I’ve always been apprehensive about schools. The actual institutions scare me. Perhaps scare is too big of a word. Schools intimidate me. Maybe it was the preschool teacher who was of a more stern nature that I expected as a three-year-old. Maybe it was the fact that there was no choice in sight. I grew up in a communist country and uniformity was the saveur du jour whether one liked it or not. I always felt quite tense when I approached the actual institution. I would have a hard time therefore explaining my many years in school while pursuing my education, from mandatory elementary and high school, to a bachelor degree followed by a Masters degree, either of them mandatory. I might not be able to come up with credible arguments after all. Not to mention that I also hold a teaching position at a post-secondary school in Vancouver. What gives?

The biggest realization along the years has been that learning and going to school are two different notions. In some fortunate cases they can work into one harmonious solution for both student and teacher, but in many cases they don’t. Children’s creativity sometimes gets dampened during school years. Sure we raise children to be part of the society and the society works in away that is may not accommodate everybody’s whims and ways of learning. Although lately attitudes have changed. The society has an increased hunger for fresh thinking and innovation. Creativity has become the hottest currency in today’s market. And that is just as it should be. The caveat is that the creativity that was seriously dampened during school years may not be able to be revived to fit the societal requirements our children will be exposed to as they enter adult world. But if traditional schooling is out, what are the alternatives and do they really preserve and enhance creativity after all or are they just a hype that might or might not be short-lived. Homeschooling came to mind shortly after my oldest son, now eight, started being interested in learning about letters and wanting to read on his own. I did not sit him down to do it the way I was taught the alphabet. We had a wooden alphabet and the letters had to find their spots on the big wooden board. The game we invented was musical and fun and he learned his letters before I realized he did. And once he learned to read new horizons opened. They keep opening still. Since learning the letters of the alphabet he has been navigating through the ocean of learning by his own steering. And learned tons while doing it. At the same time, school has been fun at times but often his school days started and ended with grunts. “I am bored” or “Why do I have to go there and learn stuff I know already or stuff I am not interested in?” have replaced morning and afternoon greetings quite often and I wish I wasn’t such a two-face when I answered the latter. “Well, sometimes we come across things that are not that interesting at first but if you give it time…” I would say. Yeah right. So is homeschooling the answer to the dampened creativity dilemma?

Well, for starters, I did not consider homeschooling as a viable alternative for a long time. Because I was quite ignorant about it. If I am not Amish or a devout Christian wanting to isolate my children from the world, I thought – like I said, I was rather ignorant about the issue – then why would lean towards homeschooling to begin with. But then I read about it in books written by authors whose opinions I value a lot, and I met homeschooled kids and I was impressed with both their level of knowledge and behaviour. And I talked to their parents and I even thought of attending a homeschooling conference in town. My opinion has changed dramatically. Not dismissing public or private schools. In the interest of fairness, I will say that school and learning can work like a charm for some kids. But I am not very sure they do for my first born. And while he is still in a public school, and is lucky enough to be studying with a teacher who is extremely open-minded and creates a safe space for children to grow academically and have their individual talents nurtured, I still fear that he might lose a certain spark along the way.
I often talk about homeschooling with my son and we’re getting closer with each discussion to giving it a try. Do I think that homeschooling will work for sure? Well, I don’t. There are no guarantees in life with anything, are there? But I think of the times when my son was reading about the solar system because he wanted to know so much about it and he was studying the charts of summer and winter skies. And then I think of the times when he was so interested in cars that he read all the magazines he could get his hands on, car specifications, new models, engine capacity and all the things only a car aficionado would put up with. And that is when I get this feeling that homeschooling and self-guided learning might work after all.

Come to think of it, I am not opposed to traditional schooling. All I expect from it is to allow my sons’ passions and creativity to be nurtured and encouraged. And while the classroom cannot walk through the thicket of learning guided my sons’ compasses, I would like them to be given the space and chance to know how to read their own compass and follow it with confidence.