Thursday, May 5, 2011

Leadership Education--Do You Have the Right Stuff?

I’m thinking about one of the details toward the end of Agenda, the documentary I talked about in Tuesday’s blog, in the “What can we do?” section. It was to homeschool.

If you’ve read my First Blog and/or the introduction to the website Spherical Model, you know I homeschooled. Our family did it for the last ten years we had school-age kids (graduated Social Sphere in spring 2010). There were times it did indeed feel heroic. For us it also seemed necessary, so it was just life as we knew it.

I hesitate to recruit others into homeschooling. It is something of a calling. The 2-5% of families that do it are set apart, in a way, from other parents and children out there. But the suggestion in the movie made me think it would be worth asking a few questions, to let you evaluate whether you have the right stuff to homeschool.

First, do you believe that you as a parent have an inalienable right to the bringing up of your children as you see fit (assuming that you do not infringe on their God-given rights with behavior that is clearly abusive)? If you believe you have that right, do you also recognize the responsibility to bring them up in ways that will give them knowledge, wisdom, and an ability to support a home and family in a civilized society?

If you believe these things, then educating your children is something you are committed to do. There are several possible ways to accomplish it:
  • Nod approval as your children seek their own resources and learning.
  • Educate them yourself.
  • Hire private tutors to educate them under your supervision.
  • Hire a school that you have chosen to offer a full range of subjects.
  • Turn over the choices of subjects and schools to a public institution.
  • Some combination of the above.

According to A Thomas Jefferson Education, a subversive book you ought to read when considering your child’s education, there are three types, or levels, of education:

  1. Public education, which tries to prepare everyone for a job, any job, by teaching them what to think. This includes rudimentary skills designed to fit them to function in society.
  2. Professional education—from apprenticeship and trade schools to law, medical and MBA programs—which creates specialists by teaching them when to think.
  3. Leadership education, which I call “Jefferson Education,” which teaches students how to think and prepares them to be leaders in their homes and communities, entrepreneurs in business, and statesmen in government.—TJE p. 31
The point is that leaders have traditionally (and almost exclusively) been taught by private tutors. Learning tends to start in the home, with basic reading and math through a range of elementary subjects. Then private tutors are hired for more depth in chosen areas, and as the student grows and learning depth increases, a mentor often directs the individual study. That’s how Thomas Jefferson was educated, as well as a great many of the founding fathers. It’s the method used for royalty pretty much throughout history.

We think of the term “public education” as meaning public schools, government funded institutions, which is accurate. But the purpose is to “educate” the vast public with a standardized level of rudimentary skills. The purpose isn’t to educate for leadership, since the vast public are seen as those to be led, not those who lead. If public education is used for a future leader, it must be supplemented beyond typical public school levels. Leadership education methods, on the other hand, do not preclude a child from going into any field; they open up the possibilities for more.

So, then the question is, if you want your child to learn how to think, how will you go about it? A certain level of wealth and resources are required for private tutoring—including homeschooling. I have known people who must work while homeschooling, but it’s difficult and not ideal. So, in a world where households economically almost require two incomes, homeschooling requires a dedicated parent whose job is educating the children (or combination of two parents to add up to full-time teacher). Most homeschoolers are not wealthy—certainly including us. But they make sacrifices that allow for living off a single income. That’s not possible for everyone, but it is more doable than many realize. Expenditures per year, aside from that lost income, are relatively small. You can of course spend much more, but $300 a year per child is easily adequate (and maybe well beyond what you need) if you have a local library and the internet.

The most common reason people give me for not homeschooling is that they could never teach their own kids. I think they picture standing up in front of their children and spewing out knowledge and assignments, with the children resisting the way they resist doing chores. That isn’t reality in a homeschool. A homeschool teacher is more a learning facilitator and collaborative learner, rather than a lecturer. But there are family dynamics and personality quirks that could make it difficult to teach at home.

Here’s one way I knew I could do it. I used to feel heartsick when summer was coming to an end, because it meant we didn’t have time to go do fun things together as a family. I was never counting the days until I could have alone time in the house. Lack of chaos, better cleanliness, etc., I craved like the next person. But those were secondary to enjoying being with my kids.

I never sent them to preschool. That was in part because we never had the money. But it turns out our going to the library, reading together, going to museums and other family field trips, and doing art projects and science experiments for the fun of it pretty much superseded any need for institutionally imposed structured learning during those early years. And our more or less accidental results were superior. (Or, possibly, I just happened to luck into having three gifted level children.)

Homeschooling was a lifestyle change, and pretty intense for that decade. But it was a life I loved. Maybe the best years of my life, at least before grandchildren. Our family benefitted not only educationally, but spiritually and socially as well. Socialization was far superior with homeschooling than it had been with public schooling. I wish I had considered starting sooner. We had good neighbors who homeschooled and set the example. But at the time we also had good public schools, including an excellent magnet school for gifted kids that we used from 3rd grade on. So I didn’t see the need until two years after a move to an area where schools didn’t meet our needs. (I could detail the schools’ failures, but you don’t need that.)

Another day we can cover what public schools are doing to the education levels of our nation’s next generation. Today is just to consider that possibility that homeschooling, or some other method of private tutoring, could be in your future.
  • Do you have the desire and drive to give your children the best possible education you can?
  • Do you have the minimal level of money and resources needed to make homeschooling a possibility?
  • Do you have the patience—or the willingness to gain it—that it takes to spend long hours raising and educating your own children?
If the answers for you are yes, we should talk.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”~ Thomas Jefferson

No comments:

Post a Comment