Five hard truths about the unintentional obliteration of childhood
I recently overheard a conversation between two young mothers. One of them was complaining about the day care her three yr old attends. Her complaint? They play and do art projects all day, instead of teaching the kids their letters and numbers.
I was taken aback. What exactly is wrong with that? That sounds like the perfect day for a child that age. But then she got down to the crux of the issue- the parents at that daycare expect their children- their very young children- to receive school-type lessons at this facility.
Which got me thinking…aren’t we parents the ones who notoriously lament how children grow up too fast? Perhaps we need to take a closer look at the issue and explore why this is.
Five Hard Truths about the Unintentional Obliteration of Childhood
–We school our children too early. Everywhere you turn, you will hear people talking about the importance of Early Childhood Education, but just how important is it? Is it really necessary that children as young as three should be expected to sit down at a desk for several hours a day tracing letters and numbers? I don’t know about your children, but mine copy letters and words off of books, their siblings’ papers, and anything else they lay their eyes on without any prompting from me. They think it’s fun! In fact, my now six-year-old learned basic addition and several sight words at the age of four simply by being around the older children when they were doing their school work.
I realize that many preschools and Kindergarten classes do include fun hands-on learning activities, but, again, is it really necessary for this to happen in a classroom setting? Young children are superstars when it comes to investigating and exploring the world. As John Holt used to say, children are natural scientists. They do perfectly well at learning about the world when they are given the time, freedom, and opportunity to do so. If there is any way to quash their fascination with the world and their innocent wonder, it is by sending them to school where, instead of finding interesting things to do themselves, they begin to be told by someone else (presumably the teacher) what is important to know about. This eventually results in children who are apathetic, lethargic, and lack imagination because they, in essence, forget how to play and are used to doing nothing but sitting all day.
–We overschedule our children. As if it isn’t bad enough for them to be shut inside a building for six hours a day, many children participate in after-school activities at the schools themselves, or they are kept busy with organized sports or other various engagements. Obviously, extracurriculars can be a good thing. It is when they get to the point of taking over your child’s life that it is time to take a step back and rethink things.
Schools are very good at organizing after-school programs, and many of them are wonderful, but again- how much is too much? Students are in school for a mandatory six to seven hours a day, and yet, many parents sign them up for these clubs and activities which will keep them confined in the school building even longer.
Let me be clear that I do not have a holier-than-thou attitude of someone who has never been there. When my kids were in school, I was one of the parents who signed my children up for every single activity I could because I thought it would be good for them. It wasn’t. It resulted in kids who no longer had time to be kids.
Studies show that children today are beginning to feel the same effects of anxiety as adults because of this culture of being able to “do it all.” Is it really worth it?
–The peer influences in school are less than desirable. No matter how you raise your children, in school they are going to be around other children from homes with different moral standings than you. You may be able to shut off the cable at home, but I assure you that at school they will be exposed to everything you try to protect them from. They will see girls in short skirts who idolize the likes of Beyonce and Katy Perry. They will be around boys who, in their quest to be “grown-up,” will introduce your children to words and concepts their young ears are not prepared to hear. And if your child shows any signs of vulnerability or innocence, they may well be singled out and teased for upholding the standards you’ve tried so hard to teach them.
I recently had to stop allowing my children to play alone with a sixth grade neighbor boy who asked my fourth grade daughter if she wanted to “make out.” Kidding or not, these are NOT the influences I want my children to have. There will be plenty of time for them to deal with these issues when they are older. Right now, my hope for them is to allow them to enjoy being children.
-And don’t even get me started on technology! I get it. Technology is a wonderful thing, but is it really necessary for five- and six- year old children to own their own cell phones? I do let my younger children each have a one hour turn on my phone on the weekends, and even that often takes them away from opportunities to play outside or with friends.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to a party or picnic where all of the kids sat in the house with their heads buried in their phones or tablets the entire time. Just last week my kids came home from a neighbor’s house and told me that the entire time they were in his yard jumping on the trampoline, he was in his house playing on his tablet.
Technology may be great for the economy, but it steals away childhood merriment and replaces them with inanimate pixels.
–Sometimes we are as much to blame as anyone or anything else. How many times have we scolded our children for simply doing childish things? Things that weren’t necessarily bad but, maybe, were loud or were interrupting our quiet time? By no means am I advocating to let children run wild. I’m simply pointing out (to myself as much as everyone else) that sometimes we have unrealistic expectations.
By the same token, how many times have we told our daughters that they might look nicer with just a little makeup? Or tried to push a more mature looking outfit on them? My daughter’s friend’s mother regularly buys her push-up bras and crop tops. I’m not suggesting anyone reading this might go that far, but it’s a great illustration in how far parents will go to “help their children mature.” Is it really so terrible if our daughters continue to play with dolls throughout middle school, or our sons are fascinated with Pokemon cards, instead of cars?
And is it reasonable to expect our preschoolers to play quietly all day with nary a shriek or whimper? Is it really so bad to have a house that may be noisy but is noisy with joyful laughter? One thing that I need to remind myself (and my husband) of daily is that our children are children- not little adults.
If there is anything at all you take away from this post, let it be this:
Hold your children close. