Monday, April 26, 2010

beyond "correct".... time to develop our gifts

what is the point of public school? really what is their goal? a seemingly "correct" answer is to educate our youth, right? okay, so everyday our children get up bright and early, much like a working adult does, whether they want to or not. They go to the school where they learn the prescribed curriculum, right? doesn't matter if their brain is ready for the prescribed information- they are going to learn it, because it is good for them, right? after all they are just little children, how will they know what is good for them unless we tell them? unless we make them learn the "correct" answers. we know best. we went to school, and we are just fine. and so we send them there, because that is where children go to learn.

And so day after day, our beautiful, naturally-gifted children get shipped of to a place to spend equal amounts of time in english, math, science, socials and physical education; Because they need to be forced to learn all the important things, and someone decided that the above subjects are the most important subjects. we as parents buy that. we buy that the system knows the "correct" information to teach; and the most effective way to teach it. We believe our children need to be taught. I think it's crap. And i'm going to tell you why.

This is part of our story:
My daughter started kindergarten with a home school program. now what i mean by "homeschool" is school at home. We had a teacher we met with every week or two; various workbooks containing the all important curriculum. She even attended a science class at the school. The school required that she do 4 pages of her workbook per day, that's not much, right? Well, it is if you're 5 years old and have better things to do than a boring workbook. A workbook that was largely full of stuff she already knew, and not full of anything you consider important or relevant to your life. Now many an adult would say, "who cares what she thinks? who cares if she doesn't want to do it? she needs to learn this stuff! and she needs to learn to do things she doesn't enjoy! How would she know what is best for her? She is a child." Part way through the frustration and power-struggle of that year i read about something called unschooling. everything i read about it felt awe-inspiring; it felt so natural. We returned the workbook to the school "incomplete", my daughter explained that the workbooks were boring. I trusted that she knew best.

That moment we started our unschooling adventure. Now this is going to sound shocking, but i'm not going to hold back. For "english" my daughters goal was to NOT learn how to read!! okay.... and so we enjoyed chapter books together. Interesting, glorious chapter books full of adventures that couldn't be told in the short books that would have been prescribed to teach her to read. For "math", i don't think there was a goal at all. For science?? well, she loves animals and nature, so she just kept on doing what she loved. Taking care of her cats, leopard gecko, fish, and hermit crabs. We explored the beach and tide pools, we spent time in nature. We loved nature videos, and explored a kids encyclopedia about the human body and how it works, to find answers to her questions about the body. Socials? She was drawn to learning about Africa, so we did. From this grew her concern for social injustice. We watched countless documentaries about social injustices and environmental concerns; documentaries that would never be shown in grade 1/2 in public school! PE? no problem! a 5/6 year old is naturally pretty physical!

What did all this naturally occurring learning do for her? for us? it gave her freedom and time! freedom to be the learning-being humans naturally are. and she learned!!! and everything she learned was interesting and relevant to her. We no longer had power-struggles over workbooks. We had friendship, and enjoyable time together. Our learning consultant assessed her learning in science and socials to be at a grade 7 level!! no wonder K-curriculum was "boring".... and i don't think she is a genius, or unusually "smart". I believe she is the norm.
Okay, so even without a curriculum we covered a lot of the "core" subjects; but even more importantly, she had all the TIME in the world to develop her natural gifts and talents.

She is an instinctual and gifted photographer, she won 14 1st place prizes for her photography at 8 yo!! She is a passionate dancer, and is in her third year of dance. She plans on continuing in dance school right through graduation so that she can teach dance. She can design and sew clothing and pillows, without a pattern, and without instruction! She designs some of the most beautiful jewelry I have ever seen; and is now selling it online and plans to sell it at the farmer's market through this summer!! She is empathetic, and gives an amazing massage, and is learning reflexology!! She is a confident, gifted, happy girl; and I believe that she is not extra-ordinary; i believe that she is the norm. Only she has been given the gift of freedom to develop her passions; to channel her energy into whatever she wants.

Can you imagine? We have a school system full of gifted, talented children, who are having their time and freedom stolen from them so they can all learn the same information. So they can have the "correct" answers and the "correct" knowledge. How many artist, dancers, photographers, carpenters, mechanics, chefs, farmers, gardeners, designers do we have locked away in school? wasting their valuable time, wasting their inherent curiosity; learning that the teacher is the keeper of all the important knowledge; that they must learn what the teacher teaches before they can be successful; before they can pursue their passions. That their curiosity can wait.... in fact, so can their hungry tummy, and their need to use the restroom. Learning that they must be "taught"; not that they are designed to learn.

Reading and writing became relevant to my daughter's life this year- she is 9 years old. This would be obscene in the school system; she would be labeled with ADD or dyslexia, or any number of "learning disabilities". I would have been told that she needed to "work harder" or that she needed after school tutoring. I would have been reminded of the lie that children must learn to read as young as possible or they may never learn. I may have been to to medicate her. They may have infected me with unnecessary worry and doubt; they may have infected my daughter with self-doubt and false beliefs about her abilities.
She has learned to read the same way she learned to walk. Naturally, organically, and largely by herself. I was there to support her, to answer her questions, to find books with her that looked interesting; to encourage her. Often, my answer to her questions have been "What do you think?" She would think, she would guess, she would tentatively answer.... and I would nod and smile as encouragingly as i could. Her answers and guesses have not always been "correct", but she has found her way. She gained something else from learning to read by herself; she owns this accomplishment!! It was a huge challenge for her, and SHE did it. SHE gets the credit, I do not get the credit; some teacher does not get the credit for being the "keeper" of the knowledge, the "impart-er" of skills.
Similar things have happened with math. Money has made math relevant. Sewing, beading, and cooking all require math skills. She does know math, almost instinctively. And it's amazing!

so what do you think? What are your gifts and talents? what things did you have to wait until graduation to have time and freedom to learn? what have you learned by yourself? what have you learned that is beyond "correct"?

1 comment:

  1. I saw your link on the Facebook unschooling page and I agree with you wholeheartedly!