Conscience prodders

As I’ve written on our About page, we’re pretty eclectic in our approach to homeschooling.  There are many aspects of a variety of philosophies and approaches that appeal.   Naturally homeschooling is something of an extension to parenting and it is not a simple matter of divorcing your parenting style from your homeschooling style.

So every now and then, when I read something new or, like today, listen to a different perspective on how things can be my conscience gets a bit of a pricking.  It makes me question my assumptions and my choices.  This is totally uncomfortable and unpleasant.  In a good way.

Once pricked, I spend time assessing why I feel uncomfortable and thinking about what it is that is doing all that prodding.  Sometimes it is a no-brainer and I take on board the ideas I have read or heard.  Other times I partially agree, but can’t quite see how it would work in real life (in my home).  And then there are times where I may think an idea has merit but I can’t (yet) overcome my existing prejudices or set way of thinking and experiencing to embrace it.

Today I watched an interview (sort of) with Radical Unschooler, Dayna Martin.  It made me uncomfortable and prodded me in all sorts of places and ways.   I’m not really an unschooler, despite wishing to follow my children’s interests in order that the learning experience is self-motivated and fulfilling for them.  I want them to be intrinsically motivated to learn.  That was one of my initial motivations for choosing this lifestyle.

But like many people, I am taking a path that is new to me, and opposite to the way I was brought up and schooled.  It takes quite a bit of work on myself to stay even slightly near my parenting & schooling style goals.   Some days I feel something akin to a human metronome, swaying from my traditional upbringing and the prevailing bog standard parenting culture over to something closer to the attachment parenting/humanist world view that, when I stop and think about the sort of parent (and person) I want to be, is my preference.

I just wish that I could find someone to read or follow who has chosen a different path from their own upbringing, and doesn’t make the change sound like one day they woke up and were miraculously the sort of parent and teacher they wanted to be.

How about you?  Do you follow the conventional wisdom, or do you question it?  Are you your parent reincarnated, or have you consciously morphed into another type of parent?  (And was it easy, hard or still a work in progress?)



Classical Education

I’ve always been interested in the idea of my children coming to know the classical world and gaining an understanding of where our cultures originate from.  That is most probably down to the prehistorian/anthropologist in me.
So when this nice link to a pre-planned curriculum of classical education came across my Facebook groups (thanks to Darnia) I went along for a look.

I really liked the fact that so much of the basic legwork had been done for me.
I really appreciated that I wouldn’t necessarily need to go and hunt out good children’s versions of many classics.  In fact, looking through the book lists made me realise just how little I was aware of the children’s versions of stories and classical literature that I personally only first learned about when I was in my late teens as a university student.

I’m hooked.  As part of our eclectic learning style I am going to try and incorporate some of this into our days.  I don’t intend it to be onerous and I am hopeful that by making it relate to other things, like geography and the current Olympic games, that it will be taken on board and enjoyed by both Miss and Master Oh Waily*.

Have you looked into a Classical Education for your children?   If so, what appealed or what put you off?

* there is very little chance of reading to one without the other wanting to be involved, especially as there are activities to do with each piece of reading.

Changing Education Paradigms – Ken Robinson

I am a big fan of the TED talks over at YouTube, but sadly I don’t spend as much time watching them as I would like.  Then this past week a TED talk that showed great promise popped up on my Facebook feed from a homeschool group I have recently joined.

The talk is given by Sir Ken Robinson and has been animated by the RSA.  Apparently it is only twelve minutes out of an hour long talk, but it gets to the nub of the current educational situation in short order.  The animation is also very funky.

The only negative is that is seems to come to a very strange halt at the end and doesn’t describe any ideas for an alternative paradigm.  But I still want to share it with you because it sums up so many of the comments made by John Taylor Gatto around the institutional nature of the current school system.

Now I must go rummage around to see if the full hour long talk is also on YouTube.  If I find it, I will come back and post it here as an update.  I am ever hopeful that if I find the full talk it will have the missing part – how he thinks public education should look going forward.

I hope you enjoy it – it is called RSA Animation – Changing Education Paradigms.

The Importance of Play

Since beginning the process of investigating the advantages and disadvantages of choosing the home schooling option I have found myself reading more and more non-fiction work around different aspects of education.

I have just recently come across The Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning and have started to read my way through the articles it contains.  Today’s post is inspired by some interesting quotes taken from an article in the 2012 Vol. 6 Issue 12 journal.

The article is Letting the Child Work: Real Learning, Real Play in School, by Deb O’Rourke.

My interest was in the view of the importance of self-created and directed play to the growth of children and what it means to their future.

Play provides a psychological safety zone in which children can test their competence without fear of failure. (Hall, Dennis et al, 1968)

And how important is it that fear of failure is kept out of our children’s lives?  In my opinion, it makes the difference between a child becoming an adventurous and creative adult and one that relies on other people for guidance and ultimately gives up control of their lives.

Play functions as the major means by which children (a) develop intrinsic interests and competencies; (b) learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control, and follow rules; (c) learn to regulate their emotions; (d) make friends and learn to get along with others as equals; and (e) experience joy. Through all of these effects, play promotes mental health. (Gray, 2011, The decline of…, p. 443)

In other words, play is intrinsic to developing essential skills for a positive integration into the community and to becoming thoughtful adults who are able to best deal with life’s lumps and bumps.

Somehow, as a society, we have come to the conclusion that to protect children from danger and to educate them, we must deprive them of the very activity that makes them happiest and place them for ever more hours in settings where they are more or less continually directed and evaluated by adults, settings almost designed to produce anxiety and depression. (Gray, 2011, p. 458)

And this sounds very much like helicopter parenting.  I think we have a great deal to thank our overpowering media for with regards to the excessive doom and gloom that scares the living daylights out of us by exaggerating the inherent dangers of living in our society. (Note: I am not dismissing all dangers, simply that I believe the degree of reporting and depth of reporting gives us all to believe that behind every bush there lurks someone or something that is just waiting to prey on our children.)

Everywhere, to live in human society, people must behave in accordance with conscious, shared mental conceptions of what is appropriate; and that is what children practice constantly in their play. In play, from their own desires, children practice the art of being human. (Gray, 2008, p. 4).

Indeed, the freedom to play and integrate ideas through play, are amongst some of the stronger reasons for choosing to take the home school road.  I have no doubt that my children will learn to read and write, do mathematics, understand scientific principles and still get to have a childhood absolutely chock-a-block full of self-actualizing play time.  Hopefully they will be fearless and that they become the best people they can be, as well as being positive contributors to our society.  Lofty goals, but as Henry David Thoreau says,
“In the long run, men only hit what they aim at.”

Quote References:
Hall, Mr. Justice E. M., Dennis, L. A., et al (1968). Living and learning: the report of the provincial committee on aims and objectives of education in the schools of Ontario. Toronto: Ontario Department of Education.

Gray, Peter (Nov. 19, 2008). The value of play I: the definition of play provides clues as to its purposes. Psychology Today online.

Gray, Peter (2011). The decline of play and the rise of psychopathology in children and adolescents. American Journal of Play, Vol. 3 No. 4, Spring 2011, pp. 443-463.