We are currently in a bit of a ‘process’. As you already know, we home school our kids. Up until recently, that has pretty much looked like ‘school at home’.
Obviously there are different philosophies when it comes to home educating, and different approaches to actually doing it.
There are unschoolers, who do not have set study, but who believe that children through life, and that they learn best when they are interested in the subject matter, and so their learning is child-led.
There are those who do a formal version of ‘school at home’, still working with the National Curriculum, and still working towards whatever exams the students take in their particular country.
And then there is everything in between.
We were in between, but I’m not really sure what we are any more.
I’ve got to be honest; we have been internally swayed from one end of the spectrum to the other over the years that we have been doing this. Not that what the kids are doing has changed that much, but we have read about all the different approaches, and why each one works best, and the arguments for both sound great. So what is a parent to do?
Well, I guess what we need to look at first, are our goals for our kids. What do they actually need to know? And on the other hand, what do they learn at school that is actually pretty useless?
From my own perspective, and that of my husband, neither of us have used anything we learned at school, out here in the real world, with the exception of three things: reading, writing and basic math.
I have not used anything that I learned in Geography.
I vaguely remember from History that the date 1066 is a well-known one, and that at some point the Magna Carta was signed, though this is perhaps only of interest if your schooling took place in the UK.
I enjoyed learning French and German, and I loved Biology, but have never used them since being at school.
I did learn how to regurgitate facts for exams; facts that I would forget the day after the exam, and which I would never use, ever again.
Another really important thing I learned from my school experience, is that forced association with classmates, is not the same thing as socialisation.
I also discovered that being myself was just not acceptable, and so I tried really hard to be what I thought others wanted me to be. That didn’t work out really well, either.
Other important things that school did not teach me are these: I did not learn how to budget, how to run my own business, how to think creatively and look for solutions.
I did not learn to be definite about what I wanted in life, or how to go about achieving that.
School did not teach me how to be self-disciplined; or that thought patterns and habits become fixed, and therefore to develop good habits that lead to independent thought while I was still young.
I did not learn to look for good in difficult situations, or learn to find that teeny seed of benefit that comes in each setback that we endure.
Another thing I did not learn, was to express my own thoughts fearlessly and to decide for myself whether to accept or reject the ideas of others.
I was not taught how ridiculous it is to believe a thing merely because a teacher tells me it is so.
I wasn’t taught that my only real limitations are those that I set up in my own mind.
And I did not learn to be true to myself, and find out that you can’t please everybody all of the time.
I also did not start to find out who I was as a person, and what my real passions were, until I hit about the age of 30.
So…here’s where we are as a family right now:
My 10-year old is currently half way through Grade 7 math, and my 8-yr old is a couple of topics into Grade 7. Unless they go on to a career in engineering, or science, or something where they need more advanced math, I’d say they have already learned everything they’ll ever use in everyday life. In fact, they probably learned all that at least a year ago.
So here’s the question: will my son learn the more difficult math better if I keep on pushing him through it, or will he learn it better if it’s something he’s motivated to learn because he wants a career in engineering or something math related?
Is it best to push him onwards, or to let him find out for himself where his interests lie?
If he is allowed to find out who he is as a person, and what his passions are, then he himself will be able to discover what path he needs to take in order to achieve his dreams.
Will that make him more motivated than if I push him to study something he’s not interested in? For sure.
Actually, I guess I’m preaching to myself here.
I see the total senselessness of forcing children to memorize things they have zero interest in, and will never use again.
And I see the total obviousness of letting them discover their dreams and passions, and letting them throw themselves into that with all their hearts.
One approach will create a robot, and the other will produce a creative, passionate, motivated human being.
One approach will create a nagging parent/child dynamic, and the other will create a loving, nurturing environment where we are all excited about learning, and where we as parents become facilitators instead of dictators.
I think I know which direction we are headed in. We can at least give it a year, and the kids will still be ahead if it doesn’t work out.