Thursday, June 18, 2009

Outsider-directed learning, part two.

Thanks for all your great comments on my last post, everyone. I do think most of the time nothing you can say will change anything. But every once in a while, the right words can make someone think a little bit... if you can get them out!

Leanne, your children are certainly blessed to have had teachers who are able to be so flexible! I've known a lot of teachers, and in general, this is a very difficult thing to do. The "standards" -- and accompanying punishments for not following them -- are extremely limiting.

I agree that this was an example of poor parenting... but this mentality stems from a dependence on outside sources for a child's education and learning.

This can happen even among families who have chosen to homeschool, but are still trying to follow some outside idea (often state education standards, or maybe the "What Your Child Needs to Know" series) of what their kids need to learn, and what order to do things in.

Letting go of that idea, and allowing yourself to use the freedom and flexibility of homeschooling to follow your child's own needs is a process some of us call "deschooling."

Obviously, this idea is not a black-and-white home education vs. school issue. I know plenty of public school parents who are as involved as they can be in their child's learning. Many are in "well-off" neighborhoods with schools that are under less pressure from state standards. The parents value learning, read to their children, and allow them to follow their interests outside school hours.

But there are still limitations. And some may find themselves buying into the idea that the school knows best about certain things.

My husband teaches at a school in a poor, inner city neighborhood, where many of the children are afraid to walk home alone. Some have not a single book at home, besides their own school textbooks. They own iPods, but not calculators. They have access to drugs and alcohol, but not piano lessons. Learning is for school.

These are the extremes, but they're the examples I'm most familiar with. And the idea that the school knows best about what your child needs to learn and when is rampant everywhere, not just among "bad" -- or even tired -- parents. It is perpetuated by educators of educators, and yes, classroom teachers who buy into it.

The alternative, of course, is to trust your child.
"Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and classroom (in our case, into their lives); give children as much help and guidance as they ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."
--John Holt
Alright, enough of that. I don't really enjoy philosophizing much anymore.


Heather said...

Oh you are so right (and coming from a teacher background with all of the previous generation being educators in the public/private school arena and having gone to college to become a teacher and then spending a year teaching in public school I know EXACTLY what you are talking about). It is SO frustrating and the thing I often have to explain to homeschooling parents is that there really is NO hard coded "this is what needs to happen at this time" plan for teaching kids--every child is different and even learning to read can take place anywhere from 3 to 10 and still be called "normal". People just LOVE their rules and love having a plan. And don't even get me started on the "what every child needs to know" series. We have the second grade book (my mom owned it and gave it to me) and it is shocking how much of that book is superfluous or even just plain WRONG--perpetuating myths as facts, and boring to boot. The only reason I keep my mouth shut is because I have dealt with way to many people shoving their nose into OUR business and hate it--on the other hand, if someone asks or even sounds unsure then my opinion is VERY freely given.

Lori said...

well said!

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