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Village Schooling

Public school? Private school? Homeschool? I'm not so sure about any of those options, so I'm dreaming up a new way to think about educating my daughter. 

Nux Gallica is growing so quickly that she already has me planning her education. I've located a truly excellent private preschool in my neighborhood, and I've calculated that the tuition costs less than diapers. Hooray!

But what happens when she turns five? The public schools in my area are among the worst in the developed world. (No joke.) The private schools are expensive, religious, and not extraordinary. And the thought of "homeschooling" my daughter at home, in isolation from her peers, makes me cringe.

Part of that is a stigma of homeschooling that I know is not always deserved. Families identifying as "homeschooling" are often linked to large networks of other families that help each other give their children rich educational experiences with classes, field trips, and other activities held outside the home. Not all of them are religious fanatics or conspiracy theorists. The majority of the "homeschooling" parents around here seem to be smart, educated people who enjoy taking a very active, hands-on role in their children's education. And the result is that the average homeschooled child, even including the ones from fringe-of-society families, score higher on standardized tests than public school children.

But the word "homeschool" doesn't seem to fit a model of taking the children out into the world, to interact with many adults and children of all ages (not just one or two teachers and a herd of peers) and learn in a more organic, natural, and fun way than can be done at a desk. The word "homeschool" connotes the same kind of activities done in traditional schools--dittos, drills, and that sort of thing--but done at a desk in the home instead of a desk in a classroom.

What I want to do for Nux Gallica, and what many "homeschool" networks do, is not traditional school, and it is not done at home.

So when people ask how I want to educate my daughter, I am going to use the term Village Schooling. I believe that it takes a village to raise a self-actualized child, and I want Nux Gallica to know and learn from the world directly--not filtered through lectures and textbooks among a heavily managed class of children her age. Lectures, textbooks, and homogenous peer groups have their limited value, but I don't want them to be the bread and butter of her intellectual and social development. I studied child development extensively in college and a little in grad school, and I know that hands-on, applied learning and interaction with many different types and ages of people are optimal ways to blossom.

I agree with something a schoolteacher and mom friend of mine said the other day: "All children are gifted." I would amend, if you give them the chance. Traditional classrooms can only do so much to accommodate different abilities among large groups of children, and the brightest stars often get held back--or become troublemakers when they get too bored and receive more discipline than encouragement. I saw a lot of that happening when I substitute taught and when I was in school myself. I can already tell that Nux Gallica is an especially bright, motivated, and strong-willed child--which can be a recipe for success or disaster, depending on the interaction between her nature and her environment. Traditional schools serve an important role providing food, shelter, and a very basic education to the masses. But I want to give my daughter something more, a special opportunity to be extraordinarily herself and to grow up as a natural, organic component of her community, her village.

So what will that look like? For (again) less than the cost of diapers and about 1/6 the cost of a private Montessori kindergarten program, I could enroll Nux Gallica in art classes, swim lessons, soccer, tae kwon do, ballet, and mini horse camp. Then there are free things like weekly educational programs at the library, private piano and foreign language lessons by family and friends, and Sunday school. I expect that, like me and her father, she will already have her reading and basic math skills down before preschool just from being an inquisitive and interactive child at home. I look forward to watching her grow and learn and helping her discover her own passions and interests.

Parents who may be reading this, have you tried something like this with your own children or know someone who has? What has it been like?


  1. I am giving your blog the Liebster Blog Award.
    Read about it here:

  2. Yes. I have heard of this before.

    It's call homeschooling, LOL.

    Most homeschooled children are less isolated than public school children. They are more likely to socialize with a wide-range of age ranges and different types of adults. Most are better socialized than their public schooled peers.

    There are many styles of homeschooling that is not "school at home." There are many homeschool co-ops. That is, informal and formal pools of classes tailored for homeschoolers only with the parent educator involved in the creation of the class or the selection of the instructor.

    There are religious homeschoolers that focus on classics curriculum. There are religious homeschoolers that free form study. There are huge secular networks of homeschoolers with so many different styles of teaching, it boggles the mind. There are unschoolers. There are parents who teach basics and then unschool when those are mastered.

