and how we are losing it…

it strikes me lately how much confidence we have lost in ourselves. the more, as a society, we have “experts” and advancements and “breakthroughs” the less we are able to feel confident in our ability to make even the most basic or fundamental decisions.

there are 3 areas on my radar screen now more than usual, and though i am sure there are loads of others, i want to explore these three arenas a bit…

i am reading a book by david albert about homeschooling. it is uplifting and encouraging, and rather than promoting any particular homeschooling agenda, it discusses how much more we know about educating our children than we think we do. even the intro to the book, written by an associate dean at brown university, makes me feel inspired about our decision to homeschool- even on those days when we seem to learn “nothing”.

i love when people ask me if i am a “qualified” teacher when i tell then i homeschool. i wasn’t “qualified” to teach my kids to eat solid food or to crawl or to sit  or to walk or to talk, but i seem to have done that just fine. in spite of our lack of formal teacher training, our kids all know their shapes and colors, their address and phone numbers (ok, we were a bit shaky on this when we first moved to seattle, but i think we have all now mastered this new information)- they have preferences in everything from food to wardrobe to music to board games, and while i can’t claim credit for having taught them most of these things, i can take some praise for sitting back and allowing them to pursue things that interest them (within reason). the point is that children ARE naturally driven to learn (excepting extreme cases like some sort of brain damage)- and unless we beat it/humiliate it/dehumanize it out of them, they WILL learn- often in spite of our best attempts to teach them!

i remember in elementary school there was a class of Learning Disabled kids. yes, i capitalize this, since it seemed at the time to be a title You Must Know and Abide By. i don’t know who decided they were learning disabled, or when it was decided, since none of them were ever in our classes, even in kindergarten. i know we were afraid of them for some non-specific reason, and i know we ran away from them (often shrieking) if they even walked in our direction. they didn’t have any interactions with us- not at recess, where we could have all played together; not in gym, where under careful adult supervision we all could have thrown the same ball or gone after the same hockey puck; not in art where they could have terrorized their papers with the same paints and oil pastels as the rest of us slathered on the pages. the class was only boys (i think there may have been a girl at one point during one year, but she went the way of all mythical creatures, disappearing, never to be seen again after a few weeks…).

as adults, *h and i had a friend who had been in one of these LD classes. although he was quite a regular adult, this experience as a child- of being marked as different and less than- stayed with him always. he never felt he measured up, and was constantly defensive lest someone discover his awful secret. although his intelligence was certainly within normal range and he showed no outward disabilities- either learning related or otherwise- he has been unemployed or underemployed for all of his adult life. right now he lives alone and is lonely and broke and sad.

so, what does any of this have to do with homeschooling? schools are set up as a kind of a meat-grinder. insert kids, stuff them in, turn the crank, and hope that what gets pushed out the other side resembles a functioning person. there is little room for true diversity or following your passion (unless your passion happens to be doing lots of busy work and spitting back disjointed bits of information on demand). that’s not a criticism of failings; that’s as it needs to be. one adult in charge of 20-30 little people by definition needs to maintain order and guard against mutiny. we make great factory workers but lousy people.

so why don’t more people homeschool? sure, there are lots of reasons that are beyond the scope of this blog post. there is mental illness and single parents with 4 jobs and other “impossible” situations. but for the most part, our confidence has been robbed.

i can’t homeschool; i’m not a qualified teacher.

i can’t homeschool; i am not smart enough.

i can’t homeschool; i was never a very good student.

and on and on- but you know what? these same parents taught their babies to clap their hands and took them outside to play and spoke to them in their native language and prepared their food and kept them reasonably functional and healthy.

and until these parents turned their kids over to an educational establishment that had the credentials to do a supposedly better job, they never questioned their role as their child’s primary teacher. but somewhere along the way, they lost their confidence, supplanted by the credentials on the wall and the neatly organized arts-and-crafts supplies and the bouncy new basketballs. and these very parents unlearned how to be their own child’s best teacher.

seeing the length of this post so far, i think i will break it up into 3- that way if you are a bad student, you can just read the shorted versions so you don’t get too overwhelmed by too much information- hahahahahahahahaha