About a month ago I started home schooling my younger brother. He is in ninth grade and for the past several years has been having difficulties in a typical school setting. With failing grades and non-existent self-esteem, I often wondered how his teachers could consider themselves good teachers when passing a student who obviously did not retain a single morsel of the year’s information. Perhaps they were oblivious because they had so many students in their class, or maybe they mistook his poor grades for laziness and lack of assertion. However, I think, in my humble opinion, that they just didn’t want to deal with a hyper-active, sometimes manipulative, physically but not mentally impaired teenage boy. Does he have behavior problems? Yes, when provoked. But don’t we all?

In the past month, he has not been in any trouble. He has been fun to be around, he has worked harder at learning than I have ever seen him work, and even when he starts a lesson off wanting to throw sharpened pencils like darts at my forehead, he leaves the lesson with a smile on his face. I watch his confidence crumble when he does poorly, and I watch it soar when I help him build the pieces up again.

I am not one of those people who think all children should be home schooled because public education breeds heathens and criminals. But I do believe that every person learns differently. I think that some are more influenced positively or negatively by their peers than others. I think some need more time learning to stand on their own two feet, and if I can offer my feet as training wheels for awhile in order for another to gain the confidence to run…I will.

The biggest argument I hear against home schooling is socialization. I agree that there are many parents who don’t include this aspect of education in their children’s lives and the consequences are a group of socially retarded geniuses. I’ve met them. I’ve stared at them in disbelief, wondering, “How are you going to make it in this cruel, cruel world?” But then again, I also know socially retarded geniuses who excelled through 12 years of public education…so really, there is no argument. I am a firm believer in socialization. I grew up among rooms full of clergy, businessmen, benefactors, moms, children, blue collared people, white collared people and everyone in between. Regardless of the education I choose for my future children, they have no choice but to know how to conduct themselves in a room full of people – no matter what the variety.

I am of the opinion that each child’s education should be determined by the personality and character of the child. What are the child’s needs, what is the child’s energy level, How much information can the child comprehend in a 40 minute time frame? What would the child do if you gave him a microphone and told him to entertain twenty people? The answers to these questions clearly spell out the differences in the way a child will perform in either a typical educational setting or a tailored home school setting. Is one better than the other? Yes. And the answer will be different with every child.

Somewhere along the line, someone let go of my brother’s hand and he slipped through the education system’s sidewalk grate. He doesn’t know a lot of what he should at fifteen years old, but when it is all said and done he will know what a good education is worth…

…so much more than 6 hours a day of rushing to class to beat the bell with a brace on his leg only to receive a detention for being late and another for “running” in the halls, not turning in homework because of embarrassment for not knowing the correct answers, bullies, cliques, alienation, popularity, study hall naps and lunchroom cheeseburgers.

I hope.