I went to the top schools in the country as a child and was always inculcated with the notion that a formal education is the single most important factor in one’s success (that and connections). I have a Master’s Degree in Education. And as I sat drinking wine with the neighborhood mamas on Sunday night listening to them talk about homeschooling, unschooling, and choosing when and if their children will go to school I wanted to jump to the defense of public education. Of course your kids need to go to school everyday! Of course your kids need to learn to read and write according to the pacing guides! How else would the teachers ever manage to control the chaos?!
The fact of the matter is that no one, not even children learn well when they are told they have to. The most successful people, by whatever social measure, be it, financial or happiness, or whatever, are those who seek new experiences and information. Those who are able to identify issues and solve problems. Creativity is about seeking, synthesizing, making and doing. So let’s get to the core of the matter. Why do we even go about teaching our children to read and write and to do math in the first place? We insist upon these three skills because we need them to decode our world. But what good is being able to read, write, and do math if you don’t have the additional skill set of creativity?
Public school as we know them are a relatively new phenomenon that developed along side the factory lines of the industrial revolution. I do not intend for my children to be factory workers (so be it if they are and they love it). I do intend for my children to be creatives. So where does this leave the mother, the perpetual A student, rule follower, and teacher?
I am reminded of when at the age of 11 I loaded my gear into a van with 7 other girls and set off to climb mountains. I learned more about myself inside those experiences than I ever did sitting at a desk learning about other people who climbed tall mountains.
I do believe that there is a place for group education. Learning among peers is a valuable experience. Having mentors, teachers, and experts guide your thinking is important too. In an ideal world I would be able shepherd a small group (say, enough to fit in a really sweet van) of mixed aged kiddos through the early years of their educational life through child centered experiential learning and creative play.
For now I will compromise and do my best to make my classroom a place where that kind of learning can happen for the 43 minutes a week I see each of my 700 or so students. And as for my own kids, they have lots of time to discover their world at home and Milo gets the added bonus of learning some great potty talk and even gets to have the occasional glazed donut or purple Tampico for his afternoon snack at school.