I’ve researched about homeschooling, compared various curricula, checked out resources for inspiration but haven’t looked into how people handle disagreements with family members over choosing a controversial method of education. Right now, we face the expected opposition within the family. Although my sister-in-law vehemently disagreed with us before, she came to accept that ultimately we, as parents, will decide but my father-in-law is very disappointed. My mother-in-law stands by my sister-in-law in a sort of well-what-can-we-do-if-that’s-what-you-want support.
One article online advises that the best way to defend homeschooling is by attacking traditional schooling and pointing out its weaknesses. That’s what a Chinese friend of a friend did when I called her up to explain to my sister-in-law why she is homeschooling her own two children. The homeschooling mom explained the limitations of traditional schooling which my sister-in-law cannot relate to because her own son is going through the system. My sister-in-law takes pride that her son regards his studies seriously and is preparing for the gaokao as if his whole life depended on it. Sadly, in China, life does depend on this one test.
Pointing out the weaknesses of traditional education may not be a good way to convince someone about homeschooling because you’ll end up polarizing the issues and have an ugly us vs. them, me against the world situation. Opinions are already at opposite ends so the ideal may be for both sides to agree to disagree and respect each other’s opinion.
What might be better would be to introduce the naysayers to parents who homeschool and to meet the children themselves who turn out fine even if they don’t attend regular school. I do wish my Chinese was good enough to find and meet more Chinese homeschoolers in Tianjin and take my sister-in-law to visit them. But then maybe it’s not a good use of my energy considering we are on our last two months here. There are too many things to prepare and if you add to that the burden of convincing people who may never be convinced, it’s too much.
I’m actually not hoping to convince them. I just want to make them aware of the possibilities. They don’t have to be convinced but I wish they worried less. Take for example, my mother whom I know is skeptical about this whole crazy hippie sounding trip. I asked her if she could attend the TMA homeschooling orientation in Manila so that she can understand it more, not to convince her but just so that she’ll be aware of other people who are homeschooling and that good and great results can come out of it. But my mom has no time. Her work schedule is filled to the brim and overflowing.
My husband and I also disagree about specific methods of homeschooling. While he and I share a fascination for unschooling which goes along and follows the child’s interests rather than imposing any form of structured learning, he’s a bit on the extreme end of the spectrum while I gravitate off-center. I believe in the philosophy behind unschooling but only after children have acquired the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. To acquire those basics, I am more inclined towards experimenting with available effective methods that may both be formal and informal. For example, I’d like to try out skype tutors but I have logistical problems paying online which I’m still trying desperately to solve.
Now that kindergarten has ended, I wanted to get a tutor for my sons while my husband doesn’t. It wears one down trying to argue. I wish my husband respected my opinion more as a mother who wants the best for her children. But what if each parent wants nothing but the best but it happens to go against another’s idea of what’s best? It’s a continuing saga of give and take. I finally managed to convince him to let the kids enroll in an hour and a half class on Chinese characters.
I found this website of Chinese homeschoolers and they have an upcoming workshop in Beijing. Of course, I’m excited to jump in and grab the opportunity to network with Chinese homeschoolers even with my limited command of the language. I wish my husband can go with me but usually, he doesn’t like attending seminars and conferences. If he did, it would be the miracle I’m praying for.
Contrary to what my husband thinks that I’m always worried, it’s the writer in me who is curious about everything that makes me want to try out things, connect with as many people as I can, research and attend events so I can know more. As a soon-to-be full-time homeschooling mom, I’d like to apply this passion, meet with fellow homeschoolers and ask them a lot of questions.
In the Philippines where homeschooling is very established, parents regularly gather on and offline, share ideas, hold field trips and build communities of adults and children who carry similar values. It’s frustrating that I do not have that kind of network here in China because I’m hampered by the language. Such communities exist but I can’t join their forum. I’m hoping the Beijing workshop can lead me to such a community and possibly to finding homeschoolers in Yunnan where we plan to move end of next month.
It would be a waste if I attended the Beijing conference alone because my Chinese is not good enough. If I can’t convince my husband, maybe I can go with Donna, my friend who’s joining me at the 2016 Asia Pacific Democratic Education Conference in Taiwan. I’d like to invite my sister-in-law but like my mother, she’s way too burdened with office work. If Donna can’t make it, maybe one of my students who is fascinated by education might. So this is a shout-out to anyone who might be interested and can help translate for me during the three-day workshop in Beijing.
OMG, I just realized the workshop is ongoing and I had totally missed the opportunity. I thought it was in July. Ah well. My bad. Perhaps another time. If anyone can lead me to homeschoolers in Tianjin, it would be very much appreciated.
Maybe I can take a train to Beijing tomorrow and make it to the tail-end, talk to the organizers and see if they can connect me with people in Yunnan. But they only give the workshop address to those who have registered. Ah well. There must be another opportunity coming.