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Thoughts on Education

25 July 2010
As an only child, Sparrow will likely attend a private school, mostly because we think it is important that he learn how to act around people his own age and also because we'll be able to afford it.

Hawk attended a charter school for his junior and senior years of high school. Since his family lived out in the boonies of North Carolina, Hawk was able to be a boarder at the school. So basically, the school he went to was Hogwarts for math and science geeks. As a teenager I think this would have been awesome, but as a parent, I don't think I'd want Sparrow to leave the nest that early.

As for my education, as I have done research and thought about this subject, I find myself wishing that my mom could have stayed home and home-schooled me, or else put me into a private school. I do remember taking a private school entrance exam when I was in first or second grade and passing with flying colors, but my family couldn't afford to send me so I just did public school. I did all right. I never really applied myself, because I just didn't care that much. Looking back, I wish I had worked harder on most everything. I got mostly As and Bs because I am smart and I have a good memory and I do the homework, not because I ever studied even once. In math (which I still hate) I got Cs and Ds, until my junior year when I actually listened to the lessons and tried my hardest and applied myself. The third quarter I got a B and the last quarter I got an A. I remember crying because I was so proud of myself for getting an A in math.

I am pretty sure my lack of challenge is what contributed to my failing out of college. I had no idea how to study and I had even less of an idea how to be motivated to attend class so I failed. I didn't care about "rising to the occasion." The semester I spent in England helped a little, if only because I was surrounded by students who were between 2 and 10 years older than me and I learned from how they worked. I will be taking 2 credits at BYU starting next month, and I hope that as I work my way up to attending school full time, I can figure out how to be a good student and a hard worker. (For the record, I am taking a Preview to Nursing seminar and a violin class. Why yes I am excited, thanks for asking.)

Let me also just say that had I not attended public school, I would have never met my BFF Dove, who I now consider my sister. So there's that.

I have been researching the methods involved in classical education. I just ordered Charlotte Mason's series on education and I look forward to reading them. I really like and agree with what I have read about her ideas. What I know is still limited because I am waiting to read her series to learn most of her stuff, but here's what I have gotten out of the limited things I have read.

First, the child works alongside the parents in the home. Second, when the child wants to learn something, they approach the parent. The parent does not pressure or approach the child (this part I am not sure I agree with totally.) When the child wants to learn to read, they ask the parent to teach them. If at any time the child is disinterested or skipping lessons or whatever, the parent says "well clearly you do not value my time as your teacher, so I am not going to teach you until you are ready to pay attention/work." And the lessons stop. The parent teaches the child using the "best" books, which are classical works. Reading is highly emphasized, especially the reading of classics. Through reading the classics, the child learns science, history, maths, grammar, punctuation, spelling, writing, etc. When the child gets to be a teenager, they enter a "scholar phase," where they study a subject they are interested in with a mentor.

That's what I have taken from what I've read around the Internets. I really, really like these ideas. However, I am not sure that we will rely on all of them. If Sparrow is 12 and he still doesn't know how to read because he doesn't care to learn, we have a problem. While I agree with having classic works available to the child at all times, I don't think that classic books are the ONLY books they should be allowed to read. There are modern books that some might view as trash that have taught me and helped me through hard times in my life. Fantasy books, ones that are well written, are important to me and have truly saved my butt a few times as I could escape into a world that did not suck as much as my life did at the time. As much as I hate comic books, I do think that Calvin and Hobbes is pretty decent. As an LDS pre-teen, I really enjoyed reading Chris Heimerdinger's Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites and reading those books inspired me to read the Book of Mormon. Some of the books and series I read as a child and teenager (primarily The Boxcar Children, Goosebumps and the Animorphs series) inspired me to want to become a writer of young adult fiction, a dream I still aspire to. I can't imagine a teenagehood without the Harry Potter series. Oh man, how I love(d) those books.

I'm also not going to ban movies altogether. Hawk and I both love to watch movies as a bonding activity, and I'm not going to take that away from us. We bought a Wii last year because it's a gaming system that allows for cooperation between family members. We only buy games that require two players, and our TV and Wii are in the main family area so nobody gets to go off and be solitary with them. While I am totally in favor of limiting the amount of time spent on the TV and keeping a close eye on what we watch, I am never taking Star Wars out of this house! We don't own all the Disney movies and never will, but we own several "classics" like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. We may never have normal television, and I am totally okay with that. When we did have TV channels, we spent way too much time watching and scheduling our lives around shows we wanted to watch. We've been without regular TV for 15 months now and we've all survived.

My main point is this: for our family, home schooling might not work. We might try it, we might not. And that will be okay. We are not going to bribe Sparrow to get good grades in school, but he's also expected to work up to his potential (and unfortunately for him, we already know how smart he is. Little turd.) He is expected to read more than he watches movies, and learn more than he plays the Wii. As a family, we are encouraging both private reading and family reading. Watching movies together as a family is an important bonding activity for us, but not to the detriment of anything else, and we need to do physical activities too. Sparrow will always have access to excellent books, will have some access to fun books and no access to books that I think are total crap (such as Captain Underpants.)

As a family, we are each expected to learn about things that interest us. I want Sparrow to see that it is important and fun to keep learning always. When he gets older, I plan on taking him on extended vacations during his summers - maybe one year we will live in Italy for the summer, and the next we will live in Germany. I want him to see and become involved in the world, because I think that that will foster a desire to learn in him. Heck, it already creates a desire to learn in me. I need to get learning some languages and history here!

5 comments to Thoughts on Education:

ButtonGear said...

Food for thought: in your quest for the educational paradigm that works best for your family, I strongly suggest that you ALSO seek the valued opinion of professional public educators on the subject of home-schooling (and even private schooling). I have a few valued friends who home school their kids or send them to private schools; but nothing has changed my opinion that PUBLIC schooling is BEST for the overall success of most children ... and that's just my opinion and our family paradigm; I can't speak for you.

Many people I know (on both sides of the issue) make this a very divisive argument, and that is NOT my intent in making this comment. I just very much hope you will consider the opinions of those who provide public education in the process of making this decision.

Notably, you might consider listening to what Scott and Dani say on this, both being public secondary educators -- I think it's worth hearing, even if you choose a path that diverges from their opinions.

... just my $.02

Kestrel said...

Oh word. I've talked to my mom (former kindergarten teacher, high school and middle school counselor) and my grandma (2nd grade teacher) a lot about the whole sordid subject :)

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K La said...

I think maybe public school depends on which state you are in, and in your state, and in my state, public school is not an option. However, in your state charter schools are an option, have you researched charter schools? I thought the the best one is in your town.

I plan to homeschool Ash, but put her in LOTS of lessons; piano, gymnastics, ice skating, karate, violin...so she can interact with kids her own age.

LCannon said...

I have written several posts on this very issue - looking into several options with my own little girl - who is not an only child, but is pretty much being raised as one.
One of my posts is called "Education in a Pod" - my elementary schooling background - the way I wish all educational systems might work. But to each his own - what works one way for one child may not necessarily work on another - even within the same family.
Currently I have Jenna is a dual immersion program. She has been "forced" to learn Spanish. My options seemed to be in having her learn another language or not have her learn at all.
Private school is not always the best option, but it is something to consider. You still have enough time to continue prayers and receive personal revelation on which path is correct. That may not mean Sparrow will always wonder how his life would have turned out differently if you had gone in another direction. We all do that.

May your doors be open as they have been for us.