Do I Prefer Sand?
These thoughts and the questions they raise, are probably so self evident to most around me that sharing them at all might seem another "Ho-hum" blog post. Then again, it might not be.
I belong to a home schooling list. It is a list about home schooling that is oriented toward a particular faith, a virtual gathering place for hundreds of mostly like minded people, at least values wise. There is a feeling of great support, empathy and for the most part a sense of acceptance for all who participate. I would say it was a safe place for most, active contributors as well as the silent majority who mostly 'lurk and listen."
I asked a question, which I thought was a good one. Fundamentally the idea was, if methods of education in the public system have elements that are injurious to our children, and we use those same methods at home, why do we think the outcome will really be that much different? I shared that in some of the early exposure Cyndy and I had to home schooling, we drank deeply from John Holt, Raymond Moore, John Taylor Gatto and Pat Montgomery. Growing Without Schooling, as it came every few weeks or so, was as eagerly read as anything in our home. I remember hearing Pat Montgomery and John Taylor Gatto speak at a convention in Tacoma Washington. For me, part of the message was that there were expediencies in the public system, compromises if you will, that had a more harmful effect on children that had been previously thought. If you felt you could do it, home schooling was a chance to use different methods and approaches at home than in the PSS and therefore expect a different result.
Raymond Moore said, "School Can Wait," and your kids will still turn out ok. John Holt said it was possible for our children to "grow,without schooling" and still turn out ok. Pat said, for our children the "work of a child is play" until they are about age 12 or so, and they will turn out ok, in fact, such children will probably have some right brained advantages. Gatto, said that we could take the shaping of our children into our own hands, and avoid key subliminal messages that come with the system, irrespective of the instructor, and our children would be ok.
All in all, the message to me was clear. Among other things, methods used at home did matter. So, in response to the post I made on the list, instead of some saying, "Hum, maybe methods do matter and maybe I ought to think about it?" the first response was to defend at all costs that parents can use faulty methods at home if they want to and how dare you bring up the subject? Further, because it was their right to choose to use any method they want, one shouldn't even suggest a conversation about methods. The methods conversation was seen as divisive to the solidarity of the group of parents who participate in this list. So, there were one or two comments and the topic was dropped.
So I tried again, and restated the obvious. Using potentially injurious methods found in some PSS environments and expecting a different result, is insanity. I said that if parents of PS kids felt to denigrate home schoolers, as part of actively justifying their choice to opt in to public education, how different really were they than those of us, who are pretty evangelical about our choice to take education home? Actually I didn't say it quite that way, but that is what I meant. I am sure it got through, because again, outside of a few who actually were willing to consider the idea that they were doing nothing substantially different at home than what they experienced as children in the PS setting, most were either very quiet, wishing the discussion would go away, or it seemed they chose to bury their senses in the sand, rather than consider change.
What was astounding to me, and I think it shouldn't have been, is that the defense of a position, even if it was potentially harmful to the very children we hope to bless, was more important than the children themselves. The lack of discussion sharing on that list about this topic also gave me pause to consider whether accommodation on the list itself, was also more important than the children themselves?
Of course as parents we have the right to our own judgment and even the inspiration of heaven when it comes to home schooling choices, as some fell back on in their comments. But did it ever occur to the group, that our "inspiration" or personal judgment might be self-limiting by virtue of our own personal experience and our need to justify our own PSS shaping, so we can view ourselves as OK?
As I have begun this process of graduate school, one thing has become clear. I have had lots of preconceived notions that ran counter to the evidence of some pretty smart people who conducted some pretty thorough research. At some point, I had to decide to let the results of research, even if that research had some limitations, inform me, instead of ignoring it to justify my own biases. I had to be humble (or teachable is probably a better word) to allow myself to be informed and shaped by pretty convincing experiences that others may have had, than a need to preserve my own decisions as being cast in stone. In fact, I have needed to remind myself that if I wasn't somewhat flexible, we wouldn't have ventured into home schooling in the first place.
I think that John Taylor Gatto in his new book, came to some startling new conclusions about the "education system" because he also was willing to look at information and his own biases and let the chips fall, attempting then to understand the obvious rather than defend his ego.
I have concerns for chldren, first and foremost. I have always felt the need to try as best as I could to be open to change, for the benefit of my children. Of course my children have been hurt and sometimes adversely impacted. After all we have been learning on the job, not only as parents, but also managing our education choices at home. Of course, our children might want, as they get older, to blame us for not getting the job done at home. And yes, after admitting that we made mistakes and didn't have all the answers, I simply say, "OK you're right. So now what? Blaming isn't getting you anywhere, so what are you going to do about it now and how can I help? "
It is my hope that the few who read this blog, are among the best and brightest and most teachable. I hope you are willing to evaluate the pro's and con's of your educational philosophy. We ought to eliminate anything and everything including methods, that common sense says, could harm our children and leave them less prepared for the uncertain future they will end up living through. As Sir Kenneth Robinson said, "We (as parents) don't have to live that future, but they will." Let's be more open to a rethinking of the methods we use to grow our children and the potential harm or good each of our choices does to our most precious asset, our own children.