to fit in with what’s popular, or else risk being ostracized from the general pool of his fellows and suffering the ultimate social humiliation: being labeled “weird.”  This fear leads the student to shun people and ideas that could be considered strange and stifles the development of a unique sense of self in favor of a character that better fits with what is the norm.

In contrast, many forms of home education seek to teach students to interact with their elders first.  Once the student understands how to address his elders, he is well equipped to interact with his peers by extrapolating the respect with which he addresses his elders to his relationships with his peers.  This respect causes the student to take every concept at face value and choose the ones which best reflect his own tastes, rather than selecting friends and activities based on social enforcement.  The student is thus able to find his niche while at the same time respecting other viewpoints.

Another difference between these education systems is their respective flexibility.  In public schooling, the students live by a consistent schedule, much like they will in life after school.  This is necessary in a system where there are many students enrolled, as it would be impossible to account for the individual needs of each student.  Although there is an inherent rigidity to this, it allows the school to organize events and classes which require large groups to work together regularly, such as dramatic productions or fundraisers for trips.

Conversely, in home education there is a great deal of flexibility, with the academic schedule often being adjusted to fit the needs of the family.  In addition to this, since the home educators are in charge of the curriculum, they can tailor the academic experience of the student to his specific needs or interests.  Since the curriculum can travel with the family, home educators and their families are able to take trips during the school year that they would not be able to otherwise, increasing opportunity for the student to be exposed to other cultures and foreign ideas.  While it offers many advantages, this flexibility requires the student to learn to keep his own schedule and stay on pace if he wishes to succeed after graduation.  It also makes coordination between home education families difficult, limiting their ability to create clubs and other organizations.

A final difference between  public schooling and home education is athletic opportunity.  In public schools there are many different sports teams with which the student can be involved and there is often a focus on athletic ability, with those students who are athletically gifted being treated differently by their peers and their teachers, though this treatment is not always favorable.  Since schools often offer several different sports, the student can choose the ones that best suit his talents, whether football, basketball, soccer, or another.  Even those students who are not involved in competitive sports can take advantage of PE classes and club sports.  These teams and clubs help foster fitness, sportsmanship, and teamwork in the students and can help students receive scholarships to colleges they would have otherwise been unable to attend.

Home educated students, on the other hand, do not have these same opportunities.  Unless one of their parents has an athletic background, homeschoolers often do not learn to play sports, and unless they are part of a cooperative home education group, many families replace physical education with practical arts.  These homeschoolers learn trade skills instead of sportsmanship, workmanship instead of teamwork, working fitness instead of athleticism.  Unfortunately, this effect makes it difficult for home educated students to receive athletic scholarships, making it that much more difficult for low-income students to achieve higher-level educations.

These are just a few of the differences that exist between public and home education.  While public schooling offers greater peer interaction, more school based activities, and more opportunity for athletic advancement, home education allows the student to learn from his elders, travel more due to academic flexibility, and study his environment, creating a young adult who is arguably better-equipped for life than his public school peer.  I would argue that while both systems have their advantages, the reality is that good students will succeed in either system, and poor students will fail in either system.  Perhaps, then, we can remove the stigma associated with being home educated, and realize that the only true difference between homeschoolers and their public school peers is the system in which they were educated.

It’s ALIVE!

Sometimes life can be really depressing, especially at the end of a long, cold winter and everyone is exhausted, but then just little things can really brighten your day!  Last summer, we razed our old house, but before doing so, we wanted to save the old rose bush that had been sheltered in a southeast facing corner for perhaps 60 years or maybe more!  A long time ago, a visitor suggested that it was called a ‘seven sisters rose‘ so-named because of the way the blossoms cluster in sevens.

So, we moved it.  I had called Mendenhall’s Florists & Nursery in Brookfield, MO for advice and found out that it would be nearly impossible to move it in the middle of the summer and have it survive, but we had no choice.

Christian Finck and Dallas Powell discussing strategy -although it all goes through me.
Christian Finck and Dallas Powell discussing strategy -although it all goes through me. The first steps were to remove the support structure then tie all the canes together. This heritage rose is exceptionally thorny.
We just sort of guessed at how much of the roots we needed balanced with how much we could realistically chop out.
We just sort of guessed at how much of the roots we needed balanced with how much we could realistically chop out. The log chain was looped well below the surface level.
Christian carefully backed the tractor while we kept a close on how the roots were going to fare with such force.
Christian carefully backed the tractor while we kept a close on how the roots were going to fare with such force.
After the bush was loaded, I wrapped the roots in a wet towel and Christian hauled it in the front end loader to our guest house (in which we had recently moved)
After the bush was loaded, I wrapped the roots in a wet towel and Christian hauled it in the front end loader to our guest house (in which we had recently moved)
Dallas packed the entire bush to the hole  we had already started.
Dallas packed the entire bush to the hole we had already started.
Alas, the hole that had been started was far from deep or wide enough, so the boys dug it out more and run into a tree root from the old Mulberry tree we had removed from the front yard.  So that had to be taken out before the hole could be enlarged any further.
Alas, the hole that had been started was far from deep or wide enough, so the boys dug it out more and run into a tree root from the old Mulberry tree we had removed from the front yard. So that had to be taken out before the hole could be enlarged any further.
Well, a bit droopy, but there it is!  I kept it well watered all during the dry heat of summer and fall.
Well, a bit droopy, but there it is! I kept it well watered all during the dry heat of summer and fall. Later, I cut the canes back very short to encourage root growth.
TODAY - 22 Mar 2015!  These signs of life indicate this hardy rose made it through a rough transplant in the wrong time of the year followed by an extremely long and bitterly cold winter.  Hooray!
TODAY – 22 Mar 2015! These signs of life indicate this hardy rose made it through a rough transplant in the wrong time of the year followed by an extremely long and bitterly cold winter. Hooray!