A Teacher-led, Classroom-style of Instruction is NOT the Only Option

Curiosity got the better of me when this article popped up recently in the Facebook newsfeed for our blog’s page. I clicked on it.  What sort of facts about homeschooling was the author going to share with parents whose children are dyslexic?

I read the first line, and I could feel my eyes dull.  I muttered, “Really?”  Now it was sheer morbid curiosity – the kind you get when you have to drive by an automobile crash – that kept me going.

Before I say anything else, I’m going to offer a disclaimer here:  I cannot tell you that what I’ve done with my kids is what’s best for you and your children.  I work with (and around) my oldest daughter’s own unique blend of dyslexia, inattentive ADD, poor working memory, and slow processing speed.  What that looks like in her probably isn’t what something similar looks like in your child.  I might have made some different decisions if Erica’s issues presented differently.  So, please keep those in mind as you read.  All I can ask of my readers is that you open your minds to the possibilities that exist outside of classroom-style K-12 education.

So, the first line… the very first line… It says, “Homeschooling has emerged as a viable choice for many families.  Homeschooling may also be an option for a child with dyslexia (italics are theirs).”  What do they mean, “Homeschooling may also be an option for a child with dyslexia”?  It may be?  Why wouldn’t it be?

Continuing right along, the author states that, “One challenge is the relationship between teacher-parent and student-child.”  That is only a challenge if you are seeking to duplicate the classroom-style, authority-directed view of education at home.  The thing is, though, that’s not the only way of homeschooling.  So if, on the other hand, you opt out of that, there’s no challenge.  If you, as a parent, look at your role as that of a facilitator, a guide, and a mentor for your child, there’s no challenge.  

I can assure you that the only times I have ever butted heads with my kids about homeschooling is when have unilaterally decided that there is something that they need to know, and I have gone about trying to teach that something to disinterested, unwilling children.  Those times have been few and far between, and all occurred relatively early on in my homeschooling journey before I gave myself permission to dump what doesn’t work with this crew in favor of what does.

According to the article, “… the parent is required to maintain a supportive, yet disciplined approach.” Supportive, yes.  But disciplined?  That’s absurd.  There is no such requirement. That’s a personal choice that should be based on what you believe about education, the role of the student, and the role of the teacher.

There have been times that have been more structured or disciplined in my family’s homeschool than others. One year, we did an academic co-op with three other families.  My kids decided that the group wasn’t learning what they wanted to be able to devote more of their personal study time to, so we did not continue with the co-op in the following school year.  While we participated, all three of my kids did what was required of them.

This year, Erica has decided that she wants a more schoolish experience at home this year, so I am accommodating her wishes.  In general, my role is as a facilitator, a guide, a mentor, or even a fellow learner, and none of those require any “disciplined approach”.

Following this “supportive, yet disciplined approach,” the authors contend that parents who wish to homeschool their children will find that, “Knowing what to teach, the sequence of instruction, and the use of valid instructional methods…” will be a difficult, time consuming task that takes an extensive amount of research and specialized training.  Again, that may be true if you are looking to duplicate the classroom-style, authority-directed view of education at home.  Otherwise, it’s utter rubbish.  I don’t need to know what to teach. My kids are perfectly capable of figuring out what they want to learn about.

While some things do indeed require that the information be presented in a sequential manner, a surprising amount of learning can take place out of order.  For example, at six, Jillian was very interested in family genealogy and history.  I read part of an adult non-fiction book about one of our ancestors, called Here I Shall Die Ashore, to her.  While I read, she interrupted me and asked questions when we came across something she wanted to learn more about.  

Then, together the next day, we researched it.  I utilized Google Earth several times to point out locations.  We watched a hurricane on YouTube.  We looked at pictures of cahow birds and wild boars.  We researched St. Elmo’s Fire (not the movie).  We looked up information about the British monarchy in-between the 1100s and the 1600s.  Nothing about that process has been sequential, or even close to what a “normal” first grader would learn in school.  My point is that it doesn’t have to be because I believe that what my kids want to learn is valuable and should be supported.

While the authors state that, “The parent needs to become highly trained in the areas of language and reading or find expert resources that can provide a framework for a systematic approach appropriate for the needs of the child,” I can’t bring myself to completely agree or disagree with that statement.  I myself am neither highly trained in areas of language or reading, nor have I utilized any expert resources to “… provide a framework for a systematic approach appropriate for the needs of (my dyslexic child).”  In the statement from the article, the word “needs” is being used from an authority-directed perspective; someone else gets to choose for the student what their needs are.  In my homeschool,my children get to choose for themselves what their needs are.

