Sunday, October 7, 2012

Teaching My Own: The School Bus

I was ready to admit that John Holt was right. In his homeschooling manifesto, Teach Your Own, he convinced even a die-hard, pro-public schooler such as myself that:

a) all children are natural learners,
b) if adults guide them oh so gently, or simply leave them be, they will keep on learning,
c) learning happens best when children are solving real-life problems in their own worlds,
d) traditional classrooms create an environment at odds with all three of these truths.

Alright, fine. My soul-searching was over, and my answer was clear: I wanted to try teaching my own.

I couldn't promise that it would work, I didn't take a vow to do it forever.

But I knew I had to give it a shot.

* * * * *

As the foggy mists of philosophical confusion faded away in the bright light of reason and conviction, I thought my family forecast was calling for nothing but blue skies and sunny days of free-form, natural learning. But wouldn't you know it, a tiny little twister came tearing into town in the form of my first-born daughter.

She still had her heart set on going to kindergarten.

Well. I could hardly blame her. I'd spent the first five years of her life pumping her up for the glory days of school, and only in the four months before she was due to begin did this life-changing turn of events change my mind.

I considered forbidding her to go. In fact, some of the new homeschooling-y friends I had sought out were clearly advising me to use my parental authority to just say no to kindergarten. After all, they insisted, I'm the parent, so I know best.

I'll admit that there was a big part of me that longed to play that parent card, and have my way.

But honestly, wouldn't it be ironic, hypocritical, even ridiculous to plant my flag in the camp of child-led learning, and then stamp my foot and tell my child that she had to do things my way, just because I said so?

* * * * *

It was a tough call, but in the end, I had a little chat with my five-year-old, explaining that I had some ideas about a new way to learn without going away to school and when she was ready, we could try that. And she smiled and nodded and said that staying with me and her sisters sounded like fun too. But still, she wanted to go to kindergarten.

So, one September morning, I put my sweet daughter on a big yellow bus and sent her off to school.

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