October 6, 2008

When I talk about school kids compared to homeschooled kids, please know I am speaking generally. I know, perfectly well, that each individual child will bring their own strengths, weaknesses, and depth to every situation. I know results may vary. I am speaking about general tendencies and specific children will prove every rule wrong. God love them all.

Yesterday I hollered out the kitchen window, "Clive, honey, move those planters for me; I don't want dear Emily dashed to her doom upon them, should she slip from that rope swing." Clive is the living embodiment of an institutionalised child. And he did what I asked. Which required him to pick up two wrought iron planters, each weighing about 15 ounces, and move them approximately 15 feet, which took him15 seconds to accomplish. He did this but he was sullen about it. He never met my eyes. He did not want to do it. He was clearly put upon and not happy about it.

Which filled me with compassion. I saw this child frozen inside the matrix where he has been raised and is forced to live. I remember exactly what it is like to grow up going to school everyday. This going asks very much of children. It robs them of their privacy, their intellectual freedom, and their ability to move. It requires children to answer to an army of unknown (often unworthy) adults who hold absolute control over them. They move through a low quality system, with bad light, worse food, endless forced company, in an environment that is almost toxicly over-stimulating. Does any one believe children are blind to this?

And for what? What child feels a pay off, for these demands? Adults get paid to endure. But there is a near flat line of intellectual food in school. There is little beauty, ease, shelter, art, or inspiration. And in school, one is isolated from nature as a matter of course. Children exhaust themselves without being allowed to get physically worn out, without soul food, with out exposure to anything smart.

I am perfectly willing to make children work. You don't want to clean your room? Cry me a river. Children need meaningful work. And they need challenge; they need intellectual stimulation. And they can feel this truth, even if they wish it weren't so. Who doesn't?  Yet most children in our society are forced into a contrived mockery of these truths.  For what reason? They are told they are training for college, a truth which mocks intellectualism. Most of them can feel this, even if they could never articulate it.

Can we say to these children, "You are here because we are making you smarter." No one can say that because it isn't true. Just in time for Halloween, the ghastliest aspect of the whole ghoulish enterprise. We are not making the children smarter. We are teaching them to evade adults. We are teaching them to flee responsibility. We are teaching them to ignore their own ideas and authority.

Compare Institutionalised Clive with Homeschooled Sam. "Sam, honey, could you move those planters for me." I don't have to tell Sam why the planters need to move. Because he is a child, I won't expect him to notice the planters or the danger they pose. But once they are pointed out, Sam is likely to comprehend the situation. He knows why we want to be safe, that we do what needs to be done, that doing so is in every one's best interest. Because this is Sam's actual life, everyday. Sam does not live in training for real life. He lives his real life everyday.

There is no reason to evade adults who love you, who guard you, who offer a rich and tantalising life, who clearly, actually, and directly work to help you get smarter and happier. Why should he avoid my eyes? It wouldn't occur to him. He would give a wave, possibly a smile, move the planters, and continue with his life.

Contact with direct truth and consequence is exactly why homeschoolers are often better socialised than institutionalised children. They suffer a bare minimum of pointless bullshit, arbitrary authority, and impoverished relationships. These kids are amazingly free. They are engaged in real life work everyday. Work that produces its own rewards, tangibly, most of the time. What child wouldn't respond to their own life? No one needs to be taught self preservation.

But place a child in school and they will be lucky to emerge from that system with their precious selves in tact, with a sense of worth. Most will be diminished. Many will have hidden themselves far away, even from themselves. What have they been given to engage with? Who can blame them? What more can we ask from dear Clive? We have given him such paucity and sham, graded him on it, and judged him harshly along the way.

We teach these children to evade direct contact with real life, adults, and even their own creativity. The accusation of the un-socialised over protected homeschooled child is staggering and horribly ironic when compared with these kids abandoned to the system which divorces them, almost completely, from themselves and direct contact with meaningful truth.


Krista said...

Thank you deeply for this. These are the thoughts and truths that bang against the inside of my head daily, hourly, and moment to moment, but I lack the gift of such amazing articulation that you possess to let them out. Beautifully and tragically written. I am so grateful. SO grateful to be doing what we are doing with our family. And it's not a perfect world as unschoolers and we have our "days", sometimes just our moments, but we live a holistic life. We have time to be whole, flawed, and eclectic and lazy and productive and just be ourselves, every day.

Oh, and I just got the "Build Your Own Earth Oven" from the library after a bit of a wait list and it's fabulous. I hope we can begin a small tester like yours in Spring.

Cheers to you and thanks for visiting my place. Delighted I am.

rae said...

Wow, girl. Just wow! You sing such a beautiful, truthful song!

Mommylion said...

Oh I see this. Unfortunately, in my own home, I see this. My oldest, 17 and in public school. The only freedom he knows is away from it all with his friends. Everything else is a world of rules and glazed over eyes. Half hearted attempts at work that he resents. I can map the progression from the teacher conferences in third grade on up every year. Watch this bright kid get categorized, shut down and shuffled through.

As you said, each kid has their own story. Gladly, many break free. I am hoping once school is over, mine will.

Kate in NJ said...

Wow! I followed you over from Rae's blog, and I am so glad I did!
Sing it Sista!!.Thank you for putting what I have been feeling for so long into words.

Ami said...

I'm working on a small series about homeschooling on my blog. Do you mind if I like to this one? Or some others?


Katie said...

Just popped over from Mrs. G's. I am adding you to my favourites list right now!

After reading your blog I did a post on why we homeschool.

Thanks for your inspiring blog!

Fellow farmer and homeschooler

Katherine said...

Thanks y'all!

It helps me so much to hear the voices of some agreement. So often homeschooling feels like swimming blind. The assumption being that its crazy to even get wet. Thanks for throwing a shout out across the water...

Ami, you can link to me any day any post. I'm flattered.

love, Katherine

Ami said...

Well, I looked back at my comment while checking here to see if I had your permission to link you and evidently I liked your post so much I used the word like instead of link. But I see you accurately translated it and have given me the official okey dokey. Thanks.


rae said...

Katherine - I've got a question for you. :-) Come check out my last post when you have a few minutes to think, if you don't mind. Thanks!


MOM #1 said...

You're in rare form today my friend, I have nothing to add, because you said it all - and so beautifully.

Veronica Boulden said...

Well said!

Lori said...

great post

dawn said...

I came from a link from Ami. I agree with you in what you wrote. When my kids were young, people would often comment on how hard they would work. They would be helping to move someone and other helpers would be amazed. Neighbours would see them work in our yard or offer help and the neighbours would comment on their work ethic. I think a huge part of it was attitude when doing the work. I think it was also because the people were not used to seeing kids work with such an attitude. Good post.

Anonymous said...

This is a really great post. Thank you for writing it.