Somehow along the way, with very little direct instruction, Erica learned how to read well enough to meet her current needs and desires. Is she a good reader?  Not if you compare her with neuro-typical kids her age.  Is she a fluent reader?  Again, not if you compare her with neuro-typical kids her age. I’m not opposed to remediation of reading skills; I’m opposed to forcing Erica to do it.  She knows which skills she needs and how good she needs to be with each one in order to meet her own needs.  When she finds herself lacking, she will speak up and we will figure out then what we need to do in order to bring her skills up to par.  We’d do that with any skill.  She’ll need to know how to do that because the course of life will be constantly bringing new or deeper interests into her life that will require her to adapt or acquire new knowledge or skills.

The author goes on to discuss several of the benefits of homeschooling, includes some recommendations for getting started, and concludes the article by asking, “What are some examples of the kind of instruction I should provide?”  The examples he gives are examples of, again, a classroom-style, authority-directed view of education, and that is not the only way of doing things.

 

You Don’t Have to Fear the Teen Years…and Here’s Why

You Don’t Have to Fear the Teen Years…and Here’s Why

I still fit,” he says, in his 18-year-old man voice, as he sits his 180-pound man body on his mother’s lap and draws his knees to compact himself into a ball.  

She’s squished, but she smiles anyway…enjoying the last few years she has with her boy before another woman will eventually replace her as Number 1 in his heart.  She rubs his back, remembering when it was smaller than the palm of her hand, and wonders how it went so fast.

Later, that 18-year-old young man grabs his phone, his wallet, and his keys.  He’s heading out to a movie with some friends.  He pauses to give his mother a kiss on the cheek and tell her, “Love you most, Mom.”

She smiles and shakes her head.  “Not possible,” she says.

As he’s leaving, he winks and replies, “Oh, but it is.”  

Another evening, that 18-year-old and his 15-year-old sister are talking with their mother in the kitchen.  He’s got his phone out, perusing for what the kids apparently call “dank memes” these days.  (For those uninitiated in teen slang, that apparently means “a meme that is really cool”.)  As he finds one that makes him laugh out loud, he shows it to his sister…and then his mother, whose own sense of humor is a little warped as well.

While they’re talking about everything and nothing, the 15-year-old reveals that she has realized the three people she talks the most to are her mother, her big brother, and one particular friend of hers.

The mother smiles, thinking to herself, it’s everything I’ve worked for with these kids every single day of their lives.  She stays up late talking with her teenagers, figuring there will be plenty of time for sleep when her kids are grown and the house is too quiet.

She remembers all of the warnings she received from other parents when her teenagers were small.  When they were little and they climbed into her lap and clung to her legs.  When they were little and they chattered endlessly about everything.  When they were little and they wanted her complete attention.  When they were little and they thought the sun rose and set around their mother.   

Just wait until they’re teenagers, these other people prophesied.  They’ll shrink away from your touch.  They’ll answer you with grunts and one or two word replies if at all.  They’ll never want to spend any time with you because parents are embarrassing.  

The future looked bleak.  The forecast was grim.  These loving relationships this mother had with her two small children were going to crumble.  These two sweet little children were going to morph into dreaded teenagers.

Teenagers are rude.  Teenagers are sullen and withdrawn.  Teenagers are disrespectful.  Teenagers don’t like their parents. Teenagers are selfish.  Teenagers are irresponsible.

This mother remembers all of these dismal predictions awaiting her once her children turned into teenagers, and she smiles.  Inwardly, to borrow some of her teens’ slang, she shouts, In your face, people!  

Because not a single one of those dismal predictions came true for this mother.

And I know because I am that mother.  

That 18-year-old is my son, and that 15-year-old is my oldest daughter.

I held my breath when Jarrod turned 13, then 14, then 15…I was still waiting for my sweet boy to transform into the rude, sullen, withdrawn, disrespectful, irresponsible spawn of the devil that I’d been warned to expect him to become.  

When he turned 16, Erica turned 13.  I held my breath again, wondering if Jarrod had just been an anomaly.  She turned 14, and then 15.  

