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Learning, teaching, education and the likes

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Posted

I greatly respect this forum, I frequent to read your replies and discussions. However, I want to preface this entry with a warning, I am not scholarly, I'm only a homeschooling parent seeking guidance. If I'm in the wrong place, say so.

I began homeschooling my young sons this year. When we made this choice I kind of assumed I would get some negative feedback from their father (ex-husband) and his public school teacher wife. I have, to the point that it's made me doubt my decision and worry about putting the boys in the middle of such a battle. I began homeschooling using some curriculum and doing unit studies. It was very hard to pretend school at home and motivate my kids. It wasn't enjoyable for me and I know it wasn't for them. Since I know some families that unschool, I got some books and went to a meet-up to see what it was all about. I've been doing it for a couple of weeks and it fits really well with our family and my kids have a lot less stress about 'school'. We don't have a designated school time, learning can take place anytime. This has done some great things like cause my oldest son to inquire on his own initiative and I guide him to find the answers. My youngest loves piano, dancing and building. It's let us focus on these unlike a curriculum would.

The reason I'm stating all this is because I've been getting posts like this from their step-mom:

A true teacher knows how to craft learning experiences which incorporate skills and valuable life experiences while challenging learners at every level. She knows the importance of modeling new skills and providing authentic practice. She knows that exposure to experiences alone do not educate. Her students have many strengths which she captures in their performance. Her students have weaknesses which she intimately knows. Those weaknesses are uncovered by the challenges they face. A true teacher believes in her students, their abilities and their potential. She cares personally and deeply for her students, impacting them with her confidence, support and her heart.

I'd like to explore this. Do children need teachers like she describes? Is it more important in the long run that children are able to be who they are or that they were taught who to be?

What are some good resources to learn about pedagogy? I've read Montessori, Gatto and Illich, along with many contemporaries.

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Posted

I don't doubt that the step-mom means well but I think you should challenge what she is telling you, as I expect you already have been. Here are a few suggestions on first reading:

  • What is a "true" teacher and how do we recognise one? In particular, how do we identify step-mom as such?
  • Who decides which life experiences are valuable and which aren't? Is a "true" teacher in a better position to assess this than a parent or the student?
  • What counts as "authentic practice"? Unless a teacher is an expert in all subjects then he/she is probably a generalist; perhaps it's better for a child to be exposed to "authentic practice" from a variety of experts arranged via home schooling?
  • Who decides which skills need to be modelled?

... and so on. I think the rest of the passage is well-intentioned but ultimately empty rhetoric.

The difficulty with debating what you're doing is that everyone (I assume) wants the best for children. Those who object to homeschooling or unschooling believe (if they reflect on it) that even though school requires standardisation and is limiting in many ways, it provides a foundation for integration into society and minimises the potential harm that parents might inadvertently do when trying to educate their own children. However, compulsory schooling is a very recent phenomenon and people did fine without it. The only tests you can use to assess your progress are either against the curriculum or - eventually - how much your children enjoy learning and what they achieve in later life.

I don't know how old your children are but you might like to consider that many countries don't require compulsory schooling until children are 7 (here is an old story about this, focusing on Europe). At the very least, you could consider the first year or so of home schooling an opportunity to see how well it fits for you and your children?

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Posted

Hi fumiko!

Where do I begin? You're inspiring me to write a book! I am finding TGL a bit quiet at the moment, and I expect this thread will be moved to the Learn Forum here, but I am sure you will find yourself welcome. Welcome from me for a start, anyway!

The wife of your ex-husband talks more like a teacher trainer to me. That paragraph is the sort of thing I used to read in the manuals when I trained as a teacher in 1965. After a career of 40 years, and I still do some private tuition, those words are of little practical value, I think. In fairness, I must say that now, in my private tuition on a one-to-one basis, I do try to aspire to those ideals, but even now these children have so many other influences in their lives that my little input, sometimes only one hour per week, is like a drop in the ocean. There is very little difference on my students, then, between one-to-one and teaching a class of 30 or less for 30 hours per week, I find. For truly one-to-one influence, full-time, I read Rousseau's "Emile" during my initial training and was impressed. Throughout my career my foundational pedagogy was based on the work of Piaget, and my philosophy of science (I was trained as a secondary science teacher) was fortified by reading some of Paul Feyerabend. You too seem well-read, therefore I feel that there is little more that I can offer in that direction.

So now we come down to actual practice, or praxis as Paulo Freire might say! I deliberately mention Freire because of his political influence. I know as teachers we are not supposed to influence our children with our religious or political views, but personally I have never found that possible. It seemed to me as if I was expected to deny some of my humanity, and behave like an automaton! In fact, my work with young people helped me form and develop my own religious and political views.

Your self-styled teacher-trainer says: "She (a teacher) knows that exposure to experiences alone do not educate". What a strange thing to say, I was never told that when I trained as a teacher. In fact we were encouraged to make our lessons very experiential - child-centred, hands-on, learning by doing, or any other similar phrase. Anyway, how can we deny experiences (sensations) from sentient beings? Even if we put someone in a cave (Plato's forms?) they are going to learn something, surely?

The issue is as to what sorts of experiences do we want our children to have, and this is where our own religious and political positions come in to play, our own world view (Weltanschauung if we prefer). Of course none of us would want to do anything illegal, I guess, but other than that, as P. Feyerabend might say, "Anything Goes"!

If you have not done so already, you need to prioritize on your aims, objectives (buzz words for teachers!) and curriculum. Plan your days, and do some testing occasionally to see if what you want is being achieved. Of course, do not forget to find out what your boys want and work with them to establish mutually agreed objectives. Your views on nature v.v. nurture, co-operation v.v. competition, rewards and punishment, love and hate!), etc. etc. will all come into play.

Finally, and I guess you have done this, you will need to know about the law regarding home-schooling as applies to you in your location. You may get a few visits from the big wigs!

I am only an occasional poster here, I hope others join in because I agree with you, this is a great site.

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