Monday, August 18, 2014

Arguing for Simplicity

In a time of polarizing opinions, little "across the aisle" dialogue and gridlock it's been refreshing to read two books, written by very different authors, that end up arguing for a similar cause. Ten Way to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child is written by Anthony Esolen, a college professor, Christian, and social commentator. The Idle Parent is written by lefty British anti-authoritarian Tom Hodgkinson. While they come at parenting from completely different positions, they both end up advocating for an educational approach that includes cultivating an atmosphere of learning within the home. They're both positive about home schooling. They encourage parents to take responsibility for their children's education. They advocate plenty of free time, outdoor play, limiting structured activities overseen by adults. Imagination is valued and great literature is used to encourage its development.

Respect for Children

The thing that struck me is that both authors have a healthy respect for children. As a parent, I'm
continually amazed at the developments of my son. Little ones come with so much pre-programed information and are so incredibly aware of their surroundings. Even during the first week of my son's life, he expressed interest and curiosity, staring at the lights and decorations on our Christmas tree. As he gets older that natural inquisitiveness has only increased. He also expresses, as all babies do, the purest form of joy. His affections are clear and shameless. These are qualities I want to preserve as long as I am possibly able. While many parenting philosophies and teaching ideologies seem to put an emphasis on "developing" the child, I think that can often result in misguided applications. Esolen and Hodgkinson seem to agree. They both make convincing arguments for freeing children from the pressures of performance based success. Replace a rigid class schedule with a more holistic educational approach that involves more time for exploration and discovery. Reduce the number of hours children are required to spend seated at desks and allow them to run free outside. Let them organize their own games instead of signing them up for youth soccer. Ultimately, it seems to me, they call for parents and educators to put a little more trust in the children entrusted to our care. In a culture that encourages helicopter parenting, I think there is wisdom in this idea.

Rejecting "Success"

As homeschoolers and parents, don't we all feel an enormous amount of pressure to ensure that our children succeed? That they stay on track with their traditionally schooled peers? That they're adequately "socialized"? Maybe we can relax a bit. According to Esolen and Hodgkinson, maybe we need to rethink what we mean by success. Both authors argue for a rejection of commercialism and an adoption of simplicity. How refreshing! Maybe success can't be equated with a 9-5 job and lots of stuff. As homeschoolers, we're already a bit outside the mainstream and I think that we all want more for our children. The authors certainly place a high value on innovation and entrepreneurship and giving back. By eschewing an educational system and philosophy that values order over innovation, time spent indoors over time spent exploring nature, fill-in-the-blank answers over critical thinking, we've taken the first step toward allowing our children to grow into the people they were created to be. And we're encouraging them to look at learning not as something that should be accomplished in 45 minute segments, but in everything they do.

Leaving room for joy

One of the most rewarding aspects of my jobs is hearing from parents who have been reacquainted with what it means to love learning. Time after time, I'll hear from parents who thought they hated literature or despised history. After getting rid of the textbooks and rejecting test-driven learning, these moms and dads have rediscovered their curiosity while encouraging their children's inborn inquisitiveness. They've spent hours together cuddled on the sofa with their children learning about Beowulf and Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman and Augustus Caesar and Marie Curie. They've planned history field trips to state parks, something that a couple of years ago would have sounded like drudgery but instead has become a favorite family memory. Amazing how redemptive these experiences can be. Education stops being the mere transfer of information from an "expert" to a "student", it becomes an organic exchange between child and parent, both inspiring one another, perspectives shifting, eyes opening, stories unfolding. Left to their own devices, children will learn and explore (especially if there are no screens nearby to distract them from this important endeavor). So, as you start this new school year, in the midst of lesson planning, leave a little room for freedom, exploration, and joy.

You may also enjoy:

Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages. And if you're looking for great resources for your family, check out our webpage. If you've enjoyed this, please feel free to share using the buttons below!

No comments:

Post a Comment