Every other week Little Brother comes home with a newsletter from his school. Each edition contains a message from the principal, usually talking about how proud she is of their school community, the work the families and teachers are doing, etc. It's a nice, rah-rah, pat on the back kind of message. Mostly "fluff". A few episodes ago there was a message that talked about the importance of not bringing our kids late, or picking them up early. It hit a little close to home because I had just brought him in one minute late on Inauguration Day, and was going to be picking him up early the next day to attend a play with our homeschool group. Bad Parent. As a parent more firmly planted in the world of homeschooling, I usually blow these messages off with a smirk. Not today.
Today's message is titled "Tardies and Absences Form Life-long Attitudes toward School, Work, and Relationships". That seems awfully self-important to me. For example, the principal says that she tells the students that when they come to school, their "job" is learning - "...I also tell them that in order to be learning, they must be at school..." This is something we in the homeschool community discuss all the time - this compartmentalization of learning as an activity that requires a specific time and place. Shouldn't the purpose of an education be to give students the skills they will need so that they can learn anytime, anywhere? Apparently not, because she's telling us right there that you can't learn unless you're in school - duh!
Then she tells us that most children especially enjoy school because they love seeing their teachers and friends. She says that we must "...model for our kids that school is important to us and to them, not just for our friends, but especially for the purpose of learning." First I'll point out that this is another example of why the argument against homeschooling on the basis of socialization concerns is moot. The principal is telling us right here that while socializing is a big draw (to entice the otherwise unwilling pupils, if you will - sorry, my sarcasm here), we must remember the real purpose - learning. Remember? Learning, and only learning, should take place in school.
Lastly, she tells us that learning to be on time and have good attendance are important life skills. I do agree with that assessment, but I don't believe people develop a poor work ethic because they missed a week of school in fifth grade to go to Disneyland with their family. Families get so little time together as it is, that I say go for it - take time to build lasting memories with your kids. However, the principal says they must learn these skills now "...so that as adults they are able to follow through when they have a job, and when they have made a commitment to people." Seriously? In grade school?
In our own homeschooling, I've witnessed plenty of opportunities to teach my kids the life skills of being on time, and honoring commitments. In real life, you do these things because either others are depending on you, or others will think you're really flaky for not following through, or because being late or not showing up means you'll be missing out on something important, or something you want to be doing. Those are real-life natural consequences, and I have found them to be the best teachers - not some contrived status of self-importance bestowed upon my local elementary school. I also get that unless the schools keep perpetuating these ideas, people might eventually get wise and recognize schools as being nothing more than the tools they are....