Saturday, February 23, 2013

An education.

What does it mean to be well educated?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. And by lately I guess I mean ever since we started homeschooling. Not all the time but probably at least once a month (PMS = Pretty sure I'm Messing Something up). Most of the time I feel very confident in the way we homeschool. But every now and then, we'll be coasting along fine, doing our thing (whatever that happens to mean at the moment...) when something comes up that makes me question everything I think I know.

If we're lazy homeschooling (kinda like unschooling with less conviction and more classes) and I happen to hear about a new classical charter school opening in our neighborhood, I might begin to compare what Liam is learning to what he could be learning.

So I start making him do more work. Some of it's fun and he's engaged and learning but a lot of it is just more. More reading, more math problems, more writing, more subjects, more fighting, more, more, more. Because if all the other kids in first grade are in school for seven hours a day and then come home and do homework, he's going to have to do more if he wants to keep up.

Right?

Most of the time I would easily say no. Definitely not! If you have quality, you don't need quantity. But every now and then the doubt monster creeps in and makes me think I am totally going to screw up my kids' education.

Which is different than thinking I'm going to screw up my kids. I mean, that's just a given, right? Even if it's nothing more than a hormonally fueled fleeting moment, I have surrendered to the fact that at one time or another my children will definitely blame me for every single thing. 

Fair enough. We all do it.

I'm just hoping they will be educated enough to eventually take responsibility for themselves so they don't have to blame others. But since I am the one in charge of their education...you can see why this occasionally stresses me out.

It's just a really big responsibility having someone's education in your hands. It's probably why most of us are more comfortable outsourcing. It takes a lot of guts to trust that you know what's best for your child. Even if we don't think anyone knows any better than we do, it can still take the pressure off to rely on the Board of Education or the school or a set curriculum or a teacher or the Core Standards or The Canon or The Bible or the guy down the street or some blogger to tell us how to educate our children.

Which is stupid. Really. It's not like there's some final exam that measures what we all Need To Know and if your child doesn't know All The Things, you fail and they fail and there are no gold stars or careers for anyone. I mean, sure there are SATs and ACTs and GREs and LSATs and about a million other tests out there but no one is expected to just know that stuff. They're expected to study, take the test and promptly forget everything they "learned".

Which is also stupid. 

But sometimes we have to just play by the rules. 

Will my kids be at a disadvantage if they've never had rules like this to play by? I don't think so. Because if either of my boys want to do something in life that requires a good score on a test in order to do it, I  have faith that they will KNOW HOW TO LEARN what it is they need to know. And since it will be something they WANT to do, they will probably actually enjoy learning about it.

I guess that's what it means to be well educated. 

It doesn't mean knowing all of the answers or learning All The Things. We learn what we need to know. What we want to know. If we're very lucky, we do this our entire life, whether or not there's a test at the end of the chapter. The most well educated people (in my opinion) are curious and engaged and thoughtful and happy. They make the choices they make because they want to make them; not because they're doing what they think they're supposed to do.

Because in real life, there are no rules. Not really. (There are laws, of course, but that's a different thing.) There isn't a core standard for life or a final exam we have to pass in order to grow a year older. We don't have to do...anything. That can feel really scary. But if you're brave enough, it can also feel incredible.

I may not know exactly how I want to educate my children but that's okay. Thinking is always more important than knowing. And there's certainly no shortage of thinking around here.

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