We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control....
I love Pink Floyd. I always have. I think back to that song, and the images I remember from the video when I saw it long ago. The faceless children, slowly marching, indistinguishable from one another. They all marched off the end into a people grinder that ground them into one homogeneous mass. Seems kind of creepy, doesn't it? Then I think back to my experience with school. Is it really that far off from reality?
I was a good student....for the most part. I spent a little bit of time in trouble though. I would do goofy stuff. I would make people laugh. I would laugh and smile at inappropriate times. I would fidget when I was supposed to be still (I still do). I once got in trouble in the cafeteria for eating mustard packets instead of my lunch. I remember when I was in the fourth grade and my parents got called in for a conference with the teacher and principal for my horrendous behavior. I had held my breath during assembly and disrupted the whole thing. Gasp!!! Students were paying more attention to my behavior than the important (and equally interesting, I'm sure) assembly. It was intolerable behavior. You're shocked, aren't you?! I know, I should be ashamed of myself. The odd thing was that my parents, who were normally on the strict side, were not upset. They laughed about it.....and a few other similar instances. I still remember my strict, conservative parents saying that the educators expected their students to be mindless robots, and that I was just letting my personality show. It was that personality that was going to separate me from others when I grew up and help me to be a success.
Now I'm a parent. I have two wonderfully different little girls. We started our oldest daughter in public school, and I worked in a public school. But we felt like God was calling us to homeschool our children. Trust me, it wasn't my decision. I worked in a high school. I loved working with older kids...young adults. Small children left me baffled and frustrated. Especially my first born, who didn't really want to spend any time with me anyways. But God has a way of making his desires known. If you don't listen to his suggestions, he gets a little more demanding. So I quit work and began their home education. And we cried and cried and cried. Really! It was horrible.
Alea had some serious attention issues and Kasi (who was two and a half) learned everything without even looking and would call out answers from the other room when we thought she was watching Reading Rainbow....which would of course not help Alea's frustration. I would pound on subjects until Alea mastered them, and suddenly she forgot everything about them and we had to start all over again. I taught her to tell time at least eight times. She would have it down for days and then, suddenly....she couldn't remember the difference between the big hand and the little hand. So we cried some more. One day I sat and held Alea while we both cried and I told her that I wasn't the best teacher in the world and that I didn't know how to teach her so she would remember. I was at a loss. I just didn't know what to do. But I told her that I wasn't going to give up on her. I told her that she was smart and I knew she could learn. I would find a way to help her. I asked her not to give up on me as well.
I found over time that Alea didn't memorize well. Most kids with attention issues don't. So instead of following a curriculum and set lesson I tried getting her and Kasi both excited about learning. I started reading aloud to them....Nancy Drew so they couldn't wait to find out what happened next. I would allow them to work on something non disruptive while I read aloud. Over time Alea would almost always pull out sewing, crocheting, and paper and pencils while I read. Kasi would pull out math workbooks and puzzles. She loves workbooks, and excels at math...and puzzles. She is very self-motivated with her learning as well. Before long, I would catch them sneaking behind the door with the Nancy Drew book trying to read ahead, absolutely dying to know what happened next.
This not only ignited their passion for reading, but gave them the freedom to develop skills from their other passions. I found that as Alea developed her crocheting, she became calmer and more focused. I also learned that Kasi's puzzles and math were all tied together, developing the same areas of her brain. They became more passionate about learning and more creative as well, often designing their own games to test their skills.
As I began researching, I learned that many famous people considered the most brilliant minds in history didn't receive formal educations. They were to constraining for their lofty dreams and passions. The fact is that the public education system provides a decent, well-rounded education. But if you have a passion and a gift for a certain area of study, rarely are you allowed to propel yourself forward. You are one of many and all the students must stay, if not on the same page, in the same chapter. There is also the fact that your area of giftedness is only one of many subjects in which you are expected to do well. Energy must be drawn from your 'it' subject and poured into those areas in which you need, um, shall we say...work. But Albert Einstein and Marie Curie and countless others were allowed to direct their energies into their subject of giftedness and passion, which allowed them to develop their knowledge and discover things previously unknown. Think about this. The previously unknown will not be found in any textbook or curriculum. It can only be discovered. To be discovered someone must first be seeking it. That takes desire and opportunity. I want my children to be discoverers.
