where wildly different is perfectly normal
Education vs. schooling
Education vs. schooling

Education vs. schooling

What’s more important to you, education or schooling? There is a difference, you know. My parents always said they wouldn’t sacrifice our education for our schooling. And they never did. If there was an educational opportunity available and it involved pulling us out of school, they did it. That included vacations. Our vacations always ended up being educational anyway, simply because we liked going to museums and science centers.

But that was 30 years ago; what about now, in this age of incessant testing? This time of money being directly connected to how well a child performs (because it is a performance) on state testing? If you had an incredible educational opportunity arise for your child, and it was only available mid-March during the testing dates, would you pull your child out for that opportunity or send him in to fill in the Scantron?

Purely hypothetical here, we have no such opportunity lined up for J this spring. Pity.

But education vs. schooling has been on my mind a lot lately because of A. He’s been homeschooled now for 11 months. Part of that was deschooling, part of that was summer break (we have to follow the school schedule for our own sanity), and part of that has been me freaking the freak out. That last part has been this fall. See, The Most Complex Child on the Planet™ makes homeschooling…interesting. A is 11 now. Sixth grade. Spitting distance to high school (hold me), counting down to the teen years (hold me tightly). He is a sponge…but only under certain circumstances. The information to be slurped up must be 1) inherently interesting, 2) provided in visual form (like a video or interactive experience…he is such a visual-spatial learner), and 3) directed by no one but himself. I can more or less handle this part. But I also need to know how much slurping the sponge did, and this is where we run into problems. The sponge does not wish to be wrung out. I have no idea if the sponge slurped up Kool-Aid, bourbon, or water. I don’t know if what was slurped up will be retained or dribbled out a hidden pore. I don’t know if the slurped is mixing well with previous slurp. And any endeavor to weigh, monitor, or otherwise measure the sponge is met with great resistance.

So he’s getting an education…I think. I want to school him (teach and evaluate), and he wants the exact opposite of that (learn and learn and learn and not produce anything to indicate comprehension). Left to his own devices he’d watch Nova or astrophysics documentaries all day, design and build intricate creations with Legos (to date he’s made a working candy machine, tinkered with building a playing card shuffler, and had to abandon building an ATM when he didn’t have the correct parts), or continue to teach himself code at Codecademy. I’m fully aware he’s learning here, but it’s not how I was educated, and I’m terrified about his future. And it doesn’t help when well meaning folk ask what he’s learning, or if homeschooling was the right idea, or “when is he going back to school?” He absolutely is learning, homeschooling likely saved his mind, and he’s not going back anytime in the foreseeable future.

It’s a delicate balance right now. I insist on daily math and copywork (so his handwriting doesn’t descend further into illegible chaos), and other subjects rotate in and out with time and interest. Our co-op is on break right now, so he’s missing that as well. Can you tell that I’m a little too high-strung for the eclectic homeschooling we’re doing? It’s good for him, crazy-making for me. Many days I just want someone to come teach me how to homeschool him, but I’ve also been wishing in vain for someone to come teach me how to parent him for the last 11 1/2 years, so it appears I’m on my own here.

Education or schooling. Where do you stand? Where do you want to stand?


I made it through NaBloPoMo 2012. Thirty days, thirty posts. Today is a deuce for me; I’m also over at An Intense Life, looking back at what life was like here in the House of Chaos a year ago.


  1. Alternatives to schooling can incorporate alternatives way to showcase learning. It is important that he know what he knows, not just that you know he is learning. I recommend you work with him to select deliverable projects that show his progress. A poster, a model, a slideshow presentation, a book jacket, a sculpture, an oral presentation, etc. If you provide a list of options, he could pick how he shares info. In a professional setting, he would have to deliver something. I also advise you insist he vary the options so that he is exposed to different types of projects.

    Check out Brain Targeted Teaching by Hardiman if you like. She links current neuroscience into an educator-friendly package. If memory serves, the act of recalling info (like on a test) improves retention 70%.

    Have big fun, take a big breath, and have a fruity drink. Not necessarily in that order…

  2. Oh I wish I had some answers. I’ve been home schooling for 12 years – 7 kids with complex needs and its been quite a ride 🙂 We’ve swung between childr directed and mummy directed. All I can say is I have 5 out the other end now and they all, bar one who is ill, have been or are at college, going to university or working. Two have even moved out lol I wouldn’t insist on anything. …..now. I may have done 11 years ago when I wasn’t feeling so brave. Good luck. 🙂

  3. Celeste Hill

    Where I stand? Education: my daughter will learn to be herself, her WHOLE self, and nothing but herself… So help me god. (Ooh help me!).
    Where I would like to stand? BACK! Enjoying watching her engage in an appropriate and meaningful education with kids who share her passions and worries.
    While I get on with my life.
    But here’s the thing, I’m now in a situation that will require all the creativity, lateral thinking, soul searching, prioritising and every other skill I can possibly muster. That means I am having to become an example of what I want for her. (Wholeheartedness and authenticity)
    Just wish I FELT half as amazing as I need to be.

  4. Jen

    My son (7yo, 2nd grade) is going to school, but does not seem to be getting an education there. He sounds very similar to your son, in that he will absorb incredible amounts of information, but only that which he is interested in, when he’s interested in it, and is a black hole of knowledge (that is, I have no idea what he knows!) Combined with an incredible intensity, he’s not a great fit for traditional school, which we are struggling with.

    So, um, I’m not sure where I was going with that, other than I read your blog every day and find it enlightening and reassuring.

  5. Terese Hilliard

    I too had a child who did not do well in the “school system”. He is gifted, and autistic. What a FUN combination!!! I finally pulled him in 6th grade and did all of Middle School as Homeschool. It was difficult – I am a single parent and work full time. However, my child prefered to do his work on his own. He would call about 4-5 times a day to comment about how he felt about assignments, or something interesting he found. I was quite worried that I was not doing enough to educate my child. When he was old enough for High School he begged to go so he could be with other kids. I agreed. What a nightmare. We had the most difficult 3 years of our lives. The “rules” at school were so barbaric and dictitorial that my son rebeled against almost everything. I actually pulled him second year and did home school for that year. After promising to work with the school I sent him back. BOTTOM LINE – When he was to re enter school each time they made him test because they did not believe that he could have learned at home with our type of schedule – he had too much free time in their opinion. (I also provided 4-5 trips minimum each year). His test scores were through the roof each time. He learned so much at home that going to school seemed almost counter productive. His grades always dropped in “school”. He graduated and is doing very well now. He has a 2 year old daughter who he takes care of very well with his job and the help of the baby’s mom. Life is good.

Whaddya think?

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