Monday, April 27, 2009

TJED Revisited

I'm rereading some of my favorite homeschooling/education texts to get inspired for the new year. This year we've pretty much stopped doing anything but math and reading, although most of our reading is historically based. Except for George's Marvelous Medicine (Miriam loved it and I sat there inwardly cringing because I forgot how twisted Dahl can be) and Hot Fudge Pickles (one of my childhood favorites that Miriam loved and wouldn't let me stop reading until we finished the whole thing).

We've also been reading a book about Thomas Jefferson. After he left formal school he decided he wanted to be an educated man. Instead of spending the required six weeks to become a lawyer he dedicated five years of intense study to his profession and education. In five years time (from 20 to 25) he became fluent in six languages along with a rigorous study of geography, history and science.

When I read about Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and even George Washington (who wasn't quite a Renaissance man in the same way), I think about DeMille's question: "Is the education our children are receiving on par with their potential?" Then I think about my Philippine student who was so dedicated that she wrote more gracefully in English after one year of English study than her American classmates. I also think of my Middle Eastern student who wrote more gracefully and thoughtfully than I do when he was a tenth grader. His education outclassed my students by an immeasurable margin. Granted, he was rich and had all private tutors and private school education. Still--the point I'm making is the potential is there in our children to reach levels of education that we have been taught to believe are not worth attaining because they do not help us in the job market.

I admit to straddling the fence on this issue in the past. Does it really matter if we are that educated? Does it matter if we can converse on all the major topics of the day, all the greatest literature, and know where every country is on the map? Is it a pride issue or is it a "whatever level of education you attain in this life will be for your benefit in the next" issue? (That was a paraphrase.)

Yesterday I was daydreaming about Kayli's husband, a biomedical engineer, getting a job in Logan (his interview is Tuesday--cross all your fingers and toes). In my daydream Eli had engineer inclinations and due to my homeschooling and his early college courses, Brett was able to provide Eli with an internship when Eli was 16. (Also in the dream was Eli going to live with Kayli for the summer, me missing him, and Kayli and Brett being impressed with my great parenting. Eli getting an internship is much more likely than anyone being real impressed with my parenting, but if you're going to dream . . ..)

That is the kind of thing that I always poo-pooed before. Don't make them grow up too fast, I thought. People learn what they need to know and not much more, I would think. Now, I am not so sure. Part of the issue is that I've been trying without really trying to keep Miriam from getting too far ahead of her classmates because I've always assumed that I'd put her back in the system eventually. More and more I've started rethinking that. No, I would never let her skip a grade but why am I planning on putting her back in the system? Why am I trying to hold her back???? In much the same way that I used to think homeschooling was weird and then changed my mind, I've now changed my mind about the parents who keep their kids home until they need a class or two at high school or the local college or university.

Would it be so wrong for me to homeschool Miriam and then have her start taking classes at Weber when she's 16 or so?

I don't know. Every once in awhile I feel this huge wave of guilt that Miriam won't ever have the chance to be in Kindergarten now because of a decision I made for her. Kindergarten was fun!! And she missed out.

On the other hand, she and I have really strengthened our previously weak relationship over the course of this year. She has daily become more and more delightful to be around. Her destructive tendencies have slowly dwindled. Her imagination is incredible. She loves to curl up next to me while I read to her or she reads to me. I can't stand the thought of ever sending her away for the bulk of the day.

In all my musings about my own choice to homeschool I have never once questioned my ability to do a better job than the school system. I worked in the school system. Miriam would do fine in the public school. She would excel. But she wouldn't learn more or be better prepared for college by the public school system.

So--as I think about this upcoming year and the pace I want to set and the avenues I want to explore my question is this: am I limiting my children? Am I failing to help them excel because I'm scared of where we could end up? If I decide to start down a path of excellence education (leadership education--Jeffersonion education, whatever you want to call it), I have to rewrite my whole life agenda and master plan. Am I ready to do that? Would that be the best thing for my family?

I don't want my children to be so attached to me and my family that they can't let go in a normal way (several missionaries that I know have returned home after a few weeks in the MTC because they missed mom too much). My own homesickness when I left home at 17 was severe. Are there other issues that I've forgotten about as I've thought about possible futures for my family?

Are my family goals feasible? For example, Timothy wants the kids to start a family business and I expect my children to contribute a tenth of what they earn to tithing and a tenth to a general family missionary fund. I want all my children to contribute to everyone's missions. Is that unreasonable? So far they don't mind, but they also don't know that a dime is worth more than a penny.

Another goal that Timothy and I have is to make a family movie every summer. Eventually the kids can do the whole thing on their own--including write the script. Will they still think that's fun after a few years?

I want all my children to learn two instruments--piano and whatever they choose. Miriam is dead set on the harp. Cowen, when I asked, said he wanted to play the trumpet. I didn't know he knew about trumpets. Am I up to forcing kids to practice???

Timothy wants the kids to learn Spanish. I don't even want to go there.

I want my children to write beautifully. That's the only thing I'm confident I can teach them without much strife. Writing is blessedly fun. If you teach it correctly.


Sorry to ramble. I'm putting together next year's curriculum and these questions keep me up at night. Thought you other homeschoolers might have some thoughts.

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