Saturday, May 16, 2009


The current issue of Natural Life magazine has some more good homeschooling articles in it (the last two issues have had some really good ones as well. I hadn't been planning to renew my subscription, but I think I'm changing my mind!). The first was called "Education is Not Something That's Done to You" and it addresses the (false) assumption that learning "can and should be produced in people." (emphasis mine) It addresses the assumption that children won't learn on their own, but must be made to learn by being kept in confinement with others their own age day in and day out. She notes that even homeschoolers often fall into the trap of thinking education must be "done to" children. I marked the conclusion to share: "What we should not do is create new schools--be they charter schools, private schools, or home schools--which perpetuate old assumptions of how children learn or who controls children's learning." I have to remind myself of this sometimes--if I start to feel like L "should" be doing something specific, or "most 5 year olds can XYZ..." or if someone asks him if he's in school or remarks on how "is your mommy or your daddy your teacher," that I reject that *system*--why would I try to use its values to define our experiences?

The other article was a cool one called The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rocks the Boat: Life learning as the ultimate feminist act. In it, the author quotes social commentator Susan Maushart as asserting that "motherhood needs to be at the center of human society, from which all social and economic life should spin. Society needs to 'acknowledge that bearing and raising children is not some pesky, peripheral activity we engage in, but the whole point,'...Warehousing kids in daycare or school so mothers can get on with what they see as their real lives is not part of that vision, but we need to find ways to ensure economic security for women of all classes, and extend the vision to include fathers as well."

Speaking of feminism and homeschooling, I had an epiphany this week. I am facilitating a women's spirituality workshop and the theme of this week's session was "womanpower." A point was emphasized several times that in feminism the view of power is different. A patriarchal view of power is that of "power over" or control over--you have power, someone else doesn't. You can use your power to control others, or to take their power away, etc. A feminist view of power is of cooperation--"power with" as well as inner power. When you have inner power, you do not need power over someone else. A hierarchical version of power falls away and is unnecessary. I reflected on the times I have heard women say, "I'm not a feminist, but..." and how I've always *boggled* at that. How can you NOT be a feminist, I'd wonder. Now, I think it is because of a misinterpretation of values--an interpretation that views feminism as wanting to "take over" or to "dominate" men or to prove that "women are better than men." This is flaw in understanding--using a worldview rooted in "power over" concepts, instead of a totally different worldview or a reinvention of how society operates/what it's values are. My epiphany is that this is just like homeschooling--you can't use the "lens" of public school to understand homeschooling and you can't use the "lens" of patriarchy to understand feminism. These different lenses are why you feel like you are banging your head against something when you speak to someone who is coming from a fundamental misinterpretation of the values at work. Feminism and homeschooling both involve alternate value systems to that of mainstream society and a revisioning of social structures into new kinds of systems (healthier ones).

The previous issue of Natural Life had an interesting article about free schools called U of Free. Some points I liked: "most come with the free school philosophy of solely pursuing an interest, rather than for a degree or other recognition of knowledge. They resist the consumer-driven mentality sweeping traditional schools, where students vie for exam hints and quick solutions to get to the next step, with their ultimate goal being an exit out – their graduation. At Anarchist U, the students are all about learning itself. Without the pressure of exams and marks, students can relax and savor their learning moments."

And on the same topic: "In his classes at U of T, he encounters a chorus of students whose sing-song refrain 'is this on the exam?' puts his pedagogical ideals out of tune. The classroom conductor laments that these U of T students are looking for a quick study guide 'because they need the credit from my class to get the piece of paper.' Instead of enjoying the educational experience, his students are disengaged, shrewdly seeking the quickest route out of the system."

If I am indeed going to be teaching college classes within the next year, the above is something I feel worried about coping with--I want to work with people who are excited to learn, not people who are trying to just get the grade and get out. I see this as the whole point of homeschooling/unschooling--to create a way of life that involves learning for intrinsic reasons, not extrinsic ones. This was very much true for me as a homeschooler and I carried it over into college--I didn't understand why people were there for other reasons than to learn. It didn't make any sense to me to hear someone recommend a class because it was an "easy A" (but had a teacher who was so boring and so pointless as to make you wish to be unconscious under a rock rather than listen to him any longer). What is the point of an easy A?! Hello! It also didn't make sense to me to have to take classes that I wasn't interested in (and I did have to do this), but I made the best of them by studying the stuff and trying to get it/like it. Someone at our craft camp this year expressed surprise that I was "self-taught" at the classes I was teaching--"so, you just learned this by teaching yourself?" Yes! Why? Because I like to learn stuff--no one has to make me do it or show me how! I study and learn things all of the time, because I like it. I'm a very self-motivated, self-disciplined, self-directed person and credit that to my homeschooled/unschooled background (thanks, Mom!). I had a friend tell me a while ago that if "no one is making me do it, I won't do it/learn it." I thought that was incredibly sad as well as incredibly telling about the drawbacks of our current social methods of education as something that is "done to" people, rather than a self-directed process.

Okay, whew! Time for bed!

1 comment:

Hope said...

We seem to be on the same path lately. I just posted that I think homeschooling/unschooling is about so much more than education but also about some other very important life goals. I like the metaphor of "the lens of public school". This reeally helps me clarify my own thoughts and frustrations in trying to explain/defend our decisions to others who are not embedded in this lifestyle. Thanks for putting into words what I have been mulling (and muddling) lately.