Thursday, August 21, 2008

138th Carnival of Homeschooling Is Up--Plus a Post By My Wife

The Carnival is up over at Janice Campbell's site. There were a couple of good posts there that caught my eye.

Dana at Principled Discovery writes an interesting post about our homeschooled children's views of schooling. Especially in those cases where the kid has never been in the schools, the kid's view of what the classroom is like is only second-hand--and often inaccurate. Dana writes about how her daughter, when asked about what she thinks of school, will parrot back the things that Dana has said--but without all the nuances. That is, the daughter remembers all the negative things Dana has said, but none of the positive. (After all, if the positives were strong enough, I would have been put in school, right?)

Dana says:
My daughter frequently asks questions about school, why we homeschool and why other people do not... Interestingly, however, if you ask my daugther what she likes about homeschooling, her answer will focus on what is wrong with public schools, a system she has never set foot in. Her criticisms are true, in a caricatured sense, but without experience to draw from they come across as rather comical to me. I know that she doesn’t really know what she is talking about, and regret that out of all our conversations, these few points against the public school system seem to have stuck in her mind.
And later, she concludes:

I am like a translator between two worlds: her homeschooling world, and the somewhat mysterious school world which seems so normal to everyone but her. I don’t want her to grow up with the same sort of stereotyped view of the school system which so many in our society seem to possess of homeschooling. I also don’t want her to go off and explain her limited view with “My mom said…”

It has made me a little more conscious of how I talk about school around my daughter...
It also got me thinking about a related topic.

It seems to me that this dynamic works in many, many areas of life; one generation decides that it doesn't want its children to have to suffer the consequnces of X, so it protects and isolates them from X. The children then grow up not knowing why X is so bad; when asked why X is bad, they must either parrot what their parents said, or they can't answer--since they have no first-hand experience of X. This means, of course, that eventually society is in danger of tossing out the wisdom of the Elders and subjecting everyone to X again.

I've seen this dynamic work in the Church, for example: people who become Christians as adults are often more solid in their faith than those who were raised in the Church--precisely because they know what they left, and exactly why they left it. Those raised in the Church, by good Christian parents, often don't come face to face with real evil, and with the full power of temptation, until they grow up and leave the nest--and this is precisely because their parents raised them according to their best understanding of Biblical child-rearing practices.

How to square this circle? I'm not sure--and it's a pattern that goes back at least as far as the events depicted in the book of Judges.

The best answer I've seen so far is the one Dana offered: that we need to be aware of the way we are passing our views on to our kids--how we speak of things, what we say, what attitudes we display. And we need to keep in mind the desired "end state" of our parenting: what do we want our kids to be like when they leave home? We have to know that, before we can really decide how we wish to raise them.

But this doesn't fully answer the conundrum--it's only a start.


And then, there's this excellent (if rather long) essay about the ways that copying, tracing, and emulation are useful in an educational setting. Our academic society quite rightly has a thing against plagiarism--passing off someone else's work as one's own. However, as the author argues (with many, many examples drawn from her own family over the years), the act of copying can be a powerful educational tool. You want to learn how to draw a realistic-looking horse? Start with a bunch of pictures of horses, and trace them. You want to learn to write like your favorite author? Copy out their work longhand. In doing these things, you become intimately familiar with the source work; you begin to understand how it's pieced together, and what makes it work.


One more. My lovely bride posted an update on how our family is doing, and how our homeschooling year (which started early July) has been going so far. Tonya decided that since we've already finished six weeks, it was time to take a week off.

Anyway, in her post she describes how everyone has been doing, and what's been working, and what needs more work.


Dana said...

One other things about talking to our children about these kinds of issues. We need to be honest about the good and bad. I fear sometimes that a child that is sheltered and does not really understand why may leave home and discover that all those heathens aren't nearly as bad as parents made them out to be.

That isn't to say we shouldn't shelter our kids, or that we shouldn't try to impart our faith from early on. We just need to to try not to type cast everything such that our children really can't recognize the world from our description of it.

Jarrod J. Williamson, Ph.D. said...

Think innoculation, not sheltering. For example,

My brother is a Fire Lieutenant and Paramedic out in Colorado. When his teen son got his driver's permit, my brother took him on a ride along to a couple drunk driving accidents.

Both accident scenes were pretty rough to look at. My brother made it clear that "this is what you get when you drink and drive."

That's a pretty traumatic thing to do to a teenage kid ... and when my son is old enough, I am having him go on a ride along with my brother.

Timothy Power said...

Innoculation, not sheltering. Excellent way of putting it, Jarrod. I shall have to think about that....