School is Irrelevant

Often families who are beginning to homeschool feel nervous about making sure they cover the school curriculum, state standards, and courses that will prepare their children for college. This is especially worrisome for parents of children who are in middle or high school and just beginning to homeschool. I work with these families to help develop curriculum that will allay parental fears, while still allowing their child to follow his or her passions. I try to reassure parents that the state standards and school curriculum are irrelevant to their child's success. The main goal of homeschooling is giving their child the time, space, and support to pursue their burning interests.

As parents, we want to make sure our children know how to function in society, translate their passions into a workable career, be a good citizen of the world, and find love and happiness. There is no standard curriculum for that.

Here's what I recommend:

• Talk to your children about what is happening in the world today. Help them relate current events to historical foundations. Use books like Howard Zinn's "Young People's History of the United States" or Chris Harman's "A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium," which tell history from multiple perspectives, including those which are traditionally overlooked.

• Support them in the areas they excel, help them pursue their passions, whatever they may be. Facilitate exposure to experts in the field, find ways for them to experience hands-on opportunities, support them unconditionally. You don't know where their passion will take them or how they will connect to that energy. George Lucas literally dreamed the plot of the star wars saga, figured out characters from writing long lists of sci fi names, and fleshed out details through drawing fantasy pictures.

• Teach them how to convey their thoughts coherently. Don't worry about handwriting or even typing speed. Get them a voice recognition program and let them speak their minds.

• Read a wide variety of work. Let them learn to be good writers through reading work by talented writers of all genres.

• Get involved in something that matters. Model for them what enthusiasm for social justice, a green planet, well cared for animals, food for every child, a non-toxic world, slow food...reconnect to whatever moves you to action.

• If math is not their passion, let them use math authentically, integrate it into their real world projects. Let them play with math, an amazing amount of math can be learned through playing and exploring with games like Lego and materials like Magnatiles.

• If science isn't their chief interest in life, make sure they get to explore nature, experiment with physics or chemistry at a science museum, see a planetarium show, and know how their bodies work.

• Show them how to pursue a question, originate a thought, create something new.

• Teach them how to organize themselves, how to break big projects into manageable pieces, and schedule their time and energy.

• Help them learn to collaborate, to be both a leader and a follower, as needs be.

• Show them how to persuade, debate, and argue democratically.

• Give them the freedom to decide their path. We cannot know what their world will require of them or how they might contribute to that future. I think Kahlil Gibran sums it up perfectly in the first two stanzas of his poem, "On Children"

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.