I’m still reading, and very much enjoying, Ricci’s book ‘The Willed Curriculum, Unschooling, and Self-Direction’. He quotes from someone called Thomas Moore, “An educated person is someone whose innate being has been led out, enticed and appreciated. Education is not at all the same as teaching. It is accomplished by love and faith in the very soul of the child who stands before us crammed with unmanifested talent…The soul of some children will be revealed in mathematics, some in art, some in politics.” And Ricci says, ”The point of course is that we must allow for spaces where children’s greatness and genius will thrive, whatever their talents or interests may be.” And he says, “It is not about an external body imposing their ideas of what is important, but it is about allowing the holistic space to unfold and create themselves in ways they feel compelled to do.”
But, a friend of mine, Veronika, made a very important comment on Day 12 of my blog, https://homeschoolingmiddleeast.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/day-12-of-homeschooling-in-the-middle-east-whether-taking-a-six-month-exploration-period-is-educational-neglect-however-well-intentioned-or-the-path-to-the-oft-touted-unschooling/ saying, “I might myself not always have wanted to go to my ballet classes when I was little but thanks to my parents I did and when I was a teenager dancing became my passion and I would not have had the opportunity to train professionally had I not received a proper basis in my childhood. I really think you need to give passion a chance to develop and a chance to then be pursued…and passion is tricky , it might not be there now they are little but might come up one day and then one would wish the doors to be open. I can’t therefore really agree with the unschooling method as it waits for the kid to show passion in order to get involved. What if by then it’s too late to open that door? Why not involve the child anyway and give him opportunity to become passionate and most of all the capacity to then pursue it. It sounds a bit unfair to me to give a child at such young age the huge responsibility of figuring out what they are or will be passionate about and let them direct their learning accordingly. Why not feed them first and let them decide once they have grown strong enough to do so. And homeschooling , although parent directed, gives anyway so much space to follow , respect and deepen kids particular interests.
This is an important point. When I was a kid the things my parents were passionate about I absolutely hated. My father’s passion included walking for pleasure and my mother’s included looking around stately homes and the ballet. Whenever we did these things, it felt like torture. I found these activities so boring and I wished that I was at home reading a book – that was my passion! I still absolutely love reading (and writing) but I now also love these things that I hated doing as a child. So the big question is – would I have come to love those things on my own or not? Obviously doing and hating them as a child didn’t put me off loving them as an adult. If I hadn’t done them as a child, would I have developed a passion for them as an adult? Would I have been bothered to try them as a self-directed, independent learner? I really think they would have sounded too boring. I think perhaps with some things you have to DO them to develop a passion for them and perhaps not only do them once or twice. However, this doesn’t always happen.
I was made to take piano lessons at school when I was a pre-teen. I hated them and I was eventually able to drop them. However, because I was at boarding school nobody made me practice. There’s no point having instrument lessons if you don’t practice the pieces between lessons. If I was forced to practice, as most people I know are by their parents, I would have become proficient at the piano and then maybe I would have got more pleasure from it. But it’s a big maybe. In an earlier post (https://homeschoolingmiddleeast.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/day-17-of-homeschooling-the-middle-east-music-in-education-continued/) , I mentioned Tariq, one of the band members in ‘Dan Zanes and Friends’ who said he had been forced by his mother to play piano for years and always hated it and he didn’t credit those lessons to his interest or ability to play the bazouq when he picked it up in college. However, by forcing our kids to do things, there is evidence that this can lead to a passion and eventually accomplishment that may not have been attainable without childhood lessons. This is certainly the case with dancing but not the case with any of the passions I have, all of which could have been attained as an adult.
Just as not forcing them to do things that they can only become accomplished at by doing them as children is a risk, forcing kids to do something could also backfire and make them hate it forever and be a total waste of time and money. Like Veronika, I also had ballet lessons because my mother had been a professional ballet dancer. However, she quickly stopped them, because not only did I hate them but it was obvious I had neither the physique nor the natural ability to dance well. In this case, stopping them was an easy decision. I took up horse riding instead and although not naturally talented enjoyed riding and through practice made a proficient rider. I can imagine that if I’d been forced to continue riding lessons, despite hating them, I could have developed such an aversion to riding that as soon as I was able I would never ride again. I certainly have never wanted to try learning the piano again.
It’s definitely a very good idea to introduce kids to as many experiences as possible. But by not forcing them to continue with things they don’t like, will this provide space to find a passion for themselves that is perhaps purer that one originally forced on them? What do I mean by purer, I’m not sure. I’ve got more thinking to do about this. It just doesn’t seem right to me to force the kids to do anything. I feel comfortable introducing them to things, I feel comfortable really encouraging them to stick with something a bit longer but after that, no. I can’t force my kids. Ricci would certainly agree with me I think, although I’d love to talk to him about it. But dance is such a passion for Veronika, dancing at a high level has been such a joy in her life and I agree with her that she would never have had the chances that she did without being coerced to do her lessons as a child. But since I’ve been home educating I don’t even want to coerce them with ‘You can’t go and play until you’ve done this’ because I’ve become much more self-aware about how to interact with the kids. I think I’ve evolved already, with only a couple of weeks of home educating. But we’ll see! I might change my mind about everything I’ve written today. I might start making them have instrument lessons or something. I might find something that I feel really strongly that they must do as kids in order to benefit in later life. Life is about growing but I think a reduction is coercion is my personal growth plan. We’ll see! And I hope it will be the right one for my kids.
The fact I’m about to read ‘Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves’ by Naomi Aldort which is a book based, ‘…on the radical premise that neither child nor parent must dominate. Aldort offers specific suggestions for relinquishing control in favour of authenticity” according to a reviewer Peggy O’Mara, Editor of Mothering Magazine, suggests this is my likely path.
On the subject of coercion, I happened upon this post this evening, http://thinkingkids.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/what-do-you-mean-you-dont-want-to-study-today/#comment-499 I’m not mad about her methods, especially the ‘time out’, as I commented on her page, but I did like most of the ‘Preventative Parenting’ tools. Daniela and I are having a bit of an ongoing discussion about it on her blog, if you care to take a look.
To finish this post on a lighter note, Edward and I did our first ‘Mad Libs’ together today. I ordered a couple of ‘Star Wars’ ones on the internet. He wasn’t at all enthusiastic but having done a couple he thinks they’re hilarious. What a wonderful way to learn parts of speech! For this sentence, he was asked to provide a part of the body, an adjective and a plural noun. He came up with ‘heart’, ‘boring’ and ‘girls’ without knowing the rest of the sentence. When these words were plugged into the gaps the ‘Star Wars’ Mad Lib read, ‘Using the power of the Force, a Jedi can do many things, like using the Force to exercise heart control over boring-minded girls (‘toe control’ or something would have been funnier but never mind). He thought this was absolutely hysterical, what luck for a boy with an annoying little sister to come up with ‘boring-minded girls’ and it was such a pleasure to hear him laugh and laugh, really deeply and richly! Would he have ever done that at school? Would he ever have done that at school learning about parts of speech?! Not in a million Earth or Clone Wars years!
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