We're now entering the young Professor's sophomore year of high school. On paper anyway. To hear him speak of it, you'd think that we were the penultimate unschoolers, eschewing anything smelling remotely like school. That's not wholly accurate but the boy has his own vision...
Why do you always have to assign me a grade, mom? I'm growing, learning, expanding my horizons... why does that have to be called by a number?
I never know whether to be annoyed or amused. He's learned his lessons well on multiple fronts it seems.
Well son, you are 15 years old and that's about the time when everyone else is in the 10th grade. You're studying some of the same things that other 15-year olds are studying. And we don't need to have a deep discussion on educational philosophies every time someone asks what grade you are in. It's really pretty simple, although I do get what you're saying.
So we go back and forth. His dad and I are the ones who gave him the freedom to study the history of education and the purpose of school, teaching, and learning. We are the ones who have taken countless hours to converse with him about the direction of his own eduction and allowed him significant freedom in designing his particular course of study. I guess we had it coming.
We were driving around last week just as schools were letting out and the yellow buses were beginning to swarm and clog the roadways. Professor pointed at one and remarked: "There goes the symbol of bureaucratic tyranny."
I laughed. And frowned. And looked at him to observe this man-child who knows everything and nothing all at the same time. Who is this boy? He's too buttoned up to be a hippie. He's definitely a Catholic and not an anarchist. So far so good. Non-conformist? Apparently. Until there's ice cream or sports... then he's all in with the crowd.
I am technically his official "educator." Everyone assumes that I teach him since we home educate. But I think it is far more accurate to say that he is educating himself. What can I teach him but that which he chooses to learn? I can lock him in a closet for a week with an Algebra book and tapes of my lectures and he might come out more ignorant than before. He is choosing to learn. I... well, I am mentoring. Leading. Pointing the way. It's easy for me when he just takes my words and embraces them without a fuss. It's better for him when he pokes and prods and questions and owns the knowledge.
There are many teens in our homeschooling community chomping at the bit to go to institutional school, mostly to be with friends. My kid isn't. He doesn't understand why the rest of the world doesn't join him in his appreciation for the academic and physical freedom that home education provides. I'm glad but confess that I find him confusing. And I wonder sometimes if I should try to tone down this spirit of his that rebels against the institutional system and embraces the school of the family in the heart of the Church.
But why would I want to do that?
No. I'll let him be. Mostly because I agree with him and partly because he needs that room to stretch. He's growing up and his adulthood will be established on the foundation of these years. Stumbling, confusing, frustrating years. Strong, confident, creative, flourishing years.
Perhaps for this sophomore year, I'll point him in the direction of some pro-government school resources to play devil's advocate and challenge his perspective. I suspect it will be a little like firing up a rocket for launch. We'll have many hours of great conversations and he'll think and write and learn. He'll eat it up. High school as it should be. Even if we must call it the 10th grade.