FOREWORD: If you’re new to homeschoolingmiddleeast, welcome! I highly recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. The fastest way to access this is to look for ‘Archives’ on the right hand side of the home page, click on ‘February 2012’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens. If you want a quick first visit, you could type a term e.g. ‘socialization’ or ‘university’, into the ‘Search’ box or of course you could just read my latest posts without doing anything!
Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this is an adventure into homeschooling that is not yet 3 months old and the journey has been a rollercoaster – philosophically and emotionally, catalogued daily for the first couple of months. For you to get the full intellectual and dramatic impact, it’s best to start at the beginning. You might be contemplating home educating and wonder what those early nail-biting days feel like or you might enjoy reading somebody else’s take on an experience you share with me, or you might be more generally interested in my thoughts and feelings on education and parenting. Whatever the reason you’re reading, I’m really humbled that you’re taking your valuable time to do so and I really hope I can be some kind of hope or inspiration for you. Thank you! Now for today’s post…
I read a post today that really got to me. It’s by a blogger I really like and respect and I have a lot of sympathy for the reasons he wrote his post, but in my humble opinion, I think his conclusions are just wrong, beautifully and passionately written as they are. This guy really thinks. Despite having very little personal time, I just have to read everything he posts because he always gets me thinking too, even though most of his posts are often about the state of US education and I am unlikely, fortunately or unfortunately, to ever educate my kids in the US – at home or otherwise. That’s how good and more broadly relevant his thinking is!
Although I’m going to quote from his post, I strongly advise you to click through and read it in its entirety. It’s only fair to read his whole point of view! And please do take the time to comment on his blog if you feel moved by his words, or here if you feel moved by mine!
This is Constant Geographer’s case (sorry I can’t find his name, it might be Michael, but I’m not sure), “I have to admit, I think my generation ruined the U.S. Educational System.
I think I am Generation X, falling in the 1965-1980 era, just a little beyond the World War Two “Baby Boomer” scope. My generation is the generation “in power,” so to speak. We are the ones who occupy a good portion of the seats of leadership, authority, and power, especially in Educational roles.” Then he talks about his grandparents’ and parents’ generation, “These men and their wives, and their children knew the value of hard-work, a work ethic. They appreciated everything they earned and instilled in their children the very same values. “
”I honestly do not see these traits in my peers. Even worse, my peers as parents are not communicating any of the aforementioned traits to their children in any meaningful way”. This is very sad. Hard work is important and so is a good work ethic – showing up on time, regularly and with a positive attitude. We certainly will instill this in our children and do so in part by modeling it. We also model appreciating what we have materially whilst also teaching the children to value, even more, the things that aren’t material, like close family relationships and their health. My when 7 year old son moans about not getting something he wants I try to teach him to ‘count his lucky stars’. I try to explain that focusing on what you have, rather than on what you don’t have, is the route to lifelong happiness. I explain that this is not easy but it’s something that’s a really good habit to get into, from as young an age as possible. This doesn’t mean not having and reaching for your dreams, but enjoying what you have too along the way.
But, boy, do kids want a lot and never stop asking for it! It’s one of the things I find hardest about bringing up kids. For some reason they often, especially when they’re 3, find themselves unable to ask for anything without whining and then when they’re older, they seem to find it hard to ask for anything without sounding spoiled and I have a terrible fear of bringing up spoiled children, as unlikely as I think that will be. Privileged, yes, but spoiled, no. For the record, the people I know socially are doing a pretty good job, certainly no worse than me. But when you see the circulation figures for magazines featuring Paris Hilton and the viewing figures for ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ (good for my kids that I had to look up the show’s correct title!), I totally get where Constant Geographer is coming from.
I also understand his horror, given he’s a Geography teacher (and I’m sure, given some of his other posts, an excellent one) when he says, “Furthermore, local, state, and federal politicians actively engage in debates encouraging cuts in education spending, cutting teacher benefits, cutting teacher salaries, and further constricting financial aid dollars available to college students.” Governments believe in a public education system. So why aren’t they paying to get the best teachers and look after them? This is outrageous.
I also agree that if you’re a student, it’s not going to teach you much of a work ethic if you are taught by, “…teachers who do not want to take work home to grade, do not want to attend summer training and workshops, and do not want any obligation imposed upon them outside of the classroom. “ I haven’t read these teachers arguments, and he says they are vocal, but this seems like shirking work. Who wouldn’t want to improve their skills and knowledge whenever possible, especially if they have a long summer holiday? I do believe in the old saying, “If you’re going to do a job, whatever job, do it well.”
Now we move in to the territory, I disagree with… “Across the country, K-12 teachers, parents, and administrators argue for shorter school days, shorter school years, and less homework for school kids. “ Now, if this is the evidence for his contention that his peers aren’t teaching their children the importance of hard work, well, I’m not sure that he’s right. If they really are the kind of parents who, “… would much rather watch TV” than help their kids with their homework, well, that’s awful. They aren’t avoiding the homework for their kids’ sake but because they’re too lazy. BUT when it comes to this comment, I have an issue, “Parents do not want to assist their children in homework after school. Parents would much rather watch TV, shuttle their kids among soccer and baseball, or spend time at the beach….”
