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Driving To Get There: Cars And The Common Core

One of the countless surprises of our homeschooling journey has been that with a 23-year-old and an 18-year-old, I am still driving them around.

At first, I imagined it was a side effect of homeschooling that might be holding them back, somehow limiting their possibilities. I worried about how to get them “going” and stay on schedule with their peers, and how they would “keep up” and not literally get “left behind.”

They still haven’t shown much interest in driving themselves, in taking the class and passing the test that will get them where they want to go. But apparently, times have changed - it turns out that getting a license isn’t so standard for today’s teens, homeschooled or not: 

The majority of American teens today delay getting a driver’s license, according to new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Less than half (44 percent) of teens obtain a driver’s license within 12 months of the minimum age for licensing in their state. . . a significant drop from two decades ago when data showed more than two-thirds of teens were licensed by the time they turned 18.

So almost six in ten teens shrug and say they can get around without it. Is that change a good thing, for them and for society? Or is it reason for parental and societal concern when this generation begins to learn it doesn’t really need our old rules, standards and credentials to get where they want to go? 

And isn’t that question much bigger than we imagined when we started driving ourselves, much less driving kids? My parent worries were born right along with my babies and have grown with them, from sleeping, eating and toileting on schedule to school grades, graduating and standards in every possible area and skill level.

It isn’t always easy to hear complaints and misunderstandings about the Common Core, new standards meant to increase criti- cal thinking and problem-solving skills in the nation’s 100,000 public elementary and secondary schools... It should come as no surprise for a major sea change in education to meet both criticism and cheers. (Liz Wil- len, The Hechinger Report, Nov 2013)

If the Common Core standards and Race to the Top are the latest models for driving our kids around the road-of-life training course, “on schedule” and “by-the-rulebook,” homeschoolers are free to go round and round.

It really IS our choice. So what if we increased our critical thinking and problem-solving skills about whether testing, standards and racing to the top get our own families where we want to go, and if so, how? Like today’s not-so-driven-to-drive teens, more and more families are finding different learning destinations and other ways to get there apart from drive or be driven.

No one had to bribe or coerce me to learn to drive. I earned my learner’s permit the day I turned 15 -- same at 16 for the much- coveted license. I couldn’t wait to sit in the driver’s seat and take the wheel of my own life. It was, at that age, even more important than SATs or graduation. It was the road to freedom, autonomy and mobility, both a “rite” and “right” of passage.

Whether we aced the test or squeaked by after trying and failing, with a driver’s license we could get where we wanted to go. (There was a time when a high school diploma was similarly valued.) Driving wasn’t a competition for a limited number of elite spots on the road; rather, it was a mastery standard many of us wanted to meet, and did so with modest effort and no special aptitude. We helped each other study the handbook and practice parallel parking. Once licensed, we drove our younger friends so no one was left behind. squo;s seat a little longer before we returned to our regular back seats.

Remember, homeschooling is much big- ger than driving, so let’s take the metaphor further and see where it goes. Can you race to the top if you’re not all headed up the same mountain to the same finish line? You can’t win if you don’t enter, but can you LOSE a race you never entered?

Suppose everyone starts out on the same mountain, wanting to race to the top, to get there faster than everyone else on the journey. Does it matter if some are on foot, bicycles or using public transportation? Does it matter if some are sponsored while others preserve their amateur status?

But suppose everyone does start out and stay behind the wheel. Doesn’t it still matter what shape each vehicle is in, how full the tank is and whether every racer has a talented pit crew to keep them rolling? What if race organizers set traps along the route or added unaffordable tollbooths so that most racers were forces out before "getting there?"

Is the point just to “get there” somehow, and eventually all wind up there together at the same place? Or is the point to get there FIRST and leave others behind?

How do you win the race to get there when where you want to go isn’t really a race, or a place, at all? Perhaps getting where you want to go depends on wanting to go there in the first place. 

-The News & You

JJ Ross, Ed.D., connect everything to everything else. She spent half of her six decades in public schooling, the other at home with kids, and the main thing she has learned in all that time is that the ones who need to be learning new stuff every day aren’t so much the kids in school – it’s the rest of us!

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