Thursday, May 18, 2006

What About Education?

Our kids have never been to school. This is important. We've been doing this a very long time. We've thought a whole lot about it. We've done tons of research and have lots of experience.

Way back when we were beginning the unschooling part of our journey, the de rigueur question from non-homeschoolers was, "What about socialization?" The longer version was, "If they aren't in school, if they aren't confined with age-mates and isolated from adult influences, how in the world will they be socialized to push and shove to get ahead in this world? If they don't have to put up with random acts of meanness, bullies and arbitrary authority, how will they know how to put up with them, or to be bullies and authoritarians themselves, as adults?" Etc.

Our family doctor, who has eight homebirthed homeschooled children of his own, once told us that when people ask him the "S" question, "What about socialization?", he says, "My point exactly."

As unschoolers there are more things than just the push and shove mentality of government and private schools that we are opting out of. We don't make our children perform in dog and pony shows, we don't choose what they learn and we don't make them prove they've learned it. We understand that it truly doesn't matter if a kid learns to tell time at 5 or at 10, if a kid learns to read at 3 or at 15.

Oh, but waaaay what's more, we understand what kids do learn in "educating" environments (whether that is government, private, lessons or homeschooling). And lately I have come to an even more startling truth -- when the question is, "What about education?", my response is, "Exactly my point."

Education as it exists today isn't about knowledge, isn't about skills. It is about having the pc attitude, about hoops to jump through to qualify for jobs (and not anything like competence), about homogeneity. It is against individuality, industriousness, creativity. It is about accepting what someone else says is important instead of what you know for yourself to be important. Education is about learning to become a quiet and complacent thrall.

So, what about education? Exactly my point.

As to kids being labeled this and that, whether that is ADHD or autistic or dimwitted, I say, rejoice that these kids (and adults) resist the education beast as it attempts to devour them!


Jenn said...

I find this really interesting, but don't know much about it. Do you have any resources on unschooling that you'd recommend?

the Contrary Goddess said...

hmmmm, yes. Start with essays by John Taylor Gatto which I think are available on the web, or in his book Dumbing Us Down. And John Holt, particularly Why Children Fail and How Children Learn. And more. I'll be thinking about it.

Jim said...

Yep, our kids were "socialized" in the public schools where bullies rule, extreme competition is revered, and peer pressure defines values. Our son was fully indoctrinated into the "king of the hill" mentality until he literally drove himself off a cliff trying to show how tough, how extreme, and how invincible he was.
An exceptionally smart hard-working and gifted carpenter with a stubborn independent streak, he's now learning to live as a blind person.
I bear some of the responsibilty for this because I could see the school system was poison to him and didn't take him out of there in time.
Our daughter struggled with the meanness of her classmates and the indifference of the teachers too, until we put her in an alternative continuation school with dedicated teachers and one on one instruction, where she graduated with honors.
I'm convinced that home-schooling or un-schooling would've been a much better alternative for our kids and I feel that sending them to public shools (and ours are highly rated by the way) was the mistake of my life.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Although you are in California which is ahead of itself socially, homeschooling just wasn't so much of an option even just that long ago.

One of our children would thrive in the school environment and I'm convinced it would be even more poison to her than to the others, who might well struggle there.

thingfish23 said...

"Education is about learning to become a quiet and complacent thrall."

Indeed and well-spake.

I would counter just a bit, though - but keep in mind that my Mom was a teacher, my sister is a teacher...

The system, as it is, sucks. No two ways about it. Nope.

We strike a balance between what the little one learns in school and what we reinforce at home. We're in luck, in a way, because what's "normal" to other kids her age is anathema to her. This is because she was raised and educated in Brasil for the first 9 years of her life. The fight for us, then, is to keep the dross from seeping in, and thus far it has gone well (Thank God).

Having come from a public school background (and having soundly rejected its mores from even an early age) I am always overly attentive and engaged with the little one to see what she's at, what she's picking up, where I need to intervene and check her, etc It's a feat of constant vigilance.

Also, in her school, she has gone from "I know maybe ten words of English" to grade-level reading and the straight-A honor roll in one year. Flat. Again, a lot of that was work at home, constant engagement, getting her out in the yard to check out the bugs and plants, taking her to work (!!) so she can see what Big Poppa does to pay the bills. And I'm lucky (not to mention the probable exception to the rule) in that at her tender age of 11, she still finds me and what I do for work to be pretty fascinating. I intend to play this interest to its fullest, because if I have my way, she'll know HOW to think before she ever decides WHAT to think.

But since she really has come so far in such a short amount of time, I can't reject the public school system in our area wholesale. And, like I said, teaching is in my blood, even if I don't do it to win bread. I still do it in the "off-hours" (as if there were ever such a thing).

Still, I love to read about the investment other parents have in raising their kids proper - which includes a sound rejection of authority for authority's sake.

"Because I said so" isn't a parenting option in the house, but nor do my wife and I take any shit. I'm sure you can discern the balance.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Oh, I think SCHOOLS (and teachers, although to me they'd still be suspect) could exist and I would just not subscribe to them, but I don't believe the government has any business being in schooling, any more than it has any business being in churching.

thingfish23 said...

Schools or no, I think we'd agree on the main point - "education" doesn't end when the bell rings - provided there's a bell, that is... I mean the one that's NOT 'round the livestock's neck.

Ren said...

I like the quip "I'd rather have civilized than socialized any day".:)

Unschooling ROCKS!!