Trust The Children

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Educational Delegation

Does the "habit" of educational delegation lead to unwanted consequences beyond secular education?

Weeks ago, when I met with some dads to find out their thoughts about education, and more particularly home schooling, I heard several say in essence, "I am a busy guy. I have goals and needs of my own. Frankly, I like the idea of delegating education to others who are more qualified than myself. I would rather a school counselor guide my child through the planning necessary for getting to college than have to deal with it myself. Besides I don't think my wife could handle it anyway. She does other things well, but planning for college needs a professional."

It was after these interviews, that I coined the phrase in my own mind, "educational delegation."

Lately, I have begun wondering if "educational delegation" becomes a habit, even an addiction?

What are the ramifications, short and long term, of delegating "religious education" completely to the Sunday School teacher? If that takes a "professional" what does that mean?

When you pick up the end of the stick of delegating "sex education" to someone else, what is on the other end of that stick? Why would someone choose that path?

Is it educational delegation when we send our sons off to the scoutmaster and make him completely responsible to help our sons become "physically Strong, mentally awake and morally straight" ?

How about delegating civic responsibility by not voting, not participating in public debate, and joining up with the "silent majority."

Do the masses learn ambivalence to many things, by disinterest and non-participation in the "school thing"? Or is that just an outgrowth of surviving the economic pressures of our day?

When we feel "report card euphoria" at the "successful" delegation of secular education, does this become a pattern of "addictive behavior" that invites relative non-involvement in civic, religious, community and family matters?

We have all heard that when you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. Are home schoolers the busy people society can count on to get things done, even things outside of the educational context?

Maybe taking personal responsibility for developing our children, helps us distance ourselves from other "temptations of delegation" that are equally unhealthy and potentially damaging?

I appreciate a comment by Tammy in her blog, "Homeschoolers just get it!" I think they do. More and more, I think they do.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Total Package - Both of You

Is home schooling really mostly about Mom doing the teaching and Dad passively enjoying-observing-judging the results? In the last two years, Cyndy and I have been invited to speak at a few local home schooling conventions. I have been asked to address some kind of topic about "Fathers and Home Schooling". Of course, more moms attend my class than Dads. Honestly, of the Dads that attend, I sense a good percentage attend a bit grudgingly. So I find myself in the middle. On the one hand, dads who don't want to be something someone else wants them to be, arms folded, furrowed brows, wandering eyes. On the other hand, home school moms, notebooks and pens in hand, sitting on the edge of their chairs, a light in their eyes, bright countenances shining, hoping against hope that the one they love the most will finally "understand" and kick in.

The message I offer is one I don't think either is expecting. (Maybe that's why I don't get more offers to speak!) The message is this: "The development of your children, which includes the education portion among other things, comes as the result of the total package that the Dad and the Mom bring to the table." The total package.

Dads teach a lot, heading off to work each day, day after day, bringing home the bacon, often in jobs they don't enjoy. Dads teach a lot fixing stuff around the house, pursuing hobbies, community/church service, discussing topics of interest, and being a husband as well as a father. This impression gets combined with all the Mom brings to the table. AND since children learn primarily by observation instead of by lecture, it's the TOTAL PACKAGE that gets communicated, it's the TOTAL PACKAGE that combines to teach our children, warts, aha experiences and all.

All Dad does and all Mom does, including course corrections, mistakes and frustrations, combine in a unique and custom fit design, enabling children AND parents to learn each day, one step at a time. For the government school disabled who read this, all of us seem to find ourselves actually in the same school, just different classrooms.

Moms can do more and improve and certainly Dads can do more and contribute more to the effort of home education too. Yet, even if mom does more of the tactical facilitating of children during the day, the example of Dads life makes up the rest of the package that influences the kids. His example is already important and contributing. And even a bad example, while neither optimal nor preferred, provides the child who is free to think an opportunity to come to conclusions that they will act on in years to come or "not". Rather than the glass being half empty, it may be more than half full, when the dads existing contribution is seen in a true light.

Over and over again I see, in home schooling families, the wisdom in the total package that the mom and the dad, (assuming the family has one of each) bring to the table just as it is. Before wanting something more and different in a spouse, consider for a moment the wonderful contribution currently being made as things are. The total package seen in this light may be better than originally thought. In fact, the total package may be just right.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Socialization - In The Real World...

The last two weeks have been busier than most. We traveled down to Utah and visited two of Cyndy's sisters, and our own daughters. I didn't know I would get a lesson in home schooling. I am thankful that I did. Louise and Dave are in Perry Utah and have been faithful home schoolers for as long as we have 27+ years. Their kids, all 10 of them are bright, easy to get along with and seem to always score in the high 20's plus on their ACT exams. This family, in my book, is in the "unconscious competent" category. They forge ahead, daily, doing the right things and the kids turn out wonderful and productive.

