Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Educational Theory, In Case You Were Wondering

I am nervous/excited about the upcoming school year.  I'm not sure how I'm going to do it when I'm 9 months pregnant or when I have a newborn.  This is the most ambitious year yet and I have a second grader, first grader, preschooler and a meddlesome toddler.  But, God is not calling me to a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.  So, here we go...

I was visiting with a lady at karate last night.  She is from Venezuela.  She was very surprised to learn that in Oklahoma we can educate our own children, at home, without any government interference, all the way through high school.  And she seemed to think I must be a genius of some sort.  That I must be much smarter than she is, because she wouldn't dare attempt to teach her children.  Her dad was a Chemistry teacher and she knows she could never do what he did.  This is a very bright and educated lady.  She has all my respect.  She left her home to come to a new country, a different culture, learn a new language and start a new life.  Her English is definitely better than my Spanish!  I have every confidence that if she decided that this is something she wants to do, she could teach her children exceptionally well.

 And so can I.

And so can you.

That is the dirty little secret that the educational society doesn't want us to figure out.  Anyone who can read and has an imagination can teach themselves or anyone else practically anything.

It's that simple.  We don't need fancy programs.  We don't need teachers unions and federal funding.  We don't need glossy, cartooned materials.  All we really need is interest.

Children are born eager and ready to learn.  And their mothers and fathers do an excellent job of teaching them.  Who taught your child to walk, talk, tell colors and shapes, sing the alphabet, tie their shoes and make their beds?  You did!  Who answered their first questions about where rainbows come from and why do leaves fall and what is the sun made of?  You did that too.  And they loved to hear about their world from your lips.  I bet you enjoyed seeing the world from their perspective.  Math, Science, Phonics, Literature, Philosophy were passed effortlessly from you to your small shadows on a daily basis.   This is the core of my Educational Theory.

Of course, once the small fry hit about 6 or so, we start getting antsy about starting "school".  Every one else is headed to the bus stop.  What if our children get behind?  And how do we even get started, anyways?  We are so blessed to have so many resources at our fingertips.  The choices of methods, philosophies and systems are staggering.  We feel a crushing weight of responsibility for our progeny's future success and happiness.  Professional teachers have a degree, after all.  Just who do we think we are?!

Let's step back a moment at look at the educational systems of one hundred years ago and today.  If you have ever read the Little House On The Prairie books, you might remember 16 year old Laura, the teacher of a one room school house.  She never went to college.  Her teachers probably didn't either.  To her, Head Start meant a few extra seconds in a race.  She didn't even begin school until around 9 or 10.  Her mother taught her to read at home with the few books they brought with them from Wisconsin.  But, she was a well educated lady.  Many people of that time were.  They didn't need calculators or computers.  The math was done in their head.  Many understood classical literature and even read it in the original languages.  Anne Of Green Gables read Virgil in Latin.  Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, all men of knowledge and wisdom.  Self taught men.  Fathers and Architects of a nation.  They did not have the "benefit" of ipads and Facebook.  Or even Wikipedia.  Certainly not a 12th grade homeroom.

Today, our country spends more money on education than just about any other country in the history of the world.  And we have Miley Cyrus.  Okay, okay, that's not fair.  We also have Steve Jobs and Ben Carson.  But Steve Jobs and Ben Carson are self taught men.  They took the education they received and expanded it themselves.  Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, JayZ and their fans are the products of today's education.  Don't get me wrong.  In the 17 and 1800's there were millions of illiterate children who never went to school at all.  I almost said they never had a chance to become skilled or get good jobs.  But that is not true.  There were many skilled wheel wrights and farmers and cowboys.  In many ways they had happy and productive lives.  Today we attempt to educate all children, but there are still many illiterate and unskilled laborers as the result.  And they mostly have aimless, miserable lives.  Lives of dependency and servitude to an almighty government.  My point is that the education of yesteryear was more effective.

I am trying to return to the basics with my family.  It is more feasible for me to educate my handful of children at home than to trust them to the teaming masses of our school district and hope they don't get lost in the shuffle.  Besides, I hate textbooks.

I have been reading the writings of 19th century educator, Charlotte Mason.  She contends that children are people.  People need ideas, living books, beautiful thoughts.  Textbooks pre-chew the information.  The teacher gets in the way.  What is better is to introduce the world to a young child as a beautiful and interesting place.  A place that reveals different facets of its Creator.  And then, step back.  Let the child form the relationships and pursue the questions.  Let the child think and learn to think by hearing the world's greatest thinkers.  Let the child read and learn to write by reading the world's greatest writers.

Some call this a Classical Education.  Some call it Un-Schooling.  Some call it Life.  I mix it all up and add a good dose of judiciously chosen textbooks, a smidgen of a schedule with a dash of Bach and call it School!