Founders’ Wisdom

After a small hiatus, I’m back and ready to discuss any and every aspect of homeschooling. I know the election is on everyone’s mind now, so I’ll relate a few political tidbits to the education of your children.

John and Abigail Adams (and many of the other Founders) understood the importance of education in their children’s lives and their own responsibility to instill in them the virtues and values vital to the new nation’s success. John wrote about the proper education of youth: “It should be your care, therefore, and mine to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives”.

These excerpts are quoted from Newt Gingrich’s book, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters. Lest you stop reading now, let me state that Newt Gingrich is a very smart man but I haven’t agreed with everything he has said over the years!

John Adams also wrote- in a letter to Abigail Adams in 1780- why he supported the armed struggle for independence: “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain”. Wow, a spectacular thought; in today’s ‘twitter’ culture it seems harder to find.

It does give us plenty to think about as homeschooling parents, or as parents in general. Elevate their (and our) minds and they (and we) will rise to the occasion. And, what is the aforementioned occasion of which we speak? Knowledge which isn’t empty and that we use to help someone or something accomplish good and appreciate this world we share.

Coincidence

It sounds cliched but, the older I get, the less I believe in coincidental events. Call it the will of God, the power of the universe or whatever you choose. Events do not just happen- there’s usually a conscious or unconscious reason behind them. I know this is a topic fraught with personal history, judgments and strong feelings for most people; for this reason I keep my belief system out of the discussion. That doesn’t change my original statement. It can be something as simple as a message you receive at exactly the right time. Other times the consequences are life-affirming or even life-threatening.

A few weeks back, the kids and I were at our local library, a small but cozy place. On the way to checkout, I stopped at the ‘free’ bookshelf and simply ran my hand over it and picked a book. The title was Homeschool Burnout. I had to pause and chuckle at the synchronicity of choosing this book, as I felt exactly that way in the preceding weeks. I decided the book was my message to ‘chill out’ with the kids and go easier on myself. If Homeschool Burnout is still on the free shelf when I go back to the library, it may be time to read it!

Shocked

Prepare to be shocked. The following ideas are from the book, Dumbing us Down, by John Taylor Gatto. He has the ‘radical’ idea that schools are not failing. They are doing exactly what they are intended to do; that is, encourage dependence, conformity and a “docile, malleable workforce to meet the growing, changing demands of corporate capitalism”. He doesn’t stop there but continues with the assertion that this conformity ensures a workforce that will not rebel- that will be “physically, intellectually and emotionally dependent upon corporate institutions for their incomes, self-esteem and stimulation” and that will “learn to find social meaning in their lives solely in the production and consumption of material goods”. Before you discount this idea, really stop and think about it. The modern-day solution to failing schools: throw more money, books, computers, etc. at them and demand higher test scores. Let me end this post with one thought- how has that worked for our nation’s public schools? I highly recommend this book and am currently reading Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education.

Brain power

It was an average morning in our homeschool.  There was maybe one cranky person (I’m not excluding myself from this category), one person ready for the day and one disagreement.  About 10:30 a.m., I was on the computer pulling up China on our digital World Book Encyclopedia.  My three year old came streaking up to me clutching one of our new science books.  She had flipped to page ten in The Usborne Complete Book of the Human Body, where there was a side diagram of the brain.  She exclaimed, “Finally, now I know what my brain looks like.” I immediately laughed and told her, “Wow, that’s great, keep looking through the book.” I mean she’s been waiting three whole years to see what her brain looks like; who am I to get in the way of that?

That’s the extraordinary thing about homeschooling- your kids are not age-segregated into classrooms and absorb everything they experience as you are working with others. I am starting to realize that kids become active learners in this way- not just passive consumers of what the class leader is presenting that day. They will also develop natural curiosity about ideas and subjects that really interest them and not become ‘dependent learners’. So, the next time your toddler wants to see his or her brain, pull up a real picture and help them connect the dots!

Stay-at-home dilemma

The homeschool versus public school debate reminds me of the never ending stay-at-home parent versus working parent argument. I don’t like using the word versus in reference to either discussion- pitting one side against the other solves nothing. Likewise, when the stay-at-home Mom or Dad tells the working Mom or Dad they are flat out wrong, the assertion convinces no one of the ‘rightness’ of their position.  A better way is to lead by example and show others how your lifestyle benefits your family. Whatever choice you make for your family is yours alone to make.  An obvious fact-  the significance of which is overlooked by well-meaning parents.  The magazines, the popular television shows, the media and the government-  it seems like they all want us to turn over control of our children to them.  I understand the needs of single-parenting and the ubiquitous financial strain of current times.  But, since when do our children have breakfast, lunch and dinner at school?  I hope this is the exception and not the norm in most places; although I would rather the children get sustenance from the school if they do not have any other source.  Of course, I want the children to be well-taken care of-  my hope is that this care comes from the parent, the guardian, the grandparent or the primary caretaker.  The public school is not meant to raise our children.  It is our irrefutable responsibility and joy to do so.

Homeschool your kids?!

There have been so many conflicting opinions, statistics and ideas about homeschooling over the years, that the sanest person wouldn’t know if it is beneficial or not.  I started this blog (my very first one) to assure you that educating your children at home has come light years from the 1980s.  Yes, we are grateful to those brave souls who broke away from the established ‘norm’ and educated their children in the 1970s and the 1980s; we wouldn’t be where we are today without you!  You created the support groups and, in some cases, had to battle the school systems and inflexible administrators.  I’m beginning my third year with this lifestyle and can tell you there is a multitude of resources and groups available to assist you in this journey.  As in life, there will be good days and bad when you choose to homeschool, but it will never be dull.  Let me leave you with a startling but true thought:  “Raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare”, Ed Asner.