If I have the story right, two grandparents were both professional educators. Both were very very much against their grandchildren being home schooled. In their eyes, the only kids who home school are the kids who couldn't make it in the "system" and hence were "rejected" and were forced to seek alternative education. They didn't want their grandchildren to be "rejects". Like so many, it didn't occur to them, that home schooling might be a better alternative to educating children than the government model. That would mean that their choice professionally was suspect, and "if I agree to this, how will I get paid?" might have followed.

Predictably, one of their major concerns was their grandchildren becoming social misfits. Since home schooling kids were already rejects, "social misfits" is just a few steps further down the path. (I am sure they didn't frame it this way, but I still think the message gets sent.) Well, one day Grandma took two older kids to the park to play. Immediately they went to the sand box and began doing what boys, (Jason and Jared) do. Roads, houses, cars traveling along the roads, motor sounds, crashes, accidents... all evidence of creative minds given a chance to exercise, and grow.

From the cold north of the park, the big bully showed up. He spied his prey, walked to the sandbox and ... you guessed it, destroyed their city in the sand. Grandmother observed and later shared, that if the bully thought to get a rise from these two young boys, he was disappointed. They ignored him, and began rebuilding their project post haste as he walked away and kept looking back for a "payment" ie response. What happens next is just classic. The bully turns around to wreck destruction again. As he walks up to the sand box, so the story goes, Jason, the older of the two, stood up and confronted him. Jason said, "Why do you want to ruin our roads and stuff?" Jason continued, "If you don't ruin them, you can be our friend and play with us. We aren't going to let you ruin our project again, but we would like you to be our friend." For a second, the bully was confused, then, to Grandmothers astonishment, he smiled, joined the two boys and you guessed it, they play happily ever after that day.

As grandmother related the story I was told that she said, "I don't have any more worries about Jason and Jared being socially capable after what I saw."

Isn't this just classic? At first convinced that home schooling provided little social benefit. Grandparents, (others) are fearing for future of their grandchildren. Yet in the end, they observe the reality, that self confident kids, who have a moral compass successfully imbedded in them, do just fine. At first, so sure home schooling was a disaster, and then after an experience or two, so sure that it isn't.

Be thoughtful about providing opportunities for your children to mix with others of like values. Government schools are not the only place this can take shape. Take "one on one" time to help them work through any difficulties they might encounter, socially or otherwise. Give them a good moral compass and reinforce it daily. I am confident things will work out just fine. Aren't you?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What is Home Schooling Success?

I recently heard that success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal. Progressive realization, seems to me to be a step by step, line upon line process. Most of us get that don't we? But what of the words, "worthy goal" ? If I can identify the goals, can I say that we are progressively realizing them? Often, I have felt like i was playing a football game where after I made a few first downs, someone came in and moved the goal posts further away. Ever working, but am I actually getting closer to "success" in home schooling?

Attempting to discuss this topic, is certain to lead to failure. There must be as many "worthy goals" as there are families. Anything I say is certain to be right for me and wrong for many others. So I ask for your indulgence, patience and understanding.

Here are questions that we ask about our children, while we look for "progressive realization". I am not announcing at all, that we or our children have "arrived". To the contrary, the game isn't over until it is over. And with the development of a family, I am not sure it is ever over. However, I can say that choices we have made in home schooling have been a great contributor to the development of key skills and attributes we hope will carry forward in the future of our vast posterity. In other words, the education of our children must contribute to the over-arching goal of building a legacy in our children, and their children and their children's children.

Now for some of the questions we ask ourselves as we play the game and measure our progress...

What evidence do I observe that tells me that my children are effective leaders and informed followers?

When acting as leaders are they comfortable with the responsibility?

Can my children ask themselves questions and effectively search out answers and implement solutions?

Are my children overly reliant on others to learn?

Do I see evidence that they can direct their own learning goals?

Do I see in my children that their natural curiosity has been preserved and that they use it daily?

Do I see them giving their heart to some topic and desiring intensely to learn about it?

Do I see my children having meaningful learning experiences on their own?

Do I see my children able to study out a topic and synthesize the information into conclusions of their own?

OK. These are a good start.

Do you notice what questions are not here? Specifics about certain topics are not listed. Spelling is not here. etc. I am more concerned about their "approach" to learning than I am about the specifics. Cyndy is more concerned about some specifics. That is how it works here. Both are important. HOWEVER, we have learned that many of the specifics come along as an outgrowth of a personal interest. What do I mean?

