Trust The Children

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Suspending Disassociation Instead of Home School Students

Pretty intellectual huh? Suspending Disassociation. I could say, "encouraging connections and congruency". Even those are 10+ letter words. Much more and I get hung up ;-) Nevertheless, what this is all about is an extension of my feelings about the Liberal Arts philosophy of education. While this idea has many positive merits, I have come to see how this one idea has the potential to hurt children as much as help them.

One idea at the foundation of American Education is that exposure to all kinds of topics is the end all, be all of educating our children because it makes our children "well rounded". What comes with this is a public educational model of moving from one class room to the other. Learn a topic here and shut that off, and then learn another topic here then shut that off. Then learn another one that has nothing to do with the others, and so on. As John Taylor Gatto says, "the un-relating of everything." It is bad enough that any enthusiasm engendered by a particularly good class, has to be shut down to attend the next one. The bell rings. Time to move on. It is bad enough that the classroom setting also limits the practicality of spontaneous enthusiasm for learning because again, the bell rings for the next class. In addition to this, the shot gun approach, called "exposure to be well rounded," makes it very unlikely that one topic ever gets related or tied into another. What they learn is that life is made up of separate and distinct parts that don't fit in any way with anything else. Confusion is the result, seen in wandering eyes, children whose brains shut off as soon as they sit down to their assigned spot in class, and the ensuing battle to get their homework done. "So What," is what we end up seeing in the eyes of our children, and too much of "so What" is just the poison to totally destroy love of learning and natural God-given curiosity.

The home schooling environment isn't always the answer for this, but at least it can be. It can be because freedom exists to follow the interests and enthusiasms of our children and allow them drive something deep, without feeling the need to "make them well rounded" every moment of every day. This begins with fighting the need that parents have to run their children through a learning experience that approximates their own, instead of trusting that responding to their interests and curiosities, will do just as well, if not better. The need for parents to be highly skilled and prepared to teach diminishes as well, when children know that the natural enthusiasms and interests that they have, COUNT in the eyes of their parents. Converting their interests into actual study practices and learning projects may require some thought the first few times through. However, when motivation in your son or daughter is the driving force, it solves so many other issues that arise in the process of the educational process.

As we have told others over the years, we did not come out of the chute, perfectly formed home schoolers. We had fits and starts and misgivings. We felt our way along, all the way to our fifth child. It was only there that we put our foot down on a stronger commitment to the idea. Before that, we were back and forth like a lot of others. One example of this was our 2nd child, David, who felt like he needed to do more of the public setting that we had hoped. The principal of our high school, went out of his way to make sure this gifted boy graduated. I remember a day or two after he "walked" with his class, we were talking in the kitchen. I asked him, "now that you are graduated, what are you going to do next?" David said, "Don't worry, I have a whole list of things I can get to now that school is over." I asked him for some examples which he immediate rattled off. I said then, "David, what is amazing to me is that if you had decided to study these things instead of going to school all this time, for us as your parents, it would have counted. That very list, had you decided to home school, would have been your curriculum instead of what you ended up doing at school." His jaw dropped to the floor. He was stunned. "You have got to be kidding me?" was his response. I said nothing and just let the pregnant pause begin the birth process of some new thinking in my son. New thinking also in the rest of our children.

Needless to say, this story has been told to all the rest of the brood, and they have benefitted from "David's Story." David told me this weekend, that only now, many years later, does he understand the value of taking a few things deep, instead of many things shallow. One major reason, less confusion. In addition, there are more hooks to bind knowledge together when you are able to stick to related topics and grow outward from there. This is especially true for boys. I can't stress this enough. The home schooling environment can be a major solution to boys who are ill-served in the public system. The change can be dramatic.


  • I wonder if the workforce equivalent of this is concealed in the word, "multi-tasking". Seriously, great things take great amounts of focused effort. It's been studied time and again, but the result is the same, getting to "flow" isn't something you can just "turn on". Not only does the constant subject change teach that nothing is really worth sustained effort over time, but it also makes it very difficult for anyone to get into that hyper productive and creative state called "flow" by so many. It's just sad.

    By Blogger David Weiss, at 11:57 PM, March 12, 2006  

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