BY TONY MCLELLAN
I have not lead a normal life where school is concerned. Where as most adults my age have experienced the private, public or Catholic school systems from junior kindergarten to Grade 12, I was educated in the Catholic school system from years four to 12. “What happened prior to fourth grade?” many of my friends have asked me upon hearing this strange fact. When I tell them that the era of my life from birth to Grade 4 was filled with home-schooling as opposed to “regular” school, I usually get some pretty strange questions, some of them more than a little bit judgmental.
If someone wasn’t asking me if I knew my ABCs, they were telling me I should dislike my parents for placing me in such an unusual setting for my primary years of development. In short, a lot of people think that home-schoolers are dense, sheltered people with an aptitude for nothing but social awkwardness and poor fashion sense. I am here to say otherwise.
The home-schooling experience differs greatly from community to community. While some children may be taught by a parent or tutor from the privacy of their own home, others congregate at various points throughout the week in a school-like setting, but with less formalities and overall restrictions. I experienced both styles of home-schooling, as my mother was and still is a certified teacher, and a good one at that.
Home-schooling had a way of creating a respect for learning about academics and the environment, and humanity in a very unique fashion. While we had some general guidelines for when traditional learning would take place, most families involved in my home-schooling community would divert more time than not into various field trip-related activities, such as taking a trip to a local farm to learn how to properly manage a garden, or to the museum where we would get to experience an interactive exhibit on the lives of pioneers. Indeed we were learning, but in an unorthodox way.
Home-schooling caused my future academic performance to vary from subject to subject.
In Grade 4, I was reading and writing several grades ahead of my classmates. However, I was not placed in enriched courses due almost exclusively to my math sense, which ranked at least two grades below where I should have been. While the community and my mother had done their absolute best to attempt to balance out the subjects we learned about, the language-arts section was my defined and constant strength, which unfortunately meant I wasn’t all that great in math or science.
What I value most about what home-schooling gave me is my empathy for general humanity. I learned my daily lessons alongside many boys and girls with different ethnic backgrounds, religions, financial standings and personalities. This has given me an accepting disposition, and the will to make peace instead of war. I’m not saying that I’m an amazing person, but home-schooling certainly helped shape me into a better man than I would have become without its influence.