For those of you that have children, and those of you that plan to, how much direct interaction do you have with their public school curriculum? Do you just check the ol' grade card and leave it at that, do you participate or volunteer in their class activities? Do you homeschool and hope for the best when they go to college? Do you have resources or projects that you work on outside of school in hopes of teaching them critical thinking?

Tags: critical, curriculum, resources, school

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Well, I can speak for my parents if that helps. My dad got VERY involved, regularily and obsessively checking online and calling to know exactly what I had been doing and how my classes were, and tracking down my teachers and calling them at home >< Mom, on the other hand, bought me a pizza if I got good grades. Her system worked!

A lot of schools now allow you to check grades online. Which is hell for students.
When we were in the public schools, we were very involved in the day to day classroom activities and in working with teachers/administrators about what was/wasn't taught. One thing to note is that there is sometimes a BIG difference between a school's curriculum and what is actually taught in a classroom. In the third grade, our former school had a very well thought out math curricula that was ignored by the teacher because it did not involve enough work sheets and rote memorization for her liking. On the other hand, we did have a mostly wonderful second grade teacher who made several silk purses out of sows ears with the school curricula. Even the good teachers were not enough to overcome the overall deficiencies of the school in our case and for our kids, but there were a couple of very good teachers who did their level best for our (and everyone else's) kids.

After four years of frustration punctuated by only the occasional bright spot, we pulled our kids at the end of a school year and began home schooling. There were two responses that we received from other parents and the school officials:

1. This is horrible! Your children pull up our test scores and should be helping the other kids improve their scores. (mostly from school officials)

2. This is horrible! We need parents like you fighting to make the schools better for all of the kids! (entirely from parents who were absolutely nowhere to be found while we were actually banging our heads against the wall)

I am sure that there was another contingent that did not talk to us about it saying:

3. This is wonderful! Those difficult people are finally going to leave us alone!

I could go on forever about why we left the public schools. We really wanted to work within the system to make it better for everyone, our kids included, but after years of trying it became apparent that we were only succeeding in harming our kids by keeping them in a system that was ill serving them. At that point, we simply considered ourselves lucky to be able to home school - not everyone can.

As for home schooling, we put a lot of effort into planning subjects and curricula, both with an eye towards having a generally well rounded education and the kids current interests. The kids think that we are very free form, and we are in some ways - but the books, equipment, etc. that end up in the house are all part of our diabolical plan to have the kids well educated and college ready by the time they are 18.

Fortunately, our kids are inquisitive enough right now that they will read anything that is left scattered about the house, be it math, history, science, literature, foreign language primers, or whatever. They are also happy to discuss what they are reading over dinner, and happy to write down their thoughts to explain their thinking to me more fully (they assume that mom can understand no problem, but dad sometimes needs a little extra help!). We are getting more rigorous with our oldest (she is 12) now, but for the first couple of years this kind of informal but very deliberate approach has worked extremely well with our kids.
I'm in Florida, USA and my kids go to public school. Well we just took my daughter out and are homeschooling her. We figured we'd let them go through elementary school and then homeschool them from there. My kids are neither atheists or any other (the whole how can a kid be religious or political argument) belief/nonbelief structure but the school was sure teaching them a lot about Jesus, so we are phasing them out of the system. They are too young to be fed any belief so we are letting them learn them in a classroom environment at home where my wife and I can show them what religion is and why they (religions, not the kids) exist and the different facets of them and then let them see how the scientific method works and allow them to run from there and decide whether they want to base their life on fantasy or reality. The irony is that the school we have our homeschool through is a christian school that allows parents to enroll their children without interfering with the curriculum. But it allows us to teach what and how we want. If you want to know more about the school, let me know and I can give you their website.

So, I don't think this answers your post so I'm sorry. But to get a little closer to the heart of your question, my wife and I are very active in our kids' education but the school doesn't allow for much guidance on the curriculum from parents. It is more based on keeping the slower kids closer to the faster kids which slows them all down. The system seems to allow the slower kids to run the show.
@Talibangelist

We are in south Florida and I've never had an occasion where a public school has been pushing religion on our kids. Maybe we were just lucky.