    My wife and I homeschool our children. What you described you wanted, that's what we do. On a one parent salary.

    Skype me if you want more information: anthony.pacheco.hw

  3. It's a hard decision, but a really important one. If the schools in your area are below par then you should be thinking about other options. I taught elementary school for 17 years and saw teaching techniques improve over the years. We moved to NE Iowa three years ago and one of the big factors was the quality of the schools here. Your child having a positive feeling towards her education is so important.

    A friend of mine home schools her kids (in NC), she belongs to a home school co-op. I don't think I would have the confidence in my academic abilities (even though I have a college degree) to teach my daughter in math and science beyond 9th grade.

    As you make this decision, think about how this choice will affect Nux in the long run.

  4. Thanks, Julie!

    Anthony, this is what I am learning! The world of homeschooling is truly amazing and so misunderstood. That's why I take issue with the word "homeschool." It's so not descriptive of the movement I'm seeing. It sounds isolated and passive, but it's vibrant and healthy and exciting. I would love to talk with you about your experiences sometime. I want to be you when I grow up. Which, I suppose, needs to be soon!

    Sharon, I have thought about the high school math and science problem, and I asked the local homeschool network what they normally do. They answered that most of the kids are ready for community college by age 14. Even though we're in a crummy school district, we have one of the best community colleges in the nation--and it costs less than private high school! Holy college credits, Batman.

  5. What a fantastic, amazing approach! I wish people were doing stuff like that around here, but I don't think they are. I could start a trend, I suppose! Getting everyone involved would be awesome.

  6. Hi Michelle,

    Keep in mind that homeschooling environments vary from state to state and that some states are more suited to homeschoolers than others.

    I would classify the state of Washington as mostly friendly to homeschoolers. Utah, I believe is very similar (having to fill out a simple form once a year) but actually requires certain subjects to be taught to certain ages (more info can be found here).

    For Utah, I do know there are rather extensive LDS based homeschool groups, Christian groups, and some established secular groups (for the dozen secular folks in Utah, ha ha).

    I totally encourage homeschooling. When The Wife Unit and I bought a house, we made sure it was a neighborhood with an excellent school system. Between the time we had children and they came of age, the school system had degraded extensively. For socialization, safety and academic reasons, we pulled them from the system and went our own way. Right now the average class size is about 32. Our average class size... 2. You get the picture.

    It works so well we wish we would have done it sooner.

    You can Skype me too, of course, if you want to talk about it.

  7. My sister home schools her kids and it has worked very well for her so far. Great picture of your daughter.

  8. Awww, she's a cutie. Education is a tricky thing. Village schooling sounds intriguing if you can find good folks to team up with.

  9. Great blog! I love the "secret" identity.

    I think I told you this before, but Austin's parents were both ele el majors and they felt they could do a better job educating their children than the local elementary and middle school could, and so they did. Austin was home-schooled for four years and he really flourished (as did his bros and sis). He went back to school when he wanted to join a basketball team.

    One cool thing that they did was have math classes with his dad (who was a math ed major) at his office. His mom would drive him there for special math lessons and they would learn really advanced stuff. My husband said he is not particularly gifted in math, but he was doing geometry in the 5th grade. It stayed with him, too, because on his GRE for grad school he scored up in the 97th percentile nationwide.

    I think there are such benefits to home-schooling, particularly when there are good socialization efforts for the child.

    That said, a "bad" school with a good teacher and a small-sized class will also do wonders for a child if the parent helps him or her study and prepare for class every day.

    I could go on and on...but it looks like I already did...


  10. Wow, Victoria! It says something about Austin's standards if 97th percentile on the GRE is "not particularly gifted." That's almost Mensa-land.

    There are lots of good ways to educate a child, and so much depends on the individual child, the adults involved, and the larger community and its resources.

    Thanks for visiting the Nutshell! I'll see you around soon, I'm sure. :)


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