November 5, 2013

Tear Down the Wall: And Learning Happens

Learning is important.  Academics are important.  Language skills are crucial to life.  Math is a language so that too is vital to our creative intellect and quality of life.  These things are part of our world and so are there to be explored, understood, pondered, questioned and absorbed with the assistance and guidance and support of others.  To compartmentalize and homogenize this process is like trapping the very essence of human nature by giant brick walls.


Sometimes my children help their schooled friends with projects or homework.  I don't mind and they always seem delighted to offer assistance.  Sometimes it's just fun, sometimes they help them finish up quicker so they can come outside sooner :)  Either way, I'm cool with it and the other parents haven't complained.

A few weeks ago my children helped their friend create a video project for school.  The girl was praised for the video.  A comment was passed sounding something to the effect of "...well they have all the time they want to learn video editing because they don't have to worry about school"  Hmm.  Yes, that's actually true.
Last Spring my son was shining during his baseball season.  At one of the games I heard a Mom behind me tell another Mom that "sure, he's doing great because he can practice all day if he wants, they homeschool."  Okay... and?
My other son's director was telling her cast parents that she promises to try and have rehearsals done by 7:30 PM.  I said that it was fine.  A Dad laughed and said "Sure, your kids don't have to get up for school in the morning".  Yes.  That's right.

It's interesting that these very natural, normal and healthy attributes of school-free living are considered strange.  We aren't strange.  We are simply more free.  You see, life is full of restrictions and limitations and boundaries.  The worst thing we do in today's world is lock these shackles onto our children intellectually, creatively and even physically, when they are young. 

We think that by sending them to school we help them "reach their full potential" but the truth is that we are hindering them.  We are putting their lives on a linear frequency when in fact life is not a straight line - life curves.  Nature curves.  Everything spirals and bends and ebbs and flows.  To force a human being to live this way is to restrict the very thing that makes us human.

We simply cannot reach our full potential unless we are free to do so.

Here is a specific example that I will use to punctuate this point:

Recently, my daughters friend asked for help writing a short scary story as a Halloween themed assignment.  J (my daughter) was asked to look over her friends first draft for potential spelling/grammar errors.  J did so and made several suggestions on wording and prose.  Together, they elaborated, expanded, collaborated and created a story that they were both happy with, and they had a great time.

Later, J told me that friend's Mom read it and became suspicious that friend plagiarized, so she pasted the story in a search.  Alas, it was indeed an original.   I'm not sure if friend told her Mom that J helped her, and ultimately it doesn't matter to J, but the point is that it was interesting to me that when something was done well, and the possibility that it was done as a collaborative effort,  it raised suspicion that it was "cheating" which really quashed all the fun the child was having writing a story with her friend. 

Sometimes when we enlist the help of other creative minds and ask for intellectual input, we expand our own potential and break our own walls down.  It's really a wonderful thing, not a bad thing, to combine efforts.  I dislike this schoolish idea that if help was used, it's somehow inauthentic.

As for the quality of the work raising suspicion, well the thing of it is that J does excel at creative writing.  I wouldn't say she is a genius, but as John Taylor Gatto stated "...genius is as common as dirt. We suppress genius because we haven't yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.” And that's just it.  J manages herself in her pursuit of creative writing. 

Please do not confuse this with the notion of radical unschooling.  I don't mean that I never actively taught her to write.  I did and do.  Communication is VITAL in our world, especially in today's social climate and good skills are so very scarce.  I have always made it a point to introduce my children to healthy writing skills and help them learn to develop and master the art of language, both written, oral and unspoken. 

We appreciate the mechanics of language as well as usage.  We read good literature and we write regularly.  The thing is however, I have never forced my children to learn these things.  I never had to.  I simply discuss the importance and we move along.  What they read, when they read, what they write and when they write is entirely up to them - but they read and they write.   So essentially, they do "manage themselves".   It is my role to introduce significant, healthy and beneficial skills and help them acquire,practice and master these skills, in whatever way(s) they need that help.  And this is different for every child and every family.  It is the Curve.

What is missing in school is this flexibility, allowance for self-management and FUN.   The children are locked into specific assignments, written in specifically standardized styles and within a limited time frame.  If they collaborate creatively to improve the quality of their work, they are punished and accused of cheating.   It's really very sad and not at all healthy or productive.  Which is why I continue to encourage Learning with a Curve... a natural flow of curiosity leading to healthy exploration and  intellectual stimulation.  Limitless... without boundaries... without walls.

Are home educated children smarter? Better? No.  They are just freer.

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