The tricky part outlining a “how-to” for a real education (provided you don’t want your children to have a fake one–that’s kind of tongue in cheek,just so you know), is that it takes your life, your experiences, your children and your opportunities to make it happen.
So I’m going to offer you what I’ve been using to give me inspiration, guidelines, ideas and direction about how to implement a real, living education. You may simply scour these ideas to supplement a more structured routine. Either way, this is where your comments could be SO helpful. Because the idea of a “real” education is so foreign to us, the more tangible the ideas, the better. I would personally love to hear specific ways some of you carry out these ideas.
“In centuries past, the time of a child or adolescent would be occupied in real work, real charity, real adventure, and the real search for mentors who might teach what he or she really wanted to learn. A great deal of time was spent in community pursuits, practicing affection, meeting and studying every level of the community, learning how to make a home, and dozens of other tasks necessary to becoming a whole man or woman.” -Gatto, A Different Kind of Teacher
“Once you understand the logic behind modern schooling, its tricks and traps are fairly easy to avoid. School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently. Well-schooled kids have a low threshold for boredom; help your own to develop an inner life so they’ll never be bored. Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology—all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so they learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cellphone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can.” -Gatto, Should School Be Boring?
Gatto listed 15 Themes for Private Education I found helpful:
1. A theory of human nature (as embodied in history, philosophy, theology, literature and law).
2. Skill in the active literacies (writing, public speaking).
3. Insight into the major institutional forms (courts, corporations, military, education).
4. Repeated exercises in the forms of good manners and politeness; based on the truth that politeness and civility are the foundation of all future relationships, all future alliances, and access to places that you might want to go.
5. Independent work.
(This is an area I’m finding more difficult to wrap flesh around. My best idea is to create a springboard of questions that might ignite curiosity, having a child set out in search of the answers, hoping he gets lost in the pursuit. Or it could be a far more structured assignment with a topic of his choice, documented or completed with an essay.)
6. Energetic physical sports
7. A complete theory of access to any place and any person. (This is interesting and big.)
8. Responsibility as an utterly essential part of the curriculum; always to grab responsibility when it is offered and always to deliver more than is asked for. (Applause and standing ovation.)
9. Arrival at a personal code of standards (in production, behavior and morality).
10. To have a familiarity with, and to be at ease with, the fine arts. (cultural capital)
11. The power of accurate observation and recording. For example, sharpen the perception by being able to draw accurately. (Huge.)
12. The ability to deal with challenges of all sorts.
13. A habit of caution in reasoning to conclusions.
14. The constant development and testing of prior judgments: you make judgments, you discriminate value, and then you follow up and “keep an eye” on your predictions to see how far skewed, or how consistent, your predictions were.
15. Family Curriculum-Gatto placed high value on family life and the inner workings of the home, the routines created there, and the dependence of family members on each other. From knowing how to set a table to being familiar with changing diapers, unlike our culture, he esteemed these as essential lessons that both bonded family members and better prepared children for families of their own. We’ve added to our routine two different children planing for and preparing supper each night. This leaves me with one night with a younger child and overseeing the others until they get the hang of different dishes. So far, everyone is excited about it. Remember too, the value children feel when they can participate in real ways, regularly, to the functioning of a home. We should verbally remind them of that value, both inherent and added as they work willingly.
My random notes:
- Much of Gatto’s insight has helped me to relax and allow my children to spend significant time doing what they love. Solving problems happens while playing, building, creating and dreaming. Let them.
- We have designated Friday’s as “Good Deeds Friday”, and a large part of that is writing letters to express gratitude or encouragement to those who may need it. Having a piece of writing that someone else will see encourages them to work on syntax and grammar.
- Letting them, as young as possible, do things like make purchases, pump gas, grocery shop with a small list, use a debit card, etc. builds confidence. Often they rise to whatever challenge you treat as expected.
- Service, whether in the form of organized volunteer work or more organic meeting of needs in your community and church cannot be underestimated for its importance both in teaching and developing important character qualities.
Real life. Equipping men and women to think, process, analyze and DO things; to work out conflict in relationships, to live lives that are a continual blessing to others; to foster a deep gratitude–a life-changing kind that transforms the way they live; to make choices grounded in wisdom; to grasp the power of contentment; to love, laugh and inherit the peace that comes with trusting in God’s will in their lives. This is the education we want for our children.
“This book changed our lives. I had no idea how I was squelching my children’s love of learning by trying to reproduce something that we already knew doesn’t work very well. Now they thrive and we’re all much happier!” -Sandra L.