Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Taking Children Seriously

I think the reason I especially liked the first GWSs was that the premise seemed to be, "If you take children seriously and respect them and their abilities, they will surprise you with what they are capable of". This is similar to what Charlotte Mason said (and Montessori) and it is an attractive theory to me.

The later GWSs seemed to lose this theme a bit and go for more of a "whatever kids choose to do is all right" -- in other words, more of a perpetuation of childhood than the reverse. >>>>>>>>>>

I wrote that on the 4Real message board and also wrote this:

I found that reading about a variety of "types" of homeschooling approaches helped me get a better balance through the years. It helped me see that there is more than one way to get the job done (there, see, perhaps I DO believe in a variety of approaches, though I think successful homeschoolers tend to recognize their own qualities and half-intuitively balance them out, as you pointed out). Also, a family's educational needs will change from year to year, perhaps, again in the name of balance. So if you feel things aren't going quite right at present, reading about unschooling might help validate trying a different way of thinking for a while.

I was thinking about one of my last hold-out objections to unschooling -- the ideal of a liberal education. It occurs to me that I don't think a broad liberal education is a discrete body of knowledge, ie Latin, x amount of history, x science labs etc. From all I've read, a "liberal" education befitting a "free man" not slave is an APPROACH to things. Cardinal Newman says it is a habit of seeing beyond the subject classifications to the connection and integrity of ALL knowledge. It is also a habit of moving from the particular to the universal -- a bit like contemplation, where you look at a tree or think about an event and see it as part of a bigger picture.

That seems to be at least potentially as effectively done with an unschooling approach as with a structured, subject by subject approach. But again, I suppose you could achieve that habit of mind by either path. I think it would be harder to "unschool" in a formal school situation, at least, it wasn't fully effective in the alternative junior high I went to -- and perhaps that's why unschooling is not really part of the Catholic educational tradition, though certainly there are plenty of examples of auto-didacts out there -- Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin are two that I can think of.

The Catholic tradition HAS always acknowledged that parents are uniquely fitted to educate their children and that "informal" methods are often more effective than "formal", so in that sense, unschooling has a venerable though not very thoroughly explicated heritage.

Anyway, my plan is to do a bit of experimenting this year -- I'm not going to call myself an unschooler, but I'm going to say that we're on sabbatical . That lets us explore a bit without commiting completely, so it's in my comfort level.... we'll see how it goes. I'm not ready to desert my classical ideals, but I want to flex them a bit, especially since my present oldest homeschooler needs a different approach than my present graduate did.

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