I’ve stopped waiting; it isn’t going to happen.  And I don’t even worry about it with Jillian.  She’s going to be every bit as awesome once she hits her teens as her siblings have been.

Now, it isn’t all sunshine and roses around my house.  My teenagers aren’t perfect, and I don’t expect them to be.  I’m not perfect.  My teenagers aren’t perfect, but they are darned good.  Far from being rude, sullen, withdrawn, disrespectful, or irresponsible, my teenagers are generally kind, happy, engaged, respectful, and responsible.

I have found the teen years utterly delightful.  I get a lot of raised eyebrows from other people when I say that, but it’s true.  The teen years have been my favorite stage.  And it’s not just my own teenagers I enjoy.  Over the last five years, we’ve had a lot of teens in and out of our house.  My teens’ friends are all terrific young people, too.

It’s past time to challenge the prevailing narrative on teenagers.  Stop vilifying them, and start looking for and acknowledging all of the truly wonderful things teens bring to the table.  

 

I do that by not repeating the dark and dire predictions about the teen years to parents of small children.  Teenagers are not predestined to be rude, sullen, withdrawn, angry, disrespectful, selfish, or irresponsible.  Instead, I tell them about how terrific all the teenagers in my life are.  

I tell these parents to invest heavily in their small children now – and not to stop.  I think my teenagers and many of their friends would agree with the assessment that I have poured my heart and soul into them.  It’s purposeful on my part.

I can’t promise you that you’ll end up with your man-child still happily sitting in your lap and telling you that he still fits.  

I can’t promise you that your teenage daughter will trust your opinions, value your advice, and confide in you like she confides in her best friends.

I can’t promise you that your teenagers will seek to spend time with you.  

I can’t promise you that you and your teenagers will argue about who loves whom more.  

But what I can promise is that there are things you can do to maximize the odds of having great relationships with them.

I’ll be sharing my top tips for precisely what to do to maximize the odds of having great relationships with your teens in an upcoming post.  If you want to make sure you don’t miss that post, please Click Here to Subscribe!

In the meantime, take heart in knowing that the stereotype of teenagers as rude, sullen, withdrawn, and disrespectful is just that: a stereotype….and a bad one, at that.

5 Bits Of Wisdom I Shared With My Son As He Considers His Future

5 Bits Of Wisdom I Shared With My Son As He Considers His Future

You’re 18 years old now, and you have some big decisions to make.

I don’t worry about you making those big decisions, though.  You’ve had lots of practice over the years making decisions that matter all on your own.  

It’s not going to be such a big, scary world out there because you’ve already been living in it.  

You’ve dealt with the shock of what taxes do to your paycheck.  You’ve traveled to different parts of the country on your own for your various extra-curricular activities.  You’ve traveled and stayed overnight on your own for work.  You’ve learned how to lead and manage other people.  You know how to do laundry, run a vacuum, and cook a terrific roast.  

No, I don’t worry about you.

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I have noticed that you seem to be dragging your feet a little on getting those big decisions made, though.  Sometimes I really miss the little boy you were, and I wouldn’t mind having him stick around.  I love, respect, and admire the young man you’ve grown up to be, though, and I know soon it will be time for you to go.  The world is at your feet right now.  You have so many options.  These are exciting times for you.

Maybe having so many options is making things harder for you.  When I was your age, I didn’t have as many big decisions to make. 

Going to college was just what you did as a middle-class teenager after high school graduation.  

It was the next box on the checklist of steps to take for a successful life.  I only had to decide whether to venture far from home and attend the University of Hawaii or stick closer to home and attend the University of Washington.

But you…you have other options available.  Each one has its own set of pros and cons.  Each one will alter the trajectory of your life.

I have opinions about what I’d probably do in your shoes.  I have opinions as your mother about what I wish you’d do, for entirely selfish reasons.  But, you’re a grown man.  Fully capable of making his own decisions.  

I’m not going to tell you what to do.  Instead, I’d like to give you five things to think about as you’re coming up against deadlines and graduation looms closer.

Be courageous and decisive.  

Don’t make your choice by default.  Recognize that not making a decision is, in fact, making a decision.  But it’s cowardly.  You’re drifting instead of charting.  Too many people whine about not knowing what to do when they really mean they don’t want to accept either the responsibility for or the consequences of making a firm decision.

