And Now, Deep Thoughts

In CategoryHome Schooling, Navel Gazing

I finally ordered my own collection of education books from Amazon. I had been checking and re-checking them out from the library, but finally decided I needed to go ahead and get my own so I could refer to them whenever I wanted. Plus, the library frowns on highlighting and making notes in the margins.

I finished Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, and have started How Children Fail by John Holt. So much in these books resonates with me. I find something profound on practically every page.

Like this from Dumbing Us Down –

The lesson of report cards, grades, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but instead rely on the evaluation of certified officials.

That really hit me. Constantly being judged and questioned sucks – I don’t like it as an adult. I am starting to think it’s not that kids don’t have inner motivation to do well; but that school, with it’s system of grading and tracking and judging, causes them to subjugate their own sense of accomplishment and instead value the opinions of others. Eventually, they either don’t trust their own judgement, or it’s been beaten it to death and they couldn’t find it if they wanted to.

We are so conditioned to think that we have to drag children kicking and screaming to do well; but even my three year old knows when she has done a good job. My son will express satisfation or dissatisfaction at things he does, whether it’s building with Legos or writing a proper f. What does it do a child’s spirit when they are always presenting their work to some Frowny Judgey McJudgeyPants who picks it apart and finds even the smallest flaw?

Which leads me to my next passage, this one from How Children Fail, which is basically a journal Holt kept as he observed children in the classroom –

The trouble was that I was asking too many questions. In time I learned to shut up and stop asking questions, stop constantly trying to find out how much people understood. We have to let learners decide when they want to ask questions. It often takes them a long time even to find out what questions they want to ask. It is not the teacher’s proper task to be constantly testing and checking the understanding of the learner. That is the learner’s task, and only the learner can do it. The teacher’s job is to answer the questions when the learners ask them, or to try to help learners understand better when they ask for that help.

That is not to say it’s not my job is to push them when they need it, or that I should let them accept mediocrity. However I am coming to the realization that I must learn to trust their judgment as the learner more. Give them space to figure out what they don’t know, what they’d like to know, and how to ask the question; rather than nudging and leading and hurrying them along for the sake of being finished or checking something off a list.

I might be preaching to the choir on a lot of this, but it helps me to write things down. Once I realized that the whole “school” paradigm was not how it has to be – and indeed, that it might prevent kids from reaching their fullest potential – it was like a light went on in my head and I now find myself questioning everything I ever thought about educating my kids. I am never going to be a full-on unschooler, but they have a lot of philosophies that ring true to me, like we should respect children as individuals who have things to say about what and how they learn.

*Do not fret, I shall not flounder around in the deep end for too long. I just saw Sister Wives and am once again, fascinated by crappy reality television.