The World Is Not Your Cloister

“How does a child who is home schooled learn to deal with ‘real life’?” must be one of the most common questions asked of homeschoolers. Every time, I must resist a strong urge to bang my head against the desk.

The question is exactly backwards. What is school, as most of us know it? An isolated cloister. For six hours per day, possibly more, a child is surrounded by others who were born in the same year, and interacts almost entirely with one adult, or a small handful. Interaction with the world is limited and mediated; the world is kept at bay with fences, metal detectors, guards, curriculum, and regulations.

Now, some home schoolers do attempt to recreate such a school inside a smaller box. Six hours a day, their children labor at schoolwork. If that’s your vision, the question is valid – your child will live in an even tinier cloister than the usual school.

Experienced homeschoolers realize that the six hour per day paradigm is horribly inefficient and isolating – so they don’t do that.

Instead, the child does in an hour or two what takes six hours for most. How is this possible? When time is yours to manage, when you are the master of your own clock, it does not take long to discover that actually reading a book front to back is more efficient than waiting for the entire class to muddle, line by line, through the same book. When your time is yours, learning a mathematical concept once – correctly! – beats repeating and reviewing ad nauseam.

When your time is liberated from arbitrary constraints, you tend to spend more of it doing fun things with other people of all ages, young and old. You could be doing robotics; you could be at the local hackerspace; you could be at the library; you could be helping out at a local book or craft store. The world’s your oyster; it is yours to enjoy, in all its infinite variety.

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