I am strongly against homework. I agree with the parents who say the kinds of things that make him very angry, so angry that he implies that what this “Irresponsible Generation” is doing borders on “criminal negligence”. He can’t stand parents who say, “ “I remember having to do 4 hours of homework each night and I’m not going to ruin my kid’s childhood with that.” “High school is a time for fun; she can worry about what she wants to do with her life in college.” “Kid’s spend their childhood in school. I hated school. Why should I impose on them something I didn’t like, either.” “Childhood is for fun, and we push too much stuff on them too soon”” As long as these are not get-out clauses for not interacting and participating in our children’s lives, then I agree with all of them! I think parents should spend time at the beach with their kids after school or, to a limited extent, drive kids if necessary to get much-needed exercise playing sport (although I am very against too much ‘enrichment activities’ over child-led free play, preferably outside).
http://thehexhouse.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/stepping-into-freedom-at-215pm/ wrote about this beautifully. This Mum doesn’t believe in homework either and she’s obviously a very dedicated, thoughtful Mum, “As I mentioned, great school, great teachers, love that my kids are happy and loved and doing well. But… if my boy wants to build a fort, play chess with his father, read with his sister, write letters to his friend in England, as far as I am concerned he can do those things instead of What His Homework Paper Dictates We Are To Do With Him”, “ …nor am I begrudgingly sitting down to play a game that neither of us feel like playing to reinforce skills that he has no problem with whatsoever. Not because I don’t care, but because I would rather we both be happy and enjoy the time that we do have together, even if he is on one side of the room reading while I am on the other painting.”
I think it boils down to what the parents’ motives are. Constant Geographer hasn’t differentiated between A) Dedicated, loving parents (and teachers and administrators) who believe that kids get more benefit from spending their time at home doing something other than homework, who instill a work ethic and all sorts of other ethics from B) Parents who are lazy and teach their kids the world owes them something – that if they can’t buy everything the Kardashians have, then find someone to blame.
I agree with him that it’s much more pleasant to teach the kinds of students, including my ones at home, who recognize, ““what I get out of Life is what I put into my Life. The more I work hard and apply myself, the better my situation will be. By taking charge of my Life and my responsibilities, I will eventually be ahead in Life’s Rat Race.” But what about not having to think of life as a rat race in the first place? What about thinking of the world as a place of abundance if you can think ‘outside the box’? Life will always be a rat race if the car or house you’re working for is never new or big enough, compared to your neighbours. The world is a place of abundance if instead you enjoy simply stopping and smelling the roses, exchanging a genuine ‘Hello. How are you?’ with people in your neighbourhood, if your neighbours are friends instead of strangers. What if working hard was something you wanted to do because you actually enjoyed your work? What if you enjoyed your work because you had had a chance to find out what your passions were and you could find a way to make that pay a living wage?
We want to save our children from the drudgery we suffered. Constant Geographer considers this sort of hard scrabble work as a virtue. Yes, of course, where would the people living at that time be without working that hard? They weren’t working for a bigger house or faster mule – they were working to put food in their family’s mouths, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads. But I believed they worked that hard so we don’t have to. Very few of us, although unfortunately not all of us, have to work to provide such basic needs. My husband and I believe the greatest reward for our efforts will be to see our children not working as hard as we did. We don’t mean we hope they’ll swan around like the shallow, materialistic Kardashians and their ilk. We mean that we hope they’ll have a much better work-life balance. We hope they’ll be valuable employees who won’t accept the kind of treatment I accepted at work or compassionate, enlightened employers doing something they love. We want our kids to find their purpose in life. We want them to do an honest day’s work but love doing it. We want them to work hard without it feeling that way but when they need to, they can and do in order to reach a higher goal.
I don’t want to live the life my father lived, as admirable as it was, so focused on duty and responsibility that fun was a guilty pleasure not often allowed, not because he couldn’t afford it, especially later in life when his hard work had achieved financial security, but because anything other than hard work didn’t feel right. We don’t want our kids to work the way my husband works, to the extent we practically live life as if I am a single mother. We’d love them to be happy perhaps living with less money for more soulful rewards or to find a way to make money doing what they love.
There’s a great movie called ‘A Race to Nowhere’ in part about too much homework and the farce of standardization. You can see the 2 minute trailer here with some interesting comments: http://blog.makezine.com/2011/10/07/too-much-homework-not-enough-time-to-be-a-kid/
Constant Geographer is an angry teacher, an angry man, and I do understand and sympathize with where he’s coming from when he has to deal with entitled, lazy students (there’s nothing worse than an ‘entitled’ person, it’s such a horrible trait) who are so lucky to have the opportunity to attend college, to study such a fascinating subject as Geography, to have such a great teacher. But parents not doing homework with their kids, IF they are doing all sorts of much more worthwhile things, is not the reason for entitled kids and all the global devastation that will follow this. The reason is presumably because the kids have been spoiled, taught the world revolves around them and always had their parents either do everything for them or someone else was paid to do it for them. Not helping with homework wasn’t where these parents fell down. These parents fell down by not seriously engaging with their children and helping them learn to love learning so they’d go to class everyday excited to find out what happens next. These parents fell down because they thought everyone else was bringing up their children – the teachers, their kids’ friends, the TV, internet and games console when they should have been doing the job, and preferably not seeing it as a job but a pleasure. Parents like these do deserve the full opprobrium Constant Geographer heaps upon them, but please leave us, the principled homework haters, out of it!
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