Sunday, March 09, 2008

Interests and Academics ~ and Herbs

Today I weeded the back garden. I am supposed to be resting more but find sitting down for too long to be intolerable. And a little bit of weeding never hurt anyone.

Except my dh nearly killed me . I weeded and discarded what I thought were two unsightly weeds. Turns out these were two of his favourite plants. Oh well. Thank heavens for patient dhs.

Dh pruned some herbs for me and these are now drying in the laundry. Hence the pic above.

My drying of herbs sparked a discussion with Anthony (12). Anthony then searched our bookshelves for a book that he had once perused and now wants to read more carefully ~ "The Illustrated Herbal".

I was reminded once again of how unschooling works, of how the interest of one family member often rubs off onto another.

I also thought about the role that books and conversation and adult company has in my sons' unschooling.

A large part of our educational process, of our unschooling, of our living and learning, is simply sharing our lives.

The kids have always been very involved in our adult lives – in the things dh and I do at church, in the community, my work , our work where possible at home or outside, our interests, our friends and visitors, our lives, our music, many of our movies, our books and reading, our conversations, our choices, our failings, our good and bad times.

The result, arrived at almost inadvertantly, has been sons who love books and reading, who can talk and talk, who form opinions and share opinions, who like learning ( for the most part) and who are often academically inclined.

So, it was interesting for me to read an article on learning and on teacher education,
Making it harder and better: Improving teaching and learning. By Lola Hill, from Deakin University, here in Australia.

In the Introduction, Hill writes ~

In my experience as a visiting teacher educator to perhaps a hundred primary classrooms over more than a decade, I have witnessed innumerable interactions between teachers and children in which the teacher appears not to have grasped the meaning or consequence of a child's intellectual offering. I am not speaking of the inevitable moments when distraction or preoccupation interferes with a teacher's ability to listen and respond adequately to a child, nor of situations when the child's meaning is unclear, but of interactions in which a child's expression of thinking is clear, unambiguous, and significant, yet falls into the void, uncomprehended, unacknowledged, and unused. That particular opportunity to engage the child in further learning is lost. In the short term, the child may not appreciate his or her own achievement, and in the longer term the child may question whether the effort required to engage intellectually with a teacher is worthwhile.

I do not believe that these teachers deliberately neglect children's interests. We do not educate our teachers to engage with children intellectually. Like Splitter and Sharp (1995, p. 65), I distinguish between 'schooling' and 'education'. Unlike education, schooling is not renowned for its attention to inculcating reflective and critical thinking and judgement in its learners. Most teachers, I hazard, are more schooled than educated. Consequently, most are not practiced at joining in thoughtful dialogue about substantive issues. Sadly, many appear disinclined towards it.

Intellectual development is a journey requiring effort, not an inherent gift which one does or does not possess. One chooses whether or not to embark on the journey and applies one's intelligence, among many other personal qualities, to the journeying. If we want our teachers to be educators in the true sense of the word, then we must educate them. We must provide them with opportunities, support, and challenge to become reflective, critical, and creative thinkers, to grow intellectually, to engage in a process of constant transformation. Then, in Postman's words: "What this means is that at its best, schooling can be about how to make a life, which is quite different from how to make a living" (Postman, 1996, p. x).

I wonder if we busy homeschooling parents (sometimes often?) disengage with our children and miss the opportunity to talk , to connect minds. Especially with young minds - five year olds and eight year olds...Do we almost over protect our children and thus end up giving them dumbed down books and movies and child only activities and experiences?
Yet, we homeschoolers have more opportunity than most to simply spend time with our children and to share our day to day experiences. This must work to our advantage, both educationally and from a family-connectedness point of view.

I know I have been guilty of mental dis-engagement. I have been busy, distracted, or at the computer ( blushes) and thus have missed opportunities to be with my kids.

However, I have also been aware of my own need for education and of sharing myself, warts and thoughts and all , with my sons. This, perhaps, has been my saving grace. Perhaps it has been this sharing, this self education, this following of interests, alongside adult company and books, that has helped form my children's minds. So far.

Yes, we do some schoolwork. Indeed, as shocking unschoolers, we have used and are using textbooks sometimes. Often, however, it is the education that occurs outside the schooling parameters that matters the most.

Thus, our life, shows our children how to make a life. How we make our lives. How we live our faith.

And this leads to creative thinking and searching. And to more reading. And, often, to formal academics .
Now, if we can just get that humility thing going.
And work on ourselves more, as Christians. With prayer.
While drying herbs and reading about herbs. :-)


Anonymous said...

I'm going to read the thinking part of this post again when my brain is awake. Just wanted to sympathise with your husband- I still mourn my butterfly plants that I got on sale and which were whippersnippered to death by a husband who shall remain nameless.

Did you read Melissa Wiley's post on the professor who refuses to publish a course outline for his students and why? Very thought provoking. Off to sleep, I can't type without a mistake a word.

Leonie said...

Oh, dear - I understand about the butterfly plants!

I did read Lissa's post. Very interesting, allowing for exploration. Yet there has to be some course guideline and expectation, doesn't there?

I agree totally, however, with avoiding learning material 'just to get through the course', simply doing what you have to do with litle mind engagement. This is one reason why we are more flexible within our big plans.

molly said...

Another great post Leonie! Let Anthony know I will be doing an on line herbal study at my blog staring in a couple of weeks. I have been asked several times, might as well jump in a do it.

Leonie said...

Cool, Molly, I'll get Anthony to check it out....