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Class Dismissed, But for How Long?

by on June 16, 2015 6:15 AM

That's odd ... I don't recall hearing Alice Cooper on the radio last week.

Before we go any further, let's get the fine-print disclaimer out of the way first: today's column is specifically targeted at public school students in grades 1-11.

If you do not fit that demographic, feel free to continue reading, I just want to make sure you are aware of the mindset you should have when consuming this product.

Which would mean I need to add that Alice Cooper sang the hit song "School's Out" in 1972.

So, how is everybody?!?

Today is day two, three or four of summer vay-kay!! (Depending on which local school system you attend). No alarm to shut off, no bus to catch, no desks to sit in, no homework to do, just pure unadulterated nothing!

This assumes you are not participating in the local summer swim league, in which case you do have early-morning practices. (Sorry about that Bullfrogs, Sharks, Dolphins and Penguins – but hey, you're having fun, looking sharp and staying in shape!)

How do these first couple days of freedom feel? Pretty stellar, huh? Do what you want when you want. You could get used to this couldn't you?

Well, here's a little secret that may get you excited. It could be like this year-round if you so desire.

That's right, you read that correctly. Summer vacation all the time. Every day, all day. No alarms, no bus, no institutional desk. Do things on your own schedule. All. Year. Long.

"How is that possible?" you ask.

"One simple word," I say. "Homeschooling."

If you enjoy waking up when your body is ready (and after the sun rises in the winter), if you don't like waiting out in the elements for a bus, and prefer to study things when you are interested in learning them, then you might consider homeschooling. It's a win-win-win scenario. It's a win for you, a win for your parents, and a win for the school district.

Let's talk about the wins for you first.

The obvious ones we've already mentioned. You won't have to ride a bus every day and you don't have to wake up in the early morning hours to catch said bus. You will no longer spend excessive time in those ergonomic masterpieces called desks.

And as far as studying and homework are concerned, that will be as structured as you and your new teacher/principal – your parent(s) – want it to be. Some homeschoolers take a very arranged approach and plan out their day in a similar block fashion to traditional public schools. On the other end of the spectrum are the "unschoolers" who let each day flow based on the student's desires that day. As the Indigo Girls sang, "the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine."

The less obvious win for you is according to numerous studies, you'll do better. Now, I won't bore you with the growing body of evidence that tracks this academic achievement, or get into the numerous theories why this happens – better student-teacher ratio, motivated students learn more, etc. – the simple fact is if you homeschool you will likely outdo your peers when measured by whatever means you choose to use. Even considering that you currently attend one of the outstanding local school districts, you stand a greater chance of exhibiting academic achievement if you homeschool.

Is there a downside to this you ask? What about my friends and sports?

Yes, you won't see the group of friends you now see in school as often as you do. (Although how much time in your school day do you really spend with the friends you want to be with?) You'll have to wait to see them after their day is done. But there are plenty of homeschoolers in the area and you might make new friends with some of those.

As for sports – if you are old enough to participate on school-arranged sports teams – you'll still get to play on them. The school district is happy – for at least one financial reason we'll discuss in a bit – to let you play on the soccer, football, basketball, track, etc. team at the school you would normally attend.

Now, what are the wins for your parent(s)?

First, tell them about the doing better "thing." Parents generally appreciate that.

Then, of course, all the stuff they normally complain about: having to wake you up, making sure you get your homework done, having to drive you when you miss the bus, packing your lunch or making sure you have money in your account -- all those disappear!

You can also point out how you'll save money on vacations. You'll be able to take trips whenever you like – not wait until you, and every other public school student, are out of school. Meaning you can go to the places you want to go when the prices are cheapest and they are less-crowded. Plus it's not just a vacation anymore – it's an "extended field trip" and is part of your educational plan!

One other thing your parent(s) might appreciate – studies show that homeschooled children consistently have fewer behavioral problems. Apparently homeschoolers behave better because they tend to imitate their parents instead of modelling themselves after their peers. It seems that in public school children are socialized horizontally into conformity with their immediate age-group whereas homeschoolers are socialized vertically, toward adulthood.

The only possible downside for your parents is they are now responsible for your educational plan from start to finish. This begins by working with you to create an educational plan for the year, just a few short pages presenting what you plan to accomplish, and giving that to the district.

Next they facilitate the completion of the plan. Then at the end-of-the-year they follow-up with a report showing what you did. This is reviewed first by a certified evaluator, and then given to the district. There are many examples of these plans and reports available on the internet as well as evaluators who can help you with the process.

Finally, in 3rd, 5th and 8th grades your parents need to make sure you complete a state-approved standardized test. Most parents find these hours of effort a small trade-off for the relief from the daily school grind.

Finally, how is it a win for the school district?

They don't have to worry about busing you, scheduling your classes, accounting for your attendance, or providing a safe environment for you seven hours a day. But the best part is they still get the $10,000+ from the state that is your per-student allocation as part of the district. They get the money but their work load is drastically diminished – now they'll just evaluate and sign off on your educational plan and report.

So it's a win-win-win for all parties concerned.

The question is, are you interested in going down that path? Is a free and self-directed childhood something you desire? Or is the traditional school ride – that makes the high of summer vacation so much fun – more to your liking?

That's the beautiful part of the start of summer vacation – you have time to think about it. And the simple fact that you have a choice is a wonderful phenomenon. Homeschooling may or may not be a path for you and your family.

As I said, I don't recall hearing Alice Cooper on the radio last week. Could it be that Happy Valley doesn't need an anthem celebrating the end of school?

 

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John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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