You missed the registration deadline for the ACT because you didn’t feel like making a decision about it.  The registration deadline for the SAT and for applying to Hillsdale are both coming up quickly.  Either commit to staying on top of them, or make a conscious choice to eliminate them as options.

 

Life and other people will push you around if you let them.  You’ll find yourself at the mercy of what other people think is important for you to do rather than what you think is important for you to do.

Think about “future you” and what “future you” will want.  

Do you want a wife?  Do you want children of your own someday?  Do you want a wife who wants to stay home with your kids?  How much freedom and flexibility do you want to be able to have to spend with your family?  Do you want to be able to get home easily for the big events in the lives of your sisters?  Do you want a career that rewards honor, commitment, courage, and integrity or one that challenges your ability to remain faithful to those values?  

That’s not an exhaustive list of questions to consider, but it’s a good place to start.  If a strong marriage is important to you, you need to be aware that certain careers have higher divorce rates than others.  If being able to do more than just provide financially for a family is important to you, you need to be aware that certain careers are more family-friendly than others.  If remaining a godly man is important to you, you need to remember that certain careers will do a better job of supporting you in that than others.

Basically, don’t begin designing a life now that isn’t actually in alignment with what you know is going to be important to you at the end of your life.

Employ the KonMari Method.   

The KonMari Method is most commonly associated with decluttering a home, but it can be equally applicable decluttering a mind.  You gather items by category, rather than going drawer by drawer or room by room, and you hold each thing.  As you’re holding it, you ask yourself if this item gives you joy.

So, take all of the options you’re considering for your immediate future and “hold” them.  Breathe them in, feel them.  Create mental masterpieces of the life that each option may bring you, as vivid as your sister’s paintings.  

 

Put them on and take notice.  Where do things pinch?  What doesn’t seem to suit you so well?  What fits like it was tailor-made just for you? Do you feel peace and joy?  Do you love this?

Become an Essentialist.

Living an authentic life means that you must deliberately and consciously eliminate things that are not essential to you.  In the process, you’ll cut out the obvious drains, but you’ll also have to confront and make courageous decisions about “good” opportunities as well.

Greg McKeown defines essentialism in his book of the same name as “…a discipline you apply each and every time you are faced with a decision about whether to say yes or to politely decline.  It’s a method for making the tough trade-off between lots of good things and a few really great things…We can’t have it all or do it all…Once we accept the reality of trade-offs we stop asking, ‘How can I make it all work?’ and start asking the more honest question, ‘Which problem do I want to solve?’”

You’ve heard me say you can’t have it all, all at the same time, and do it all well a few times over the years.  You simply cannot make all of the options available to you right now work all at the same time.

By focusing your attention on which problem you want to solve, you shift your focus away from what is great or appealing about of the available options.  Instead, you can evaluate all of those great and appealing options against how well they solve the problem you want to solve.  The beauty of that shift is that it will work effectively to filter out some of the options you’ve been clinging to because they sound great and appealing.

What could be your biggest point of contribution?  

Which people’s plights move you?  What causes seem to compel you to action?  

I know that you have a huge soft spot for veterans, for example, but it could be anything to stirs you.  What kinds of problems are plaguing American veterans?  Where and how are their needs already being met, versus where are the cracks people are falling through?  What you’d need to do is find a way to solve those problems or meet those needs.  

Consider your strengths and weaknesses.  Which of your strengths can be leveraged to meet the needs or solve the problems of American veterans?  How can you mitigate, accommodate, or delegate your weaknesses so that they don’t get in the way of solving those problems?

If you can effectively solve problems for other people, you will never be without a job.  You’ll never have to worry about being financially secure.  When you can effectively solve problems for a cause or other people that inspire you in ways that energize you, you’ll find lasting purpose and fulfillment.  You can build a legacy that will keep blessing the people you care about long after you’re not around anymore to do it yourself.

I’ve thought since you were a very small boy that there was something special about you – an intangible quality that is remarkable.  I’ve been convinced all of those years that you were destined for great things.  Now, my little boy isn’t so little anymore…and he’s poised to go out and do those things.

No matter what you choose to do with these big decisions you’re facing, know that I am proud of you, and in the immortal words of one of our favorite children’s books, “I’ll love you forever, like you for always…”  Go get ‘em!

