Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Leaning at Home: Part 3 of 9

I have been forced, in recent months, to examine all that is comfortable and familiar to me when it comes to academics and education.  My observations of Matthew's burgeoning curiosity after we stopped working through curriculum was like a shock wave through my system.  I had forgotten how curious he used to be, how prone to thought he was.  This was my naturally curious, philosophical little boy with a zillion things going on in his oh-so-sensitive heart and mind at any given time.  What had I done to him by thrusting traditional curriculum on him - it seemed as if the only thing I did was to stifle that natural curiosity.

I hadn't even noticed that he'd stopped asking questions, stopped being curious, until after we'd dropped the curriculum and just started living life.  That forced me into hindsight-is-20-20 kind of thinking and I could see clearly, all of the sudden, that he'd been growing quieter and quieter in the past year or two as it concerned his naturally curious nature.  Then, after we stopped doing school in spring as a result of my frustrated efforts, and while we were still on a break, suddenly one day he just said out of the blue that he'd been wanting to learn more about Aboriginal people for years (who knew) and asked if we could do some reading up on the subject.  So we did.  This wasn't on any curriculum that I knew of, for grade 3 students, but he (and Seth and Lizzie) sure learned a lot, and our study of the Inuit led to learning about the Arctic and about polar animals, etc etc.  It was amazing!  We never did go back to our regular curriculum after that.

That experience was my wake-up call...the one I'd been suspecting was lingering in the back of my mind for many months already but one that was too scary to dig too far into until that day of the returning curiosity.

And so I have spent the summer contemplating our schooling system and asking myself what this is all about anyway.

What is schooling about?  What is its goal?

I'm sure there are as many thoughts about this as there are people with children to school!  My personal perspective is that schooling is (or should be, if it's not) about learning how to live life and about preparing for adulthood.

I have thought about those two statements as I have pondered what our schooling should be about.

Learning how to live life, and preparing for adulthood.

Thinking about these factors led me to thinking through, at a broad level and at a specific level, the hopes/dreams/objectives I have for my kids by the time they reach adulthood, and about how I think our schooling in these early years can be oriented towards achieving those hopes/dreams/objectives.  Those big questions just haven't gone away.

I'll just note first, however, that although I'm talking about my dreams for my children, I'm in no way attempting to live vicariously through them!  I don't need to live through their lives; I've got my own life to live, have my own dreams and hopes and objectives, thank you very much!  When I talk about my dreams for my children's future, I'm talking about what I believe to be in their best interests...because it's my job as their parent to know them well enough to know what they need, and to understand the world well enough to know what my kids will need to know and what they will need to understand in order to lead life as an adult.

In other words, it's our jobs as their parents to teach them how to live life, and to prepare them for adulthood.

It's our job as their parents to provide the environment in which they can mature as emergent, adaptive, integrated adults.

So, let's get down to brass tacks...what are those hopes/dreams/objectives that we have for our kids?

Big post coming tomorrow.

(to be continued)


  1. Ruth, you are certainly providing many of us much to think about.
    As someone who has chosen to educate other people's children for a living, I know that I regularly go through a heavy period of reflecting on whether I am or am not helping these young minds gain what they need for the future. Many, if not most, of the students that come through my class will not choose formal schooling beyond high school and are likely to face many challenges as they complete what schooling they do from the day they first walk in to a school.
    I think that any of us who choose to teach children, whether in a formal school setting or a home setting feel that we must meet some sort of guidelines that are either set for us or self-imposed. Some of us face both. I don't think it is wrong to use these goals as a guide for educating little minds. But to me the sign of a good educator is that the reflection DOES happen. I guess what we have to decide is HOW we meet these guidelines. I am bound by the curriculum that my province dictates but while meeting those guidelines I have been somewhat of a rebel in some subjects. For many the thought of a "traditional" public school student not using a math textbook is absolutely unthinkable. Well, I have not "issued" my students math texts for many years because it just was not working for them. It complicated the concepts for them and turned math into something painful. I did this with 10-14 year olds. (This is my foray into "rebelhood", ooh, and choosing to be a single parent while teaching in a backwoods community where many are grandparents by the age I first became a parent in my thirties).
    Anyway, all this is to say that you are being a great teacher to those 3 cuties by reflecting with such passion on how to best teach their unique minds in order to give them the skills they will need both now and in the future. Well done!

    (Oops, I guess I'm a little chatty tonight. I guess that's what sleep deprivation does to me when both boys have rough nights on the same night.)

  2. Be chatty, by all means,, you certainly see how wordy I can be!!

    Love the rebel in you - and your strategies make perfect sense to me. Given that most of your students will not access formal schooling beyond high school, it seem like some of these bigger questions are all the more important.

    I think the inner rebel is something around which we bond,'re rather 'out there' in your oh-so-brave choice to be a single parent, in being an adoptive parent, in teaching in a backwoods community, etc (and wow on the whole grandparents-by-such-a-young-age thing!); and I'm a bit 'out there' in my being an adoptive parent, a h/schooling mom, and a Christian in a world seemingly opposed to CHristianity.

    Anyway, thanks for being here as usual, Ellen!