My wife checks the kids status online probably every second day. Sometimes I feel bad for the kids as they just can't get away with anything. Not that they're bad, but damn everyone plays hookey once in a while (in HS anyway) and they get picked up for everything right away.
It's interesting how many homeschoolers, including me, were drawn to this thread. Sorry, I'm only discovering it a year after it was started, as I just joined.

My main aversion to using schools as a resource for my son was their unfortunate side-effect of teaching unquestioning obedience. If there had been, near us, a school modeled after The Sudbury Valley School (near Boston), we would have hopped on it, though.

So far, the only test my son has ever taken has been the one which was required for him to get his driver license. He aced it.

We are a sub-species of homeschoolers known as unschoolers. To us, this means that we do not attempt to replicate the methods of schools. We follow no curriculum. We do not pledge the flag every day. We are heavy on following our noses and talking to everyone we can about what moves them.

We don't have any special focus upon critical thinking, as distinct from just thinking. But, we do tend to look at things from many points of view.

As atheists we're a distinct minority within the homeschooling community, more so, even than in the community at large. And as homeschoolers, we're a distinct minority within the atheist community, since atheists tend to be big champions of public schooling. So, I think we get a lot of practice figuring out what the other guy is thinking. There's some critical thinking, right there!
"We are a sub-species of homeschoolers known as unschoolers. To us, this means that we do not attempt to replicate the methods of schools. We follow no curriculum. "

Great to hear.


I've spent a couple holidays with friends in rural BC. (Canada) Part of the pleasure of being with them was watching them home school their 5 kids ,aged from 3 to 12.There were no formal lessons and no time tables. The children attended public school at high school age. (French immersion) They were ahead in every subject except math,where they were on par.

There was no TV in the house. Father was a fairly aggressive atheist, mother was disinterested in religion.
My wife and I volunteer at EVERYTHING. She is in all of the elementary kids' classes for an hour a week as a helper. We both Co-Chair the SAC committee. I run an astronomy club for the elementary school, and we sponsor extracurricular science projects as well. We are on a first name basis with every key person at the elementary school and the middle school. As far as critical thinking, we run the Skeptikids program and website and are currently working on a teachertube channel showcasing hands on science by kids in 3 minute clips, for use by teachers, kids, and homeschoolers.

We are probably a bit overboard, but out of everything we do, the best thing any parent can do is meet regularly with the teachers and help out a bit in the class. You really get "in the know" on what's going on at school, and you're made aware early on of any potential problems.

Jason
Well, my parents made the decision to let me attend an online school after two years of the torture that is High School. I think that's a pretty major delve into my schooling.

Public school....sucks, if you don't mind me saying. Fine for some people, not for me. 90% of the students couldn't care less about their education, and I was so sick of being teased and ridiculed for not being like every other half-wit in class. I was lame because I tried in school, I was the "teacher's pet" for hanging around to help out after school. I wasn't a pet. I simply enjoyed intelligent conversation that didn't end in "So leik, omg I totallly slept with that gu.y."

I was in public school all of my life, and up until high school it was peachy. Now that I'm out of public school, life is once again peachy. My online school is very accepting and promotes actual, honest-to-goodness thought amongst students. Its easier for my parents to get involved with my life, and in the immortal words of my step-father:

"I like the lack of bullshit".
I went to public school my entire life and it wasn't that bad, ofcourse thats because I went to good schools for the most part in the good area of town.

What really hurts public schools is the inability of teachers to discipline kids. There are some chldren that just need to be kicked out but that can't be done because of the paperwork reqiured and the whole rest of the hagle.

Is that KOS-MOS?
I've got three kids: ds16 had been homeschooled his whole life until just this past semester. He chose to attend a technology/engineering oriented charter high school. My dd8 has also always been homeschooled and chose to attend school next year out of curiosity. The school she will be going to is a very unschoolish charter school: no homework, multigrade classrooms, working at your own pace. My ds6 wants to keep staying home. We follow a Radical Unschooling lifestyle so we don't use curricula, textbooks, workbooks or any schoolish things (unless specifically requested by my kids). If my kids at any time decide they have had enough of whatever they are currently doing, whether going to school or staying home, we will change it up. We believe that critical thinking is best learned by example. Their dad is an engineer and agnostic; I am a contrarian atheist...they are accustomed to questioning of things.

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