Monday, April 24, 2006

This is too hard, too boring, irrelevant...

Mom makes us work too hard. Not another book! School is hard. If my children were talking Barbies, they might echo that unfortunate doll (who had her conversation chip yanked for saying that math is too hard). Yes, the Apprentice and Ponytails do complain about school, lest you think that these Shakespeare-reading progeny do everything excellently without ever needing to be prodded (that's only true of other peoples' children, right?). After all, The Apprentice isn't planning on going to university anyway...she alternates between interests in hairdressing/cosmetics, photography, and computer information systems (maybe she'll figure out a way to do all of them). Why does this stuff matter?

So I have some alternatives. I could buy a fill-in-the-blanks homeschool curriculum instead of boring them with Thomas More or Winston Churchill. (Jane Austen and Charles Dickens don't get the "boring" face, for some reason.) I could let them follow their own interests completely. I could buy some of those prepared novel studies, comprehension workbooks, language textbooks, and spend a lot more time teaching them to write five-sentence paragraphs. (Squirrelings, that's not meant to be a threat--some homeschoolers spend a lot of time on those things because that's just the way they do school, and it works for them.)

I could send them to public school, so that they could develop the the following characteristics of current university students. (This list comes from Barbara Aggerholm's story "Educating the next wave" in The Record, April 24, 2006. I'm only including some of them.)
* "Doing" is more important than "knowing." In other words, what you know is less important than knowing where to get the answer. "You don't have to master the subject anymore," Sharpe said. [Associate Professor Bob Sharpe of Wilfrid Laurier University, who led a seminar about preparing for the next generation of students.]
* They have zero tolerance for delays. When they send an e-mail to a professor, they want an answer immediately.
* They're consumers rather than producers of knowledge.
* They blur the lines between consumer and creator by sampling information on the Internet and producing new forms of expression.
(That last one, in particular, intrigues me. It sounds like one of those creative report card comments that really means "He cheated on his term paper.")

Or we can keep on reading writers who are much wiser and better educated than we are, taking what we can from their thoughts, and making our responses to their books a central part of Treehouse homeschooling.

In spite of the grousing, there are those moments when I know that what we're doing is what we're supposed to be doing. Like when Ponytails asked for a James Whitcomb Riley poetry book at a booksale last year, or The Apprentice kindly found me a volume of Tennyson at this year's sale. Or when I found The Apprentice reading her Canadian history book without being reminded, or saw Ponytails poring over a map of Narnia. Or when The Apprentice found a creative way to make her science experiment work even though somebody discarded the plastic pop bottle she was hoarding. (Sorry.) Or when Ponytails was genuinely sad at finishing a biography of Galileo. Or when Crayons read me back part of the Charlotte's Web chapter we'd just finished together (I had to work her into this post somehow).

We'll try to understand that delays happen...there are disappointments...and that not everything's fun (though something can be enjoyable in its own way without being fun). Maybe the Squirrelings will be strange enough to think that knowing something is even more valuable than knowing where to look it up (or where to copy it from the Internet). Maybe when we've read Utopia and How to Read a Book and Whatever Happened to Justice, there won't be so many blurry lines. Maybe they will be subversive enough to think that they can be producers as well as consumers of knowledge.

If they turned out like that, I wouldn't mind at all.


coffeemamma said...

Excellent, as usual!

Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus said...

"* They have zero tolerance for delays. When they send an e-mail to a professor, they want an answer immediately."

Oh my, yes. I used to teach university writing classes, and this one made me insane. A student would send me an e-mail at 4 AM the day a paper was due, then say he/she could not turn it in at 8 AM and it should not be late, because they sent an e-mail and I did not get back to them, so they did not know what to do. I eventaully had to put it in my syllabus that office hours were the best way to reach me, and that there was a 24 hour turnaround time for e-mails. I also had to stop accepting papers via e-mail. Kids would cut class, then I'd get 15 e-mailed papers that they expected me to print out. I hated how e-mail was supposed to make me avaliable 24 hours a day. Sorry, I did not get paid enough to be "on-call!"

tootlepip said...

Thank YOU!! This is just what I needed right now.

Theresa said...

Great food for thought.This is SO relevant to what I am processing right now.