You can teach spelling, or you can have them write up their interest in a topic they are passionate about, and correct the spelling there. You can teach grammar, or you can have them write or talk about a topic that currently has them captivated and correct the grammar there. You can teach them about history, or you can have them relate the "history" of the topic that has their curiosity captivated right now and discuss it with them including a larger context. You can teach them about aerodynamics, or you can have a family contest building paper airplanes and read a book about building the best paper airplanes and why certain types work better than others. You can teach them about US Government, or you can read the results of the last election together and discuss why this is a disaster for some and a panacea for others, especially after visiting the office of the local mayor. I am sure, if we were sitting down together in a small group, we could come up with tons of examples of natural learning methods that preserve instead of destroy God given tendencies or talents.

I have observed that teaching can actually destroy curiosity, self directed learning behavior and personal initiative. Yet we often are convinced that we are doing the right thing. It's like administering a medication to heal, only to find out later, was laced with mercury and the FDA hadn't figured it out yet. Now we are left to pick up the pieces.

Are your goals in home schooling defined? Can you see success happening? Do your home schooling goals contribute to the development of lasting skills and attributes in your posterity? Give this some thought, write down your conclusions and "success" might be more evident that you give yourself credit for.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Carnival of Home Schooling

Every week, posts from all over the internet on home schooling are gathered and shared. This sharing spot is called the Carnival of Home Schooling. Next Tuesday, the latest Carnival will be posted here. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Homeschoolers Excel In ACT College Entrance Exam

Once again... a great post on the HSLDA site. Why home school? Excellence in education, preserve high moral values, and safety. This post, of course, is about educational excellence.

Here goes:

ACT Inc., producer of the ACT college entrance exam, reports that homeschool students scored an average of 22.6 for 2003. This compares with 20.9 for public school students for the same period.

Over the years there has been concern that homeschool students would not be able to compete effectively for places in colleges. It was said that homeschool parents simply couldn't educate their children to the college level. This is false.

Even if an individual family is unable to provide every aspect of a high school education, the pooling of resources among homeschool families and the availability of classes from private resource centers have enabled families to continue homeschooling until high school graduation.

There should be no doubt that the homeschool movement is committed to excellence, from the youngest to the oldest student.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Seek and Ye Shall Find

I wonder if others feel what I feel? If they know what it is like to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" kind of person? A generalist. Knowing enough to be dangerous, but rarely enough to make a serious dent in the world we live in?

It seemed so wise to me, when I heard educators all my young life talk about the virtues of "liberal arts education". They spoke of the need to be well rounded and that made sense to me. They spoke of how much better we get along when we can relate to others because we know something of "their world". It never occurred to me I was being sold something.

Convincing me of the need to be "well rounded" certainly also provided job security for the providers of the "well rounded-ness". Convincing me that I would get along better in the world if I knew something of another's interests also had the same convenient side effect. It made the purveyors of this "knowledge" ... necessary. Never mind that in the reality of relationships, someone else generally likes you better, when they feel they have impact on your life, ie knowing something and telling you about it because they feel you DON'T know.

Teachers played a great role in my life. Because of great and even poor teachers, I will never be the same. Teachers work hard at what they do for the most part. Anymore, they "risk their lives". And the attitudes and behavior they have to put up with today makes doing what they desire to do, all the more challenging and often nearly impossible. Many benefit because of their efforts and yes, even sacrifice. However, with even the best of teachers, what also comes with them is the "system" that provides them their jobs. And that system is what is at issue.

Recently another thought has come to the fore for me. The government school system proclaims itself as the basis of social interaction. School is where the community gathers to remain a community. Without the school house, our entire society has no place to meet, socialize and remain a society. Without school, society itself will all crumble and self-destruct into a heap of rubble. I don't know why it took me so long to get this, since in most discussions of home schooling as an alternative, "socialization" or the fear of the lack of it, is nearly always the first concern. Can socialization happen without schools? Yes it can and yes it does. Just about as perfectly as it does in the government system.

There must be other places to meet and other ways interact peacefully and enjoy a sense of community. Do we as a community really have to worship at the temple of the government school house in order to be saved? It is certainly an option but not the ONLY one.

WOW! Where did this all come from?

I read this last week from Henry B. Eyring, former President of Ricks College.

"My father taught me long ago that finding time to seek is a matter of preparing the heart. One evening he was helping me with some physics or math problems in the basement of our home. I was in college and he had high hopes for me, as he did for my brothers, that I would follow him in science. He looked up as he saw me stumbling on a problem and said, "Hal, didn't we work on a problem just like this a week ago?" I said, "I think we did." He said, "Well, you don't seem to be any better at it this week than you were last week." I didn't say anything to that. Then he looked at me with a shock of recognition on his face and asked, "Hal, haven't you been thinking about it during this last week?" I looked a little chagrined and said that I hadn't.
He put down the chalk, stepped back from the blackboard on our basement wall, and looked at me. He then taught me something, with sadness in his voice, I will never forget. I am just beginning to understand what he meant. He said, "But, Hal, what do you think about when you are walking down the street or when you are in the shower? What do you think about when you don't have to think about anything?" I admitted that it wasn't physics or mathematics. With a smile, but I think with a sigh, he responded, "Well, Hal, I don't think you'd better make a career of science. You'd better find something which you just naturally think about it when you don't have to think about anything else."

