Sunday, March 23, 2008

Answers to TJEd Questions

This is Andrea--and I am finally going to answer some of the TJEd questions I posed, and respond to some of your responses.

1.  How well do you feel you were taught "how" to think?"

I thought it was interesting that Julia said she didn't feel like she was taught how to think and had to teach herself as she got older, but Kami and I both feel we always knew.  I definitely think this is a case of nurture as opposed to nature.  We grew up with our Dad--a cynic, independent thinker, who was always questioning things we said (who told you that?--with the famous eyebrow raised--and you believed it?).  
I disagree with Kami--I don't think we teach students how to think in the schools.  Certainly textbooks are not designed to create critical thinkers.  Again--the home is where the really critical things are learned.

5.  People constantly point out the need to socialize our children. What does that mean?  What are we socializing them for?  What behaviors do we want to encourage?  What social skills do they need for a normal life in our society?  Is school the best place to get those skills?

I agree with Julia--the whole socialization question is ridiculous.  All children learn to interact with others--and some are naturally better at it than others.  What you learn in school is how to avoid those that make fun of you, find those that you could be friends with, and how to please the authority figure--or, how to get away with as much as possible without getting punishments you don't really want.  For example, we would bring home report cards with 97% or above and Dad would say, "What percentage is an A?"  We would say, "95%" or whatever it was, and Dad would say, "Why did you waste your time getting a higher percentage?"  School is a game, and some play it well and others do not. 
Okay--that was a little off-topic.  To bring it back to socialization: a better example.  I moved all the time.  I would go into a new school and watch all the kids in my classes for a few days, immediately weeding out all the people that I obviously was not going to be friends with (students who were clearly "cooler" than me, jocks, skaters, cowboys, really strange people, or those who didn't have the same moral standards), then I would narrow down to my top three picks for a friend and then I would approach those people and spend some time testing them out.  
I was "socialized" to move well and make friends quickly and efficiently.  Who were the major players in that socialization process--my parents.  Tim has a cousin who is six or so.  Her mother buys her the trendiest clothes possible--modest or not--and is always talking about style and weight and image, and wants her to be a cheerleader.  Which crowd is this girl going to hang with and what is her prom dress going to look like--I think that is fairly obvious. Who is her primary socializer--her mother.  

   Yes, children notice what other kids are doing, but weird parents (as Julia said) create weird children.  Trendy rich parents create trendy children.  Academically inclined parents usually create academically inclined children.  Sports fanatics usually create little jocks.  I'm just saying families socialize their children.  And families that don't socialize their children usually wind up with the children who are the worst off.  For example, girls  who don't have grown-up males in their lives (by that I mean an involved dad or grandfather or older brother) are the ones that usually turn to love interests for acceptance and wind up with a whole host of problems.  My meth casualties (my students who were removed from homes where the mother used meth) usually had a really hard time because they had no one at home interacting (ie socializing) them.  

  This became longwinded when my point is simple: families socialize and then a student plays out the effects of that socializing in the school environment.  

13.  Do you aspire to having "wise" children, or are you okay with children who are happily settled into good careers?  Is there a difference?

I purposely made the question leading and biased but I think it is the heart of the question of education.  It has been pointed out in other places, but education means different things to different people.  I want my children to end up as wise and loving and kind as President Hinckley.  Since I am not as wise or loving or kind as President Hinckley than guarantees that my children won't be--but at least I can teach them to WANT to be like that.  At least I can teach them that just being okay is NOT the best they can do.  Granted, I want them to understand that they will not be perfect overnight, but I also want them to know that they should always be pushing themselves to improve.  To magnify their talents.  To think about big ideas.  President Eyring mentioned at President Hinckley's (PH's) funeral that he read a play of Shakespeare's because he knew how much PH loved Shakespeare.  When President Eyring mentioned to PH that he had read the play PH said to him, "That is a good start, but you have a lot of studying left to do!"  I want my kids to want to do that studying.  To learn more, to be more, to give more.

   I don't know if I am explaining this well, but every time I talk about homeschooling with my dad it gets back to--"so they might read more books and do more writing, but so what?  What are they going to do with it?"  I can never answer!  I don't know what to tell him.  But I feel strongly that what I feel is spiritual and not secular and can be only described through the scriptures, because when I try to describe what I want for myself and for my children, secular language fails me.  But think about these scriptures in regard to an "education."

D&C 130: 18-19, Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.  And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

D&C 93: 36, The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.

And D&C 88: 40, For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own  . . ..

I want wisdom, virtue, light, mercy, and intelligence to resonate with my children.  I want them to DESIRE these things--to search for them, to reject our current standards of mediocrity and do the best with their lives they are capable of.  I want them to want more than just a nice career, a little family, a few nice things.  Again--I am not explaining myself at all well.  Maybe that delightfully trite saying that is all over the place will have to suffice: "Shoot for the moon because even if you fail you will be among the stars."  I want them to aim high.  Or maybe it would be more useful to say: I want them to live up to the divinity within them.  To join themselves to a cause greater than themselves (I love the quote Kami has on her wall) and become some of the truly noble and great ones (ie Pres Hinckley) as they refine themselves in the process of moving that great cause forward.  I  cannot put it into words, but surely you can also feel the grandeur people are capable of and know what I am trying to say.

Postscript: I do not think you have to homeschool to achieve this.  I just think you have to really invest everything you have into your parenting and have a grand vision for your family. 

14.  DeMille claims that we learn about human nature through the classics. 

My example of this is "Illusion" by Paula Volsky.  After reading that book I have a much better grasp on slavery and other divisions of people like the very real socio-economic categorizing of people.  Along with classics though--you have to interact with people to really get a handle on human nature.  

