Through my entire public school career, K-12, I can count 7 truly outstanding teachers, who had a major influence on me (and I went to what is considered by many to be one of the top districts in PA, or at least it was at the time, back in the day).
So today, I have two issues, one of which can't actually be resolved, just dealt with. The other, maybe my fellow homeschoolers can help me put back into perspective once the shock of the first has resolved a bit.
So the first is sad: One of "my seven" has passed away. A truly influential teacher, though she taught in my middle school years (6th--8th here) she had a significant impact on my later school and career choices and success. Dealing with an interesting and challenging age group in a school setting, she was quick with a smile, had a memorable (and frequent) laugh that could be heard all down the hallway, and was one of the first to reach out to and encourage new students migrating into the school during their middle school years and help them find a way to become involved in some type of group or find a group of friends in a pretty clique-ish school. She was the cheerleading squad coach-- and was, according to my friends who were on that team, much beloved by the squad. She had the energy and stamina to take this age group camping, hiking, to the beach, to NYC, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Gettysburg, and other locales that would terrify many a teacher of the newly adolescent set, and we had a great balance of supervision and freedom-- I have no memories of "line up and shut up." She co-ran a dissecting club, placing scalpels in our hands every week with cheery aplomb. She dealt with messy girl issues, boy-girl issues, hormonal issues, and educational issues all with professionalism and kindness. I don't believe I ever took a multiple choice exam in her classroom. Her funeral is today, and unfortunately, with a sick kid at home, it is just a tad too far away for me to make it there to pay my last respects to her and her family for all her years of tremendously hard work and dedication. I know at least one of my other "seven" will be in attendance, and it would have been wonderful to see her.
That is my first issue-- I'm truly sad about the loss of a wonderful human being.
That brings up the second issue. My overall feeling about homeschooling is pretty unequivocal-- our only regret 99% of the time is, "Why didn't we do this sooner?" However. Though I know it seems like an argument in itself to say, "Well . . . out of 40+ teachers in your K12 career, only 7 were good . . . what does that say about the rest of your time???" The reality is that my life would absolutely have been poorer had it not been for these 7 people. And it isn't quite true that only 7 were good; there were 7 who I personally felt were outstanding for me. Other students had other teachers who reached them in our district. Some teachers who didn't connect so well with me, connected fabulously with other students. One teacher who was definitely on my "could live without seeing him again" list is a favorite of some friends of mine. Life is like that.
So, on this day, I worry just a bit about what my kids may miss out on by homeschooling. Who might their "7" have been? What influence in their lives are they missing that I am not replacing, necessarily? Am I robbing them of some type of transformative experience they might have had, had I chucked them at the local public school? When interviewed about one of the books he has published, my husband noted that our high school English teacher was absolutely a key influence on his ability to write (she is also one of my "7").
I do realize that I am replacing the "school" experience with other experiences that they would not get if they were in school. There are other mentors, other teachers, other classes we only do as homeschoolers-- we do not simply sit at home all day long. But it is a less random situation than school. Had my parents hand-picked my teachers, a few of my "7" would never have crossed my path, for certain.
I get nervous when I talk to homeschoolers who think that there is only one choice for schooling, that schools are 100% evil, that homeschooling is the only possible choice. Whether we as parents choose to use homeschooling, public schooling, charter, schools, or private schools, we are tossing a dart in the dark about the experiences and influences our kids are going to have in their lives. We are making choices that will have profound downstream influences. Today, I feel a tremendous loss, from the loss of a human being who was a great educator. I had that opportunity thanks to the public education that my parents selected for me (and select it they did; we moved out of the district where my Dad taught so that my siblings and I would not have to have him as a teacher, and my parents had their pick of districts to live in). I would be foolish not to wonder what choices I am making for my children, via my choices, and to hope that one day they can feel the profound impact that some of these choices have had on their lives. I hope I am making good choices for them, as my parents did for me.
Will they, through homeschooling, also find "a 7?"