So we are now what many consider unschoolers. It is not the only way to learn but it is what works for us. Don't confuse unschooling with nonschooling. Our girls don't sit around and play video games. We work to learn. We just don't make it work. We don't clock in and out, turning learning off as we walk out the door. "Sorry guys, I'm on break" We learn all the time. It takes commitment, and really more time and effort than if we were following a curriculum and could shut the notebook as we finished a lesson. But it is unstructured. It is free-flowing. That scares people. It baffles them.
Wanna know a secret? We joke about the robot kids in the Pink Floyd song. We talk about how awful it is that teachers and employers want cookie-cutter kids and employees (uniforms aren't helping to break down that image). But, really, if we were to be honest, we desire them to be the same because it's easier. It would be so much easier if my kids weren't night and day....oil and water. It is easier for a teacher to teach thirty kids if they learn the same way, respond the same way....and if the teacher only has to present the material in one way. The military wants their soldiers to be indistinguishable from one another. They expect the same response from everyone. Employers pass blanket policies that apply to everyone regardless of special circumstances. Why is that? A machine operates more effectively if the parts are interchangeable....and is up and running quicker in the event of a breakdown because a replacement part is easier to locate. We like easy and we like familiar.
Well, some of us. There are those rebels among us that believe that variety is the spice of life. Variety and change is their water and sunlight. Don't tell anyone, but I'm one of 'them'. ;-)
I hope my kids won't grow up to be an interchangeable bolt in a machine. I want to give them an opportunity to be just okay in some subjects so they have an opportunity to soar in areas they are both gifted and passionate about. It may backfire. All we can give our children is a strong foundation and opportunity for growth. It is up to them what they build on it. But two things I do know. One is that we are having fun building that foundation together. The other is that my parents were right. (Sssshhhh! We don't want them to know I said that. It would blow my image. ) It is personality that sets one person apart from another, not some notations on a quarterly slip of paper....long forgotten and tucked away in a cardboard box.
......and just because I love a good quote or two.......
You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives. ~Clay P. Bedford
All the world is a laboratory to the inquiring mind. ~Martin H. Fischer
The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. ~Mortimer Adler
Teach children what to think and you limit them to your ideas. Teach children how to think and their ideas are unlimited."- Sandra Parks
Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will. ~Vernon Howard
"Modern education is competitive, nationalistic and separative. It has trained the child to regard material values as of major importance, to believe that his nation is also of major importance and superior to other nations and peoples. The general level of world information is high but usually biased, influenced by national prejudices, serving to make us citizens of our nation but not of the world."~Albert Einstein
We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself. ~Lloyd Alexander
"It was at home I learned the little I know. Schools always appeared to me like a prison, and never could I make up my mind to stay there, not even for four hours a day, when the sunshine was inviting, the sea smooth, and when it was joy to run about the cliffs in the free air, or to paddle in the water."- Claude Monet
The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn. ~John Lubbock
"Teach your scholar to observe the phenomena of nature; you will soon rouse his curiosity, but if you would have it grow, do not be in too great a hurry to satisfy this curiosity. Put the problems before him and let him solve them himself. Let him know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learnt it for himself. Let him not be taught science, let him discover it. If ever you substitute authority for reason he will cease to reason; he will be a mere plaything of other people's thoughts."~Jean-Jacques Rousseau
I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience.~ Anne Sullivan
"A child does not have to be motivated to learn; in fact, learning cannot be stopped. A child will focus on the world around him and long to understand it. He will want to know why things are the way they are. He won’t have to be told to be curious; he will just be curious. He has no desire to be ignorant; rather he wants to know everything."
- Valerie Fitzenreiter
"The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school." ~George Bernard Shaw