12.  What is on your classics list?

I am still working on mine, but Kami, I had to laugh--hysterically.  Tom Jones????  Amusing, yes.  Hilarious, yes.  Roll on the floor laughing, yes.  But a must-read??  Then again--it does teach what happens if you have too many lovers and one of them is your mother.  HAHAHA!!  I seriously love that book.  If you are going to include that you really have to include Moll Flanders which is also hilarious and teaches you about what happens if you have too many husbands and one of them is not rich and one of the others is your brother.  Love that book. 


Juwmama said...

I need to comment on these answers! First of all, I can tell you are researching homeschooling and still in the "defending your position" phase (hee-hee). Believe me when I say, you will get over that...eventually!

Secondly, I think your family is rare in HOW you were taught to think. The only other family I know who thinks similarly is my mom's sister and her children (thus, my cousins). They exuberate sheer confidence in who they are and they educated themselves and reach for the moon you were talking about. I was always fascinated watching them. My grandma once commented that they were confident because their father had them doing difficult things at the age of 4. Interesting note. And another note to how I was raised, vs. you and my husband...J. was getting at me for not "figuring out" how to work the cell phone. He told me, "It just frustrates me that you don't push buttons and try to figure things out." I pondered on that for several days actually when it hit me that whenever I pushed buttons as a child I was told to STOP! So, I guess those are two hints of HOW to teach children HOW to think!

Thirdly, don't put Tom Jones on our reading list! OR Moll Flanders for that matter. :-)

Fourth - I've been struggling with the whole raising wise children thing for awhile now (before the question was posed). There's a family in our ward that just makes me feel so DUMB sometimes because they have this kind of mental attitude of being the best you can be. Not only is it being the best you can be, it's "This is what we do and it's be best way because we strive to always be better." And, everything overwhelms and stresses them out. Do they do a good job? No, they do a GREAT job in anything they do, but it is overwhelming to me how this mentality causes them to live a life of stress. Now, I dont' see you doing that, necessarily. But, I see myself feeling so horrible that I'm not doing a good job when I compare myself to them. When in reality, I think my kids are GREAT, they are learning, we are having FUN and I love being their mother and think I'm doing a pretty decent job (sometimes!). Anyway, I just don't want my kids to live overwhelming lives. Do I want them to be the best they can be? Of course! Do I want John to work at McDonald's like he says he's going to. Heaven forbid THAT to ever happen! But, I don't want them to feel like losers or get easily stressed out when they aren't the best, when they feel like they tried their best and failed. Even if I don't think it was their best effort sometimes, I need to take into account what is BEST for EACH of them.

Anyway, those are MY thoughts on YOUR thoughts!

Andrea said...


I see what you are saying but people choose to stress themselves out. You can aim to live a great life vs a good life without any additional "stress." Whatever that word even means. I would guess that the mother in that family is high "stress" and that trickles down.

Also--every person feels "stress." I think many people feel stress because they are wasting so much of their time that they are not accomplishing anything and that puts pressure on them.

Anyway--lots I could say about that, but I won't.

Also--you would LOVE Tom Jones and Moll Flanders. Moll does marry her brother but she didn't KNOW he was her brother, and they went their separate ways when they find out. And Tom Jones didn't sleep with his mother. He just thought he did for a brief time (after they had stopped sleeping together). Really, I promise, they are great books. Very, very, very funny (and really, really, really old, so nothing like what a similar book would be like today).

Juwmama said...

I know the whole "stress" thing, I just think I've had high goals for my family and so when they moved in with even higher goals, I sometimes feel like a loser. I think this stems mostly from the fact that I have strived for several years (since being married and becoming a mother) to NOT live in stress-mode. I'm actually pretty dang good at not getting "stressed out". And, so then I see this family and I think maybe I'm not "good enough" because I don't "stress" about the things they "stress" about. I don't know if any of this makes sense. But, it's just been something on my mind (I probably just needed to vent about the competition I feel rather than the idea of raising my children to become great!). And, I totally agree with you that you can be GREAT without overstressing yourself or your family, I just needed another person to say it! So thank you!!

Also, Tom Jones has been on my list of books to read for a long time now. I just haven't gotten there yet. Then, I was all the more intersted when it was mentioned in "Becoming Jane". Okay, enough said.

Kami said...

I think not worrying about what other people are doing cuts out a lot of stress from my life. I have a friend whom I love to death, probably my best friend ever, but she drives me crazy that she's always worrying about other people. At Christmas time I made her a wreath to hang on her door because she kept talking about how this one house down the street had 11 wreaths on their house, etc. etc. She's like that with everything. She wouldn't park close to the doors when taking her son to daycare because the other mothers would see her rusty minivan. It's just silly. Who cares? I think if you're satisfied with your family and how it's going than that should suffice. Like Andrea and I were talking about picking battles with kids, I picked being bilingual, we try to force our daughter to speak Spanish. Andrea picks movies. Different battles, different set of ideals, different families--it's all good. Anyway, I don't mean to be rude or anything, I guess it's just easier to vent about this online without being face to face, than to chew out my friend like I want to every so often.

Andrea said...

I think the biggest difference between people who are happy and people who are not is the amount of time spent worrying about what other people think. I think Julia and I were friends, and Julia was attracted to J. because she appreciated that we didn't care about what people thought. J. has been very healthy for you Ju!

Granted, there are always people in your life whose opinion you care about-and when they think you are doing something crazy (homeschool) you care. Not much. But a little. :)