And yet as my children are grow up, quite literally before my eyes, it is getting easier to see how the system "that worked" (or did I "work it"?) failed me. It seems remarkable to me that at 36 years old I am just feeling comfortable about a lot of different things. That I'm really hitting my stride as a human being. So many of these "Great Truths" are completely "duh" in nature. As in - of course they are true - how could it possibly have taken me this long to get it?
Let's get more concrete. Yes, I was valedictorian - "ranked" #1 in my class based on my GPA. Yes, I enjoyed that fact. I liked getting good grades, getting 100% on tests, I liked feeling like I was good at things and that I was successful. What I didn't like was the competition - that when other people "beat me" on an exam it was cause for great celebration. I mean, I understood why they were excited, but did I enjoy it? Not one bit.
I didn't enjoy the attention or sarcastic remarks. I didn't enjoy not really being understood by my classmates (for instance when I cried because I didn't perform up to the standard I liked to. I was (am!) a sensitive one too - ouch!)
After graduating from the University of Rochester I was the graduate assistant basketball coach. I was paid very little in actual money, but instead was able to take classes tuition free. I took more science classes so I could pursue a teaching degree. I had a teacher for Chemistry that really stretched me - his tests were really difficult to get a good grade on. But I started to understand what he was looking for - he wanted us to be critical thinkers. He didn't want us to just memorize and regurgitate facts. It took that long for me to feel like I was good at thinking outside of the box - POST GRADUATING COLLEGE (mind you I graduated magna cum laude with a grade point of 3.93.)
My point is not to show you how freakin' smart I am. No, my point is that the system has some serious flaws in it.
My daughter also hates competition. My own mother has pointed out that it seems like she dislikes it because she wants to win. I don't deny that. She does want to win, because it feels good to *be good* at something. We largely decide how good we are at something in our culture by comparing. Marisol has a love/hate relationship with our wii game system for this very reason - it frustrates her. We even tried out the wii fit, in which you just exercise by yourself. Well, the system ends up *comparing* your profile to others after you are done with a workout - instead of just showing you how you are improving! Oh boy, did that make her mad! And it didn't make sense to either of us - what a great way to take the joy out of something!
One thing that I really love about homeschooling is that I get to see all of the important things my daughter is learning. Most of these things have nothing to do with the "3 Rs". No, she is learning about people and relationships and how to handle her feelings. She is learning about communication and jealousy (a feeling she is very familiar with already) and how to address others when they are unkind. She is not yet a fluent reader but this does not worry me for two reasons. First, I know she will learn to read in her own time. She is intelligent, capable, and motivated - there is no reason that she won't. Second, I believe the lessons she is learning right now are way more important than any academics ever will be. She is learning how to navigate "the real world" - where people and animals and plants live, where neighbors ring your doorbell everyday whether you are tired or not, little brothers break your stuff, and you find out that even your BFF can annoy you. It's intense, but we're finding our way together.
So yeah, I guess that you could say the public education system "worked" for me - I went to a great University, I made good friends, met my husband, learned lots of hard lessons (of course, the hardest ones were never in the classroom). People always ask "why" we decided to homeschool - especially when you are in a "good" school district (if you're in a "bad" one, they are more likely to understand!) I try to always emphasize that I was not "anti-school" and that I actually enjoyed school. I just want more for my kids and I'm hoping that maybe they'll hit their stride before their 36th birthday. Because once I caught a glimpse of living this way I just knew it was the way for us. It's really that simple.