Interdisciplinary & follow the money

This is the unfinished sketch of the curriculum for my 12 year old who homeschooled last year, and this year is half homeschooling and half auditing community college and high school classes where he has the interest and ability to hold his own with older kids (socially — it’s an ok fit, they all work well together, he has ‘younger sibling status’ it seems).

I’ve had over 50 separate conversations with people around my small city, around the country via various homeschooling / charter school forums, and now here on Medium — all of which cover the same ground:

  1. how much interdisciplinary work there SHOULD be
  2. how much interdisplinary work there ISN’T — somewhere in this conversation it says, knowledge is kept in ‘separate silos’
  3. how different types of students require different approaches
  4. how the 1 size fits all doesn’t work

all these things are known knowns, yet in the name of No core curriculum left behind in the race to the bottom we’ve engineered these out while paying lip service to their extreme importance.

I’m struck by how many stories recounted to me are like my son’s experience with our county schools — shove a reasonably facile and engaged kid through whatever the general process is determined / decreed by some central authority for the whole mass of kids; disregard the needs of the individuals; have great propaganda and jargon about “child centered learning approach”; and then just watch the kids get the shit kicked out of them by an indifferent curriculum. Declare ‘Victory is near’ and then go home.

To tailor things a little bit / kid specifically — is NOT hard and would NOT be hard to do within the context of public schools. Yet it’s a MASSIVE FAIL. Just today, 2 people who I barely know came up to me to discuss how they could better organize schooling within the school system for their kids; they’re watching their kids drain of curiosity, watching their engagment dwindle.

Our national and local curriculums have been so beat up, we’ve been so convinced by propaganda we don’t know what we’re doing, that only specialists have answers. We’ve lost sight of our innate ability to ‘get things done’ to teach, to instill values — a debased word which is now shorthand for repression. How to wake up the national conversation? Where’s the center?

The numbers — approx $13,000 per kid across the 70 million kids and teenagers enrolled in primary, secondary and colleges in the US. That’s public monies only. So — is it possible that a class of 25 cannot be educated, including benefits and pensions- for $325,000 per year?! That same class: 19 years of schooling: pre-k, k-12 + 4 years of college=$6,200,000. Six million, two hundred thousand dollars. There’s enough in there for rent, teachers, and materials, no? Back of the envelope tells us it’s enough. Where does all that money go? 922 billion dollars a year, so says the US government accounting; that’s a big envelope to be writing on the back of. Just like the healthcare system — there’s a lot of money going somewhere, but it’s not for the benefit of the end user.

When I meet people and am with my son, and we talk about his curriculum and what we’ve done with him, they tell me, ‘yes but your child is an exceptional child’. That’s bullshit; he’s exceptional to ME because I love him, but he’s a normal kid, not an academic prodigy, not a sea anemone with sensitive tentacles of polite behavior — we took some effort to put manners in there; we reinforced his natural curiosity; we put our ‘values’ in there, whatever those are; and then when he essentially abandoned school -politely — just like a tech wizard, he — quit but don’t tell anybody; and keep showing up— we had to double down and create a homeschooling curriculum for him. And we’re not exceptional parents either, by any means.

Every person who has homeschooled will tell you that our excellent results can and will transfer to larger classroom settings. Removing the obstacles — entrenched school boards who mean well, entrenched teachers who mean well, jargon laden consultants who also mean well but like their fees — those things are much harder than teaching kids. But it’s like that old rocker said / there have been many covers of this song with the line: I’d like to help you son, but you’re too young to vote.

What would happen if instead of accepting mediocrity, we followed the money? Shook it from the trees? And distributed it back towards teaching our kids? A radical idea

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