How does a person learn to think clearly and effectively and to make reasoned decisions? How do you learn – or teach someone else – to gather enough information about a situation to become familiar with the pros and cons, the advantages and disadvantages, and then, being informed, make a decision about the best course of action to take?
As we go through life we make decisions, and those decisions, in turn, make us. Large decisions, small decisions. Matters of great importance and the details of daily life. What to wear today, what to have for dinner, which friends to see, which road to take. Who to build relationships with, where to live, which job offer to accept, when to make a change in how things are going.
The decision to homeschool your children is on the more important end of the scale, and inevitably your decisions relating to homeschooling will affect your child’s decisions later in life. But there’s no way to tell how your decisions now might affect your child’s decisions later. If you decide to chart a course of serious and demanding study it might inspire your child to become a scholar and pursue an advanced degree, or it might sour his attitude toward structured learning environments and encourage him to seek other approaches to educating himself, which might be less expensive and more productive than the college education you originally thought would be best. By the same token your decision to provide a more relaxed unschooling atmosphere might spur your child to seek out a more formal learning environment and higher levels of education when she’s older, or it might result in a laid-back attitude and a preference for finding her own way through life.
As parents, part of our challenge is making decisions about the best living environment for our children. We might decide to raise our kids in the city, with multifacted cultural and social opportunities, or we might decide a rural or suburban environment would be more agreeable, and there are advantages – and disadvantages – to both. Sometimes the decisions have already been made for us, as when a home is passed down through the generations. Sometimes one decision takes precedence over others, as when a job offer dictates the place of residence.
Our decisions as parents, and later our childrens’ decisions for themselves, shape and form our lives in large and small ways, and the ability to make decisions effectively is a valuable skill, worth developing and sharpening. A letter submitted to our HEM Letters email discussion list brought the truth of this into focus for me recently:
I have been musing. My grandmother was born in 1897 and was 101 when she died. She was born in the Ukraine and came to the US when she was 14. Who would have, could have, imagined the changes in her lifetime? In our lifetimes?
I can only imagine what she would have said had she been told about being prepared for her future. For my grandmother: a new country, a new language, a new culture, electicity, cars, telephones, man on the moon, computers, Mars exploration–the list is endless.
For us, the list continues to grow. Who knows what the future will be for our children?
It seems to me that when we are asked about preparing our kids for their futures, we and they truly can only be prepared to be active participants in the present–and if we know how to find out what we need to know, we’ll do just fine. We don’t need to know all the answers, we need to be able to ask the questions, and to try to find out what we need to know.
The 21st century certainly doesn’t need standardized thinkers.
Just some thoughts
Debra Bures, firstname.lastname@example.org
Who can imagine the future our children will face? Beyond the unfathomable changes in society, technology, medicine, and other variables, what personal changes will affect their decisions, shape their lives? How can we best help them prepare for whatever curve balls life might decide to pitch their way?
I’ve always thought one of the most valuable and underrated aspects of homeschooling was the opportunity to makes one’s own choices and decisions, to step away from the mainstream herdlike group-think. And yet this singular advantage is in grave danger of disappearing as more and more parents seek not something different from schools and schooling, but simply to teach school in a different location.
The message of homeschooling being advanced by many businesses (“Our curriculum guarantees success!”), and organizations (“Homeschoolers test above average!”) does nothing to dispel the notion of homeschooling as merely school in the home. Combined with the scare tactics of an educational bureaucracy struggling to justify its existence (“If you can read this, thank a teacher!”), there’s little room for parents to consider any decision that leads away from traditional models of education. Parents who were trained as children to use the schoolish model find reassurance in using the schoolish model with their own children, especially when the experts, professionals, and even some homeschooling recruiters tell them that’s what works best. But is it?
If the school model worked best there would be no such thing as homeschooling. When parents decide that school is not working for their children, or when they decide to forego schooling altogether and approach homeschooling as a continuum of living, they’re seeking something different than the mainstream educational offering. They’re deciding to change things for the better, and that decision will result in learning – not just about homeschooling, but about a whole new world of ideas, experiences, opportunities, challenges and more, for themselves and for their children.
Adapted from an editorial which appeared in Home Education Magazine’s November-December, 2002 issue. © 2009 Helen Hegener, all rights reserved.