This advice wouldn’t have been possible without extensive cost-benefit research into the value of the high-school-to-college track that many teenagers get funneled onto simply because that’s what’s always been done.  I’ve compiled a resource list of the 30 blog posts and articles I found most informative in the process.  If you’re wondering whether or not college is the best choice for your child, this resource list will give you a different perspective.
Click Here to Claim Your Free Resource List of 30 Posts Challenging the Need for College

A “No Drama” Manifesto for Homeschool Groups

A “No Drama” Manifesto for Homeschool Groups

I’ve lost count of the number of different homeschool groups I have been a part of over the past 13 years. Christian groups and secular groups.  Groups that only meet for a park playdate, and groups that offer co-ops and field trips.  The one constant among all of the different groups I’ve participated in is drama.  No group seems immune.

It’s been about two months now that my small, intimate homeschool group has been meeting at the park weekly and doing field trips together.  It’s too soon to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done warding off drama, though.  I know it’s out there, lurking. Waiting to see what we do with it.

People you care about are going to hurt you.  People your kids care about are going to hurt them.  You are going to hurt people you care about.  Your kids are going to hurt people they care about.  It’s gonna happen.  It can be an ugly thing – bruising feelings, shattering friendships, and splintering groups if it’s handled poorly.  Handled well, it strengthens and reaffirms relationships, though.

So, here’s my proposal for keeping our little no-name, no-rules group from succumbing to drama.  I know this works, because I’ve used it successfully to dispel the inevitable drama in a co-op my family was involved in a few years ago.

(feel free to steal it and use it with your groups!)

Sonnet, Cathy, Paula, and Crystal, I promise to assume the best in each of you…and in your kids.

I ask that you assume the best in me…and in my kid.

I promise to come directly to you if I have a problem with you or it looks like our kids are having problems they can’t handle on their own.

I ask that you come directly to me if you have a problem with me or it looks like our kids are having problems they can’t handle on their own.

I promise to be approachable.  I don’t believe I’m perfect or my kid is perfect, that neither of us would ever say or do something that hurts someone else’s feelings. 

I ask that you be approachable, and don’t pretend you’re perfect or your kids are perfect, that neither of you would ever say or do something that hurts someone else’s feelings. 

I promise I will listen, believing that you are assuming the best in me or my kid, and try not to react defensively.

I ask that you listen, knowing that I am assuming the best in you or your kids, and try not to react defensively.

I promise that while we’re trying to resolve the problem, I won’t just be concerned about my feelings or my kid’s feelings.  Your feelings or your kids’ feelings will matter to me, too.

I ask that while we’re trying to resolve the problem, you won’t just be concerned about your feelings or your kids’ feelings.  My feelings or my kid’s feelings will matter to you, too.

I promise I will extend grace and forgiveness to you and your kids.

I ask that you extend grace and forgiveness to me and my kid.

I promise that once we’ve resolved the problem, it’s done and over with.

I ask that once we’ve resolved the problem, it’s done and over with for you as well.

When the drama comes – and it will at some point – we’ll be prepared.  It’ll find it’s not welcome in our small, tight-knit group.  When we assume the best in each other, when we’re approachable, and when everyone’s feelings matter to all of us, drama won’t destroy our friendships and fracture our group.

To School Or Not To School: Why It Is A Question

To School Or Not To School: Why It Is A Question

I’ll come right out and say it: it was sheer morbid curiosity that led me to click on and read Brigitte Mah’s “To School or Not to School: Why Is It a Question?”

I already knew what I was going to get.  Ignorance about what unschooling is and what unschooled kids are actually like.  Contempt and hostility toward unschooling from someone who doesn’t actually understand what she holds in such contempt.  

I wasn’t disappointed.

That said, I’ll answer her question.  I’ll tell you why I believe that to school or not to school is a legitimate question that everyone should be asking.

But first, since I linked to her article and I will be quoting from it, let’s clear up six myths about unschooling that Mah is perpetuating.

Unschooling Means an Absence of Formal Learning

According to Mah, “…unschooling is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s removing your child from any part of the institution of formal learning, and that includes sitting down and learning at home.”

That’s a common misperception of unschooling.  It’s also simplistic, completely missing the boat on the philosophy of education that guides intentional unschooling.

Unschooling isn’t necessarily removing a child from any part of the institution of formal learning.  Lots of unschooled children, including my own at various points in time over the past 13 years, have taken formal, academic classes.  Erica is taking an art class at a big homeschool co-op this year.  Jarrod is taking an algebra class from The Great Courses and will be starting an English Composition class from ASU’s Global Freshman Academy next week.

