Education is a mindset

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Not sure where this train of thought will take me…but I woke up today and immediately got on Facebook, as I always do, and got into a conversation on Facebook that made me think…

The conversation content isn’t entirely relevant because my thinking went into a different direction, as often happens, and got me thinking about why I have the opinions that I have about education. I have been exposed to a fair bit of “alternative” education…first in college at the child development programs on campus where our classes were combined with actual preschool programs to put our learning right into action…then at Harmony Day School, a private preK-3 child-centered learning program (seriously the BEST school that ever existed! I was devastated when it had to shut down.) and finally at SCICON Outdoor School where I taught hands-on trails out in nature about all sorts of science topics, and locally at The Discovery Center, where I taught more science classes and worked on some neat programs off and on for years. 

All these experiences helped build my educational philosophy and showed me how bad the public schools are doing things, because I know, first-hand, what education COULD look like! 

All that experience really built my views on education…And then, of course, my experience substitute teaching in many Fresno area public schools for a few months just cinched it for me. 

You couldn’t pay me to put my kids in any Fresno school.  Yes, it was that bad, in my mind. Not horrifically bad, send the news crew in, bad….but made me want to cry, watching what children go through in ANY public school environment…and how this system systematically destroys kids’ love of learning.

There are exceptions, of course, I know that. I have had friends over the years that taught and still do teach in public schools…but good teachers can only do so much with a broken system. And it’s hit or miss, mostly miss, on getting them!

So, back to the topic of this post….what do I mean that education is a mindset???

Well, even among homeschoolers, I find myself in a minority in my thinking…I strongly believe bringing the public school home is at best, a bad idea, at worst, disastrous!!

Traditional homeschooling…the default for every homeschooler unless they happened upon something like Waldorf or Montessori or unschooling first…is essentially the same educational philosophy as the public schools. It’s the mindset that learning is all about getting as much info into children’s heads as you can before they leave home. The idea being that that will make them more prepared for life and hence, more successful.

NO. That just makes them fed up with stuff being forced on them and as a result, most end up hating learning and everything related to “education.”

You can’t prepare your kids for everything life is going to throw at them. Best get that in your head right now.

What you CAN do is teach them how to deal with life in a healthy, productive way, and one of the most important aspects of that is they need to know HOW to learn and even more importantly: they NEED TO LOVE LEARNING!!

Because learning is THE only thing they really need, education, academic-wise. 

If they know HOW to learn, and do not shy away from learning….and are GOOD AT learning….then they can do ANYTHING!! 

Because EVERYTHING is on the Internet, people! It’s easy to learn pretty much anything nowadays!! It’s all just a Google search away. 

Of course, I still believe kids need a foundation of learning….they need to know how to read, first and foremost…

They need to know basic arithmetic. And luckily there’s tons of creative ways to learn that these days…dry curriculum should never be tolerated. 

And there’s a zillion topics in science and history and geography and the arts that can and should be learned in childhood…as a foundation to build upon….NOT in a cram-as-much-into-them-as-we-can way….but here’s a thought: 

Use these important topics to teach that whole “love of learning” thing and the HOW to learning.

Instead of seeing science, history, art, etc as subjects to pour into your kids…to fill them with as much as you can while you have them….see them as a MEANS to the final end (love of learning)….See them not as a list of topics to check off that you’ve exposed your kids to (and HOPE they remember)…see them as the ingredients needed to show your kids the HOW and WHY of learning.

The recipe is as follows:

To make 1 ADEPT, LEARNING-LOVING Child, ready for the world….

Ingredients:

  • 1 child which you adore 
  • 1 loving, open-minded parent to dedicate their time to the above child’s learning
  • 1 loving and enriching home environment
  • 1 library card
  • 1 computer with access to the Internet (can use the library’s, if necessary)
  • A steady stream of interesting topics to explore, both virtually and physically, found via library and Internet.

That’s it! So long as the guiding adult shows excitement for learning and instructs the child how to find information…and keeps the environment full of enriching activities and resources (which DON’T have to cost a lot of money…in fact much doesn’t cost anything at all!) …and just keep pursuing things that interest the child, sprinkled in with introduced topics they might not have stumbled upon themselves (this is where I differ from unschooling, which tends to entirely follow the child…I’m a firm believer in introducing topics to kids because they don’t know what they don’t know!)

It’s truly not that complicated. The actual method you land upon to deliver the above ideas will depend on you and your kids…but just know that this is not rocket science. I think we, as homeschool parents, tend to make things much more complicated than we need to.

Now, what does this actually look like on a day to day basis? I’m still working on that. But I wanted to have a sort of mission to fall back on to refer to when my resolve is waning or I am flailing at providing that enriching environment.

I think it’s time to create a mission statement, people. For now, you can refer to this post for inspiration…but next I’m going to figure out how to create your own homeschool mission statement to hang on the wall and refer to when things are tough.

Keep your eye on that mission, your purpose, your end goal and do not give up! The end result is a wonderful thing: children who love learning, and know how to learn ANYTHING.

I think that makes it all worth it, don’t you?

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