Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I've been running an experiment the last few days, to see what happens when I stop doing laundry, stop making bread, and stop vacuuming in order to knit as I listen to Rufus Wainwright, Leonard Cohen, and Steely Dan.

So far the results seem to be that I finish the socks I've been working on, but we run out of clean clothes, bread, and the house is suddenly overrun by bits of paper (Little is fascinated by scissors these days) cat hair, and crumbs. Just in case you were wondering.

I've been thinking a bit about my position that educational systems are bad for kids because they mean that the teachers/parents aren't responding to the kids and where they are, what they need. It becomes an education imposed from without, rather than inspired from within.

And then I started thinking about it a little more, and I realized that I really need a system for my house, because the house is not my thing. Cleaning and keeping things tidy does not come naturally to me. I have to think about it, or I'll just skip it. (Incidentally, I do have a system. I've just chosen to overlook it for a few days.)

Teaching, on the other hand, is my thing. I love working with kids, love figuring out what they want, what they mean when they say inscrutable things, love helping them communicate better with each other. Teaching is the place where I am most truly myself. It is my vocation, my right livelihood.

What I'm trying to say is that I don't need a system because teaching is my passion. It's the thing I think about most, care about most, read about most, so it's pretty easy for me to fly without instruments, so to speak. I am not willing to take the position that the only people who should be teaching their children at home are people who have a similar passion. There are so many factors that go into the decision to homeschool that it is just too much to ask that everyone who chooses it also be able to construct the curriculum day to day, following the children's needs. Not because they wouldn't want to, but because they just might not feel equipped.

And that's why lots of people really need a system, and who am I to fault them for it?

So my question now is this: is it interesting, or would it be interesting, to read more about the process that takes us from a simple question posed by a child, to a full-blown integrated curriculum that spans several months?

Let me know, and I'll write about that. Or I could just go back to posting pictures of my socks, if you'd rather.


Sandy said...

You know I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to do this, because I'm wondering how to do it both with my public school students (i have a little curricular leeway and I'm contemplating using it next year), and with my daughter.

socks are cool too.

Anonymous said...

That would be interesting!

I have a friend who truly loves to clean her house. She even loves to get on her knees and clean the toilet. I'm not kidding! And her house is beautiful, but in a living way because she does it with love--it's not one of those sterile, spotless homes. As far as I know, she doesn't need a plan or schedule for housecleaning. So your observation about teaching being your "thing," inspired from within, makes sense to me.

Theresa said...

I know what you mean. Teaching is my thing, too and it comes easily and naturally for me, so that pre-planned curricula are always too confining, inadequate, etc. It is much easier for me to play fast and loose with educational stuff than it is with household stuff or financial stuff, where if I don't have some sort of external system chaos ensues.
I think it really does come down to our talents.Some folks can keep a clean house or organize household finances as a matter of second nature, where for me it is a struggle. Others need a curriculum laid out for them in order to function at their best educationally because it isn't their strong suit.That's where a system could come in handy, like a support.
Anyway, I'm not saying anything you haven't already said. Just concurring I suppose.I'll shut up now.

shaun said...

Interesting idea on systems and passions -- reminds me of Mel Levine, who talks about how our brains do some things automatically, but other things require an intentional effort, and everyone has his/her own automatic/manual "settings."

Then again -- there is a difference between a system for people and a system for houses! And in both cases, it's key to remember that the system was created to serve the person, not the other way around. But you know that, obviously.

I think you should clearly keep writing about teaching, because its finding an interested readership. You have a knack for explaining things very clearly, without implying any kind of judgment. It's a useful skill in the feisty world of homeschoolers.

Sullyce3 said...

Love to read your stuff E.
You really should write for a living...;-)

Anonymous said...

Another thought about needing systems: maybe it's like learning to drive a car. When you first start, you need to constantly pay attention and think about all the things you need to do -- working the pedals, steering, looking for obstacles, signaling, controlling your speed, etc. Then when you are more experienced, you're on autopilot so to speak, and you can safely start driving while holding conversations, singing with the radio, or composing blog posts in your mind :)

So you seem to be able to teach "on autopilot" so to speak, whereas I might need a curriculum to guide me for a while.

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts are welcome. As are pictures of socks. I don't think they are mutually exclusive.

I think I'm with Shaun though on the systems for people thing. It depends on whether you use the system as a guide and a support or as a tyrannical dictator. I think having a system to help you respond to your child and engage with them where they are is helpful for lots of people. But if you are trying to impose a system on the child, that is a different thing.

Housecleaning is overrated. Homebaked bread seems a worthwhile activity. (I certainly find time to do the latter.)