Additionally, unschooling a child doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never do any sit-down and learn at home.  Jillian does stuff that looks a lot like school at home several times a week.  We’re working on reading, and she’s learning cursive.  She’s ¾ of the way through a Right Start Mathematics book.  She also works diligently on Touch Type Read and Spell.  She does those things when she wants to and doesn’t do them when she doesn’t want to.  Either choice is equally acceptable to me.

Unschooling recognizes that an education shouldn’t be something that one person, regardless of good intent, in a position of authority does to another person who has no power to resist or escape.  What unschooling does is restore freedom and autonomy to a child, allowing that child to continue learning the way he did before he reached school age and how he will have to learn as an adult.

Unschooled Kids Just Watch TV or Play All Day

“What does your kid do all day, if he or she isn’t learning to read, write, and do math?  Ski?  Watch TV?  Yes and yes.  That’s exactly what happens.  No lessons.  No structure.  Kids can do whatever they want with their days,” Mah insists.

Here, Mah makes four assumptions about education in general and unschooling in particular that are patently untrue:

Mah assumes schooling or schoolwork and learning are the same thing.  Most adults need not look further than their own experiences with institutionalized education to debunk this assumption.  How much of what you supposedly learned in your own K-12 years do you actually use?  Even more damning, how much do you even remember?

Mah assumes the only way kids will learn reading, writing, or math is by sitting in a classroom, led by an authority figure. I learned to read before I’d ever crossed the threshold of a classroom.  Jillian figured out that 3 + 3 + 3 + 1 = 10 well before she was school aged and without any direct instruction.  I gave Jarrod a book and he taught himself how to read and write cursive after he discovered, to his annoyance (because he couldn’t yet read or write in cursive), the Spiderwick Chronicles Book of Monsters was written in cursive.  

Mah assumes children will not choose to pursue worthwhile knowledge on their own, without being assigned prescribed lessons and coerced somehow into doing it. It may be true that, after a few years of having an authority figure spoon (or force) feed them information they neither wanted nor needed right then, kids in school will not choose to pursue worthwhile (or academic) knowledge on their own.  When kids have the freedom and the autonomy to pursue the knowledge or skills they have recognized as useful, beneficial, or desirable, they will.  The information or skills they choose to pursue may not – oftentimes won’t – look like what people like Mah would deem acceptable, though.

Mah assumes unschooling means no lessons, no structure, and no schedule.  Lots of unschooled kids have lessons, structure, and schedules.  They just adopt those lessons, structure, and schedules purposefully, rather than having them imposed upon them arbitrarily by someone else.  The lessons, structure, and schedules of unschooled children will not resemble the standardized lessons, rigid structure, and odd schedules that children in school must be conditioned to accept.

Unschooled Kids Won’t Fare Well in the Real World

In one paragraph, Mah acknowledges a study that recounts the extraordinary successes of unschooled children.  In the next, she dismisses that success because it doesn’t look like the success she envisions as the best sort.

She “worries” about how unschooled kids will do once they’re out in the “real world”.  What she fails to appreciate is unschooled children spend their entire lives in the “real world”, rather than being sequestered from the rest of the “real world” inside of classroom walls with a group of same-age peers and adult overseers.

Unschooling Empowers Children too Much

“I worry,” Mah writes, “because while unschooling may have its place in your family dynamics, does giving so much empowerment to kids set them up for failure in the real world?”

Mah has it backward.  Warehousing children inside of institutions of education, herding them as groups from one class to another and one grade level to the next, giving lip service to student engagement, while you treat them like Pavlovian dogs whose days are programmed with bells and demand they ask permission before doing something as basic as using the bathroom, sets children up for failure in the real world.

Unschooled children, on the other hand, get lots of practicing with making increasingly significant decisions about the direction of their lives under the guidance of their parents.  

Unschooled Kids Won’t Learn to Follow Orders

“How will someone who has never had to take orders do in a dog-eat-dog employment world where anyone can be replaced at any time?” Mah wonders.

It’s a fallacy that unschooled kids never find themselves in situations where they must take direction or orders from an authority figure. A school is not the only place a child goes that will have rules, regulations, and authority figures.  Think: sports and clubs.  My teenagers have been heavily involved with the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps, where it’s all about the chain of command and learning to follow before learning to lead, for six years.

