Our public school adventure started when my son was 4 and he began junior kindergarten at the local public school I had attended as a child. It was a bittersweet day for me: I was excited for him that he was starting school, but I was also sad that his first day had come so quickly. I wasn’t quite ready to let go of my baby, but I had to. There were no other options. As an involuntary single mother, I had to work hard to make ends meet, and homeschooling was not even on my radar at that time.
When my son started school, he was a happy, intelligent, and inquisitive little guy. He loved anything to do with science and had a keen interest in ancient Egypt — especially mummies. I had hoped that the public school would nurture his love of learning and help him reach his full potential. Boy, was I wrong.
My son’s kindergarten years went fairly smoothly, partly because all-day kindergarten five days a week had not yet been implemented by our government. That left my son with plenty of time to explore his interests outside of the structured school setting. Although he had wonderful teachers, my son did not particularly enjoy the “arts and crafts” approach to learning. He would rather scribble in his projects with one color so he could move on to more interesting things like hunting for bugs or pretending to be a dinosaur. Nevertheless, despite his aversion to art, he learned his numbers and how to read and generally seemed quite content.
Interestingly, the main criticisms of my son’s education during this time came from a public school teacher in our family. You see, I have never believed that education is solely the public school’s responsibility, and so I worked very hard to create a rich home environment in which my children could learn. For my son, that meant reading lots of books with him about Ancient Egypt. We also watched videos about Egyptians, and my fiancé –now-husband showed my son how to mummify his Lego men. That was a real hit. You would think that any schoolteacher would be glad to have parents who were so supportive of a child’s education, but sadly the opposite was true. We were told by our family member that we shouldn’t be studying Egypt with our son in kindergarten because he didn’t “need” to know about Egypt until Grade 5. Besides, if we taught him about Egypt now, what was he supposed to learn in Grade 5? I responded that I reckoned we would study whatever his interest was at that time but that experience and common sense shows that teaching someone something when he is interested in it is the best way for him to learn and retain anything about it. My educational philosophy did not go over too well. No, not at all.
To be continued…