Sunday, May 26, 2013

Faith - An Analogy

This book, Desperate, Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, has been in my bag for a week or so in anticipation of going to a Christian homeschooling mum conference just down the road from where I live this last weekend.  The conference was based on similar ones run in the US by Sally Clarkson, a co-author of the mentioned book.  In the end I couldn't go due to a tummy virus that just lingered and lingered and lingered.  I couldn't take it to a conference where travelling mums with babies would be.  Just wouldn't have been right!  So I missed it.  :-(

This morning I read a few chapters which led me to thinking about faith as I restarted the fire from its morning embers.  After 6 winters in this house and 1 winter in Tasmania I am better than I used to be at restarting a fire from small coals.  (I am from a tropical state so it hasn't been easy!) 

It takes some tightly scrunched paper, some small dry twigs and then small splits usually left over from the "men" splitting the logs laid just right so that air can flow, and they don't fall out the door.  I can restart the whole fire now without a match just by breathing on it.  Sometimes it takes a small puff, other times a sustained gentle breath until the larger pieces of timber catch into flame and stay lit.  But most days I can do it.

I thought to myself why do I do it the way I do?  I realised that over time I have gained confidence in myself and my skills and that I knew that even if my first attempt didn't work I knew how to gently adjust the twigs, the paper or how gently I blew until it could catch.  I also knew that I could restart again, and if the embers really weren't enough I do have matches.  But I like the challenge and I believe I can do it.  I have faith in myself.

Maybe I need to consider this as I contemplate homeschooling all my boys again.  Maybe I don't need to have it All Right right now.  I can be gentle, I can readjust the "twigs", I can blow gently or I can be firm but I can have faith that it will work out because I care, I love them and I do not want to let them down.  I am willing to learn, I know it takes time.  All I need to do is Do Something, Anything... as long as I care, and I do.

Best wishes
Jen

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Role of the Teacher

From Seth Godin's Stop Stealing Dreams

It used to be simple: the teacher was the cop, the lecturer, the source of answers, and the gatekeeper to resources. All rolled into one.

A teacher might be the person who is capable of delivering information. A teacher can be your best source of finding out how to do something or why something works.

A teacher can also serve to create a social contract or environment where people will change their posture, do their best work, and stretch in new directions. We’ve all been in environments where competition, social status, or the direct connection with another human being has changed us.

The Internet is making the role of content gatekeeper unimportant. Redundant. Even wasteful.

If there’s information that can be written down, widespread digital access now means that just about anyone can look it up. We don’t need a human being standing next to us to lecture us on how to find the square root of a number or sharpen an axe.

(Worth stopping for a second and reconsidering the revolutionary nature of that last sentence.)

What we do need is someone to persuade us that we want to learn those things, and someone to push us or encourage us or create a space where we want to learn to do them better.

If all the teacher is going to do is read her pre-written notes from a PowerPoint slide to a lecture hall of thirty or three hundred, perhaps she should stay home. Not only is this a horrible disrespect to the student, it’s a complete waste of the heart and soul of the talented teacher. Teaching is no longer about delivering facts that are unavailable in any other format.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Clean Joke!

While on safari in cannibal country, a traveler came across a cafe in a clearing in the jungle.  The sign out front advertised:

  • Fried Missionary     $5.00
  • Boiled Hunter          $4.50
  • Grilled Safari Guide   $5.00
  • Stuffed Politician      $15.00
When the traveler asked why so much for the politician, the chef replied, "Have you ever tried to clean one?"


Best wishes
Jen

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Smoke and Mirror Illusions of the School System

I am reading an e-book called Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin, not quite sure how I came across it, but it has been a thought provoking read.  It is generally his answer to the question "What do you think we ought to do about education?"

It starts with the premise of why school as we know it was created in the first place.  Most homeschoolers have come across this before but just in case you haven't, a quick summary - to remove children from the labour force and to create jobs for adults in a newly industrialised world it was agreed to educate children in a similar factory-like fashion, with tests and processes to track progress.  It was important that these young people were taught to obey blindly, to follow systems unquestioningly and to all know the same basic things with no allowances for individuality or free thinking.

Here are some interesting excerpts:

What if we told students the truth?
Transparency in the traditional school might destroy it.  If we told the truth about the irrelevance of various courses, about the relative quality of some teachers, about the power of choice and free speech - could the school as we know it survive?

 ... Unlike just about every other institution and product line in our economy, transparency is missing from education.  Students are lied to and so are parents.  At some point, teenagers realize that most of school is a game, but the system never acknowledges it.  In search of power, control and independence, administrators hide information from teachers, and vice versa.

 ... The very texture of the traditional school matches the organization and culture of the industrial economy.  The bottom of the pyramid stores the students, with teachers (middle managers) following instructions from their bosses.

As in the traditional industrial organization, the folks at the bottom of the school are ignored, mistreated and lied to.  They are kept in the dark about anything outside of what they need to know to do their job (being a student), and put to work to satisfy the needs of the people in charge. 

He then goes on to point out that the connection we have across the world now with the internet is starting to show young people that they can learn on their own, about what they are truly interested in, without the necessity of the school system.  The school system is, in his opinion, losing its power to manipulate and lie to our young people, telling them that the only way to get an education is within the walls of a school.

I like the next section too.  It discusses how contracts have changed from being individually created between parties with agreement reached with both parties benefiting to one that is more implied by the very act of participating or using something created by an organisation.  This type of contract is not always as beneficial to both parties and is called an adhesion contract.  He points out that we and our children are agreeing to this type of contract just by entering the school gates.

We don't ask students to decide to participate.  We assume the contract of adhesion, and relentlessly put information in front of them, with homework to do and tests to take.

Entirely skipped: commitment.  Do you want to learn this? Will you decide to become good at this?

The universal truth is beyond question - the only people who excel are those who have decided to do so.  Great doctors or speakers or skiers or writers or musicians are great because somewhere along the way, they made the choice.

Why have we completely denied the importance of this choice?
 I am really struggling in some ways to cope with 2 of my children in school.  I see so much time wasted and not much learned.  I am fearful too that I am not up to it yet.  Not just yet!  I need this sabbatical without guilt or fear to get my head into gear for my next season of home schooling.  But I can tell you I am getting a real gut burn to get back on with it.  I just need better health and better consistency first.  Notice I didn't say perfect, or even good, just better!

More to come,

Best wishes
Jen
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