Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Diverging Paths

January 31st was the deadline for registering for enrollment (or in some cases, entering the admissions lotteries) in any of the magnet schools in our local public school system. Because our neighborhood school is by all accounts quite bad (I don’t know a single child in my neighborhood who goes there), not registering for a magnet school is de facto a decision not to send our son to public school. In other words, next year we will officially be homeschooling.

And yet it is not exactly official, because in North Carolina there is no compulsory education before age seven. So we don’t register as homeschoolers (until he turns 7), or tell any official person what we are doing. There is no quarterly reporting or annual testing. We simply don’t send our son to school in August. This is strange because it feels like such a big move for us. It is odd that we can quietly step away from the mainstream schooling path, apparently without anyone in the school system noticing. Not that I am complaining!

While no government agency seems to care, we do have to come out to our friends and family as homeschoolers when they ask where we’re sending N. next year. Here is where the magnitude of our choice seems biggest, because for most people school is simply a given and homeschooling evokes lots of stereotypes. I don’t go into much detail explaining what we are doing or why. I usually tell them what we tell ourselves: that this is a low-stakes decision. He can enter school at any time if he or we so desire. We’re taking it on a year-by-year basis. N. is really thriving at home with Tim, and we’re just going to keep going with that for another year. And since his birthday is very close to the cut-off date, the decision to keep him home is nearly indistinguishable from a decision to “red-shirt,” or delay kindergarten for a year, a decision that apparently 26% of parents make in our district.

In January we went to a “Magnet School Fair” just to assure ourselves that we were being responsible, checking out all the options. I had a heated argument with a school principal there who claimed she would only enroll homeschoolers who came from a “certified” homeschool (despite there being no such thing before age 7). The schools all seemed very gimmicky, with multiple, sometimes conflicting focuses on the arts, technology, performance, IB, multiple intelligences, etc. We meant to follow this up with visits to a few schools, since it is hardly fair to judge them on their poster displays at the expo. But we didn’t end up visiting anywhere. We’ve talked and read and thought so much about homeschooling that it didn’t seem worth it to waste anyone’s time when we had all but made up our minds. Inertia – resistance to a change in the state of motion – keeps us on the path we embarked on when we didn’t send N. to preschool that gradually and almost imperceptibly carries us further away from the main road in an unpredictable, exciting direction.

1 comment:

Jena said...

It's nice that compulsory education doesn't kick in until age 7. It gives you time to breathe and develop your convictions about schooling. I had the same situation, and because my oldest had an August birthday, it could be interpreted that were delaying school, just like you mentioned.

On the first day of school, when all my friends were sending their little ones off, I was ecstatic that our life was not changing a bit! Have you read my post Endless Summer? I think you'd like it. :)