AND WE’VE MADE IT…

…to the place where I can tell you why to school or not to school is a legitimate question.

In her conclusion, Mah declares, “I’m putting my faith in an institution that will give her a variety of personalities to cooperate with, learn from, and interact with.  And at the end of the day, if I am not happy with what or how she’s learning at school, I can, as her parent, take it upon myself in the evenings and on weekends to help her learn.”

I wholeheartedly support her right to make that particular choice on behalf of her own child.  I could not, however, disagree more with that course of action.  In fact, I question the sanity of any parent who would allow her child to remain in school where she is “not happy with what or how she’s learning”.  

To school or not to school is a question because unschoolers don’t share her faith in institutionalized, compulsory schooling.  We won’t place our faith in an institution that:

  • Dehumanizes children, taking what should be a unique and deeply personal endeavor and twists it into a one-size-(doesn’t)-fit-all debacle
  • Strains the bonds of families, making the parents act as agents of the schools long after the school day is over
  • Isolates children from life outside the classroom walls
  • Works against human nature and everything we know about how people actually learn
  • Denies children the basic civil liberties we take for granted as adults and would never tolerate having stripped from us in adulthood

And once we get to homeschooling, to school or not to school is a question in the minds of unschoolers because the foundational beliefs of unschoolers about education are incompatible with authority-directed, compulsory schooling – even if that authority is mom or dad and the schooling is happening at home.

To school or not to school is a question because unschoolers have rejected the assembly line style of education that churns out obedient little worker bees, in favor of allowing our children to pursue something more personally meaningful and authentic. Unschoolers strive to create rich lives for ourselves that transcend the cog-in-a-wheel model of employment that schools spend years conditioning children to accept as both normal and inevitable.

That model was intentionally replicated here in America by giants of the Industrial Revolution, with the express purpose of filling those assembly line jobs “where anyone can be replaced at any time.”  In the Information Age, it’s also failing our nation’s children at alarming rates.  

So rather than summarily dismissing that which she doesn’t understand, Mah and others like her should be holding their own beliefs about education up to scrutiny.  Maybe stake out the position of devil’s advocate and ask that same question – to school or not to school – of institutionalized education.

 

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Get In The Damn Photo!

Get In The Damn Photo!

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know all of your excuses…because I’ve used them all too.  We hate the way we look in photos.  We think we look too fat.  We hate that double chin or the acne we shouldn’t still have as adults.  Blah, blah, blah.  So, we hide behind the camera.  We’re the ones taking the pictures.

But what if I told you that it was long past time for the excuses to stop and for you to get in the damn photo? What if I told you the people you love so much, the ones who you’re always taking pictures of, wanted you in the picture too?  What if, by stubbornly refusing to step in front of the camera, you’re depriving the people who love you of an opportunity to capture memories with you that they can keep?

This past weekend, Erica had her best friend, K, from when they were little girls over to spend the night.  I call K my “Fourth Child” because for the years the girls were young, it seemed like she was at my house almost as much as she was at hers, and I grew very quickly to love her like she’s mine.  

In the evening, Erica and K had tubes of lipstick, eyeliners, mascaras, etc and spent a bunch of time glamming up in the bathroom and taking selfies.  I stopped in the doorway to enjoy the joy and the giggles of the two girls.  Then K turned her phone toward me.  

And I ducked back behind the door.  I did it instinctively.  I’d just gotten out of the shower and was already in my jams.  My hair was still wet.  I didn’t have any make-up on at all.  Basically, I looked like %$#^&*, especially next to my two gorgeous teens, and I didn’t want to be in the damn photo.  

K protested immediately.  She complained that she didn’t have any pictures with me (which isn’t entirely true because Erica took one of us a year ago in the summer).  But that simple protest touched something in me. This child loves me and wanted a picture of us together.  That’s a gift…one that I was not appreciating.  

So I stepped out from behind the door.  I smiled for the damn photo.  I inspected it on her screen, and cringed inwardly at all the flaws saw in my own image.  But guess what K did?  She didn’t pay any attention to any of the things that drove me to duck behind the door to begin with.  No, instead she posted it to Snapchat, with the caption, “I love my second mommy.”  My heart melted, and I was really glad that I didn’t let my wet hair, pasty face, or jams keep us both from having that memory.

Ladies, get in the damn photos with your kids!  They’ll want and cherish them.

 

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