The goal of education is probably the more important question, and I'll tell you pu front that I'm not going to address it in this post. I'm going to talk about what real education looks like, and why we think so. How do we know education is happening? How do we know, or think we know, that 'school stuff' is going on?
Yes, that's almost the key question of this blog in so many words. The blog entry quoted above has some links to other posts on the same topic.
My own personal metaphor in line with this theme is Aidan's stays at the hospital. They take very good care of him there. They have a well-paid and trained nurse, several consulting doctors with much specialized expertise, and much equipment. Flow charts to track his nourishment and even his periods of play, sleep and fussing. A janitorial staff and heavy-duty chemicals to ensure cleanliness. A laundry service.
So Aidan thrives there, right? Wrong, of course. He needs the specialized, supportive care when he's sick. But when he's on the rebound, he NEVER starts really moving to recovery until he's out that automated door. Into our crumb-littered, scratched Suburban. Into our shabby, untidy home. With no one to keep records on a flow chart and no one measuring his vital statistics every 4 hours.
This holds true even when Aidan goes home "sick"..... on oxygen, needing continuous formula drip through his NG, on 12 meds a day, massively immunesuppressed. He does better at home.
This holds true across the board. Any nurse who has sat at the nurses' station cuddling one of those infants whose family are no-shows; any nurse who has strolled with a toddler in a wagon to Child Life to let him have some "stim" -- playtime -- will acknowledge this runs a distant second to that child's over-extended, harried, low-education parents and his disruptive, half-wild siblings. Families really matter. There's a real mystery in family life, a powerful one. Organization and expertise and all that don't matter in comparison.
The analogy does extend to homeschooling. I really think so. I have a son who did quite gratifyingly well in his SATs, completed a pretty challenging high school curriculum, and jumped all the necessary (and not inordinate) hurdles to get into the (Catholic) college of his choice. His highschool years were punctuated by midnight runs to the Emergency Room, long stays with grandparents while Mom and Dad shuttled back and forth the 250 miles to Aidan's hospital, and more.... much illness, much worry and stress. He was not unaffected. It has taken its emotional toll, I believe. His outlook on the world is a bit anxious. But I hate to think of him taking that anxiety and conscientiousness out into the public school. I am so glad we saw it through.