I've had great experiences with public schools, but I seem to be in the minority on this. We're being pushed on by the system with no check or balance to push back with. I think we should contact our representatives, and seek change.
I read a post contemplating truancy laws and what we should do about them at redheadmom8. It got me to thinking, and the following stream of consciousness came out. I apologize, the post hiccups along as my thoughts get their feet under themselves.
In principle I agree with Shelly that the truancy laws should be repealed. I have the luxury of living in a state where it requires a minimum of effort to setup, and maintain a home school, so the general need for repealing these laws isn't as urgent here.
On the other side of the coin, I've had experiences that run askance of the compulsory schooling stories I've heard lately. First, as a kid I was public schooled. I've been informed that my data points are old and rusty, and don't apply to today's world, but here they are anyway. My parents routinely took me out of school for a week or so at a time to travel to work-related conferences with them. It was a great experience to get to see the country, and learn about other regions. My teachers simply sent the next week's worth of homework along with me, and off we went. We did have attendance awards, and no, I never won any of those. Heck, since I routinely became distracted by things on my walk to school, I never even won the not-tardy award. Somehow my self esteem survived.
Having had this experience in school, I assumed that the same privileges would be attendant to my childrens' school lives. Most of my friends and family informed me that such would not be the case. They told me the entire gamut of "you have to follow the rules" tales. So, it was with no small amount of trepidation that I approached my kid's teacher with a request to pull her out of school one Friday afternoon. I explained that we had a writers' lunch we attended once a month on Friday afternoons, and that I thought it was a valuable experience for us both. I was slightly amazed when the teacher mirrored my school experience rather than the stories I'd heard. She smiled, said that that sounded great, and set about working with me to figure out the time of day that I could most easily collect the kid without distracting the rest of the class.
But what about all the counterexamples to my experience?
I think all the counterexamples I've heard are very important. They need to be aired, and things need to be changed. In our democratic society, built on checks and balances, we've removed a key check: the consent of those being educated. I've recently read Peter Gray's excellent book about democratic schools, as well as several blog posts on the rights of kids. They all point out one key point that seems to have been forgotten. What is it about being under 18 that puts you outside the constitutional protections enjoyed by the rest of society?
I believe we've had several generations of kids who were told they had to attend school or face legal consequences. This flew under the radar, I think, because they were kids. The issue we now face is that those kids are now adults, (we're them, they're us), and not too surprisingly the same system is now telling us that we face legal consequences if our kids don't attend school. Also not surprisingly, having accepted the system throughout our childhood, we're not always immediately inclined to buck it.
So, getting back to checks and balances. What better check for the education system could there be than the parents' ability to pull their kids out if it's not suitable? I'm not even discussing homeschooling yet. Referring back to the post on readheadmom8: if you feel a school isn't safe, of course you should be able to pull your kids out until such time as it is.
I've been very privileged. I went to excellent schools that allowed my parents to take me out whenever we wanted. My kid briefly attended a school that had the same policies. Now, we homeschool. However, there are several/many/a-whole-bunch of schools where this is not the case. I think we should let our administrators know this isn't OK.
With all the political upheavals going on lately, I've heard that it's far more effective to call your representatives than to write them. They have to hire staff to answer their phones which is a visible cost. What if our local home schooling groups setup call lists to ring up their representatives on a weekly or even daily basis. What if we included other families in our neighborhoods as well? How much of a ruckus could we make?