Henry B. Eyring. "Prepare Your Heart" [address to religious educators, 22 Aug. 1987], pp. 2-3.

There is more to this story, but it underscores something that we as home schoolers can do so much better than the government system can. Something that they won't talk about much. Something that will bless our children IF we take advantage of it. That something we can DO is.... DOING something about it, when our children "FIND" something. Home schooling is more agile and flexible. When a child FINDS something, we can respond, facilitate, and actually drop other things to help that interest grow. The government system just sends them to the next class telling them to take their interest and passion and lock it up until tomorrow. What they learn from this lack of freedom to pursue something is that being passionless is the norm, being interested and preoccupied with something is a passing fancy, and the system is more important than the person.

I would love it if government education would change their business model to encourage found interests, and feed them. However, since that paradigm shift is not likely to come soon, we can make it happen in our home, now. While our children are still children. In addition, IF the system of education ever changes for the better, can we honestly believe that it will change without alternatives showing the way or the reason why?

The free market is the primary reason for the quality of life we live, improving as it always has and does. A free market in education will have the same effect. Home schooling is the major contributor to the free market that education sorely needs as it has been proven to provide a viable alternative to the government system. In fact the level of its effectiveness is accurately measured by the vitriolic response of those who represent the status quo, the government educators themselves.

Our economic strength as a country, can be traced to a commitment to a free market economy that has continually encouraged improvement, change, and innovation that has resulted in a lifting force in our standard of living. Education is no different. Home schooling it is part of a "market force" that provides impetus for change, improvement and true innovation, in the education of our most precious resource, our children. it is a force because it works as good or better. That case has been made.

At home, when our children seek, because they are at home, my wife and I can help them find. And when we do, I have to say, it feels like we are in harmony with the Great Creator Himself, whose overriding purpose is to do that for each of us as His children. Home schooling pioneers are not so much the personalities of the past, for whom we honor and reserve gratitude. All of us who embrace the home schooling idea, and help one another succeed, make up a group of modern pioneers as well. Trekking our own path together, to a place where more and more children win and our future becomes more and more secure.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Behavior Has Its Reasons

Have you noticed?

When we have had groups over to the house to discuss home schooling, more often than not the discussion includes something about family behavior problems. This often which leads to thoughtful questions about parenting skills or more often the need for improved parenting skills.

Having worked our way through the good part of 11 children, I feel sometimes that others want to know what our "secret sauce" is. I don't mind their asking, because over the years we have done our share of the asking too. At the same time, since families are so different, our "answer" might not work, much less make sense. Our kids are ... our kids. And having 11 in one home is different than having 1 or 2 or 3. You get my drift. Sure, we might offer a word or two, but it is always with a bit of reservation, because honestly if we had had one child like some I see at church, we might not have had 11. The parents I respect are the ones who have "one" of those, and do so well with them. We have had, so far, knock on wood, a pretty easy ride.

Still there is one thought that I have shared recently that opened the "eyes of my understanding" when I read it.
The thought is, drum roll please....... "behavior has it's reasons". Those reasons are not often "evil" either.

I came across this idea in "Pay Attention to the Children" Lessons for Teachers and Parents from Sylvia Ashton Warner by Sydney Gurewitz Clemens.

Clemens said, "Your troubles are somehow lighter when you name them, and your triumphs are brighter when you proclaim them." Part of "naming" your troubles is asking yourself the question, "what is the reason behind this behavior."

Sometimes the reasons are deeper, more complex and harder to get at, than we are capable of doing ourselves. However, I feel strongly that these cases are the exception and not the rule. More often getting to the "reasons why" isn't so hard, though it requires some effort. For example, "I miss my daddy." Doesn't that tell a story? Again, "Mom, do you have time to play?" This tells a story too, doesn't it?

If I might venture into a spiritual arena for a minute, LDS Prophet Spencer W. Kimball made this observation that is having an ongoing impact on my life,

"Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual. We can show forth our love for others even when we are called upon to correct them. We need to be able to look deeply enough into the lives of others to see the basic causes for their failures and shortcomings." Ponder this for a minute.

Often we need to take a step back, to take 3 steps forward. In our relationships with our children, which certainly impacts how we facilitate our children's learning at home, take a minute or even an hour or even a day or two, and busy your mind with the question, "What are the possible reasons behind this behavior I am observing?" Sure your home schooling plan for this period of time goes to heck in a hand basket. Yet, when the answer to that question begins to come, you will march ahead at such a pace, that the loss won't even be felt. This process isn't like instant pudding. But it tastes a whole lot better nonetheless. Keep looking for the reasons behind the behavior. There is nothing quite like, "Oh, NOW I understand."