How many times have I heard that phrase in the almost 40 years I’ve lived here in Amer­i­ca? The oth­er ver­sion of it is “You can’t do that”. I first heard “You can’t do that” from a lawyer whose advice I asked (and paid for) when I was con­sid­er­ing edu­cat­ing our sons at home. When he said “You can’t do that” I drew his atten­tion to the book of Flori­da edu­ca­tion laws I’d pur­chased! The lawyer we con­sult­ed with was not famil­iar with the Flori­da edu­ca­tion statutes.

I end­ed up using my own best judge­ment that we were work­ing with­in the legal bound­aries of Flori­da edu­ca­tion law. 

For the first year of our home edu­ca­tion pro­gramme we were part of what was called a ‘623 school’, a group of more than twen­ty-five stu­dents brought togeth­er under a pri­vate school umbrel­la: Fla. Stat. Ann. Ch. 623, The Pri­vate School Cor­po­ra­tion Law of 1959.

By the time the year had passed in 1985 we had a more straight-for­ward legal means to edu­cate our sons at home, the home school­ing law was passed in Flori­da and we weren’t so restricted. 

Tai­lor­ing an edu­ca­tion for each son came eas­i­ly to me although that did­n’t mean that I did­n’t do a lot of work, research, main­tain week­ly jour­nals of what each son did, and at the end of the year com­bine a port­fo­lio of work for each of them. I found one of those binders the oth­er day — it was full and very detailed. I was quite impressed! Of course we nev­er had to deal with the FCAT — that ter­ri­ble waste of time for every stu­dent and teacher.

The home edu­ca­tion ‘sys­tem’ we chose, indi­vid­u­alised for each child’s strengths and weak­ness­es, seems to have worked pret­ty well as I view our sons at 35 and 31. For var­i­ous rea­sons we all end up as adults with strengths and weak­ness­es, regard­less of how well we did or did not do in school. Few peo­ple are now aware that our sons didn’t go to school; it sim­ply isn’t rel­e­vant to their adult lives — I guess being edu­cat­ed at home does­n’t ‘show’? Not that they aren’t con­scious of how dif­fer­ent their oppor­tu­ni­ties were in rela­tion to oth­ers their age.

“That’ll nev­er work” was a phrase that came up again recent­ly. A friend, who sings in the bar­ber­shop har­mo­ny cho­rus our youngest son directs, was asked how the orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture of the new ‘com­pe­ti­tion cho­rus’ worked. 

This ‘new’ cho­rus was designed to entice good singers to par­tic­i­pate at a high­er lev­el than many week­ly cho­rus­es can attain. Many mem­bers of the soci­ety no longer sing because of lack of time or lack of a high cal­i­bre cho­rus near­by. The new cho­rus meets only once a month but dur­ing that month each singer has to learn his music by him­self and come to the month­ly meet­ings pre­pared to sing.

When the month­ly meet­ing phi­los­o­phy was explained the per­son who enquired said “That’ll nev­er work”.

WELL – let me tell you how it worked! Our com­pe­ti­tion cho­rus met three times from last August until its first con­test in Octo­ber 2011. In that con­test they scored high enough to be invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion held in Port­land, Ore­gon, in July.

To the per­son who said “That’ll nev­er work” I can now say “We achieved 13th place in cho­rus­es what was your rank­ing?” The cho­rus that he directs came in 17th place – not where he expect­ed them to be!

So, to all the naysay­ers out there, per­haps we need to rethink what can and can­not be done.

Any­thing’s pos­si­ble if you put your mind to it. It just takes some alter­na­tive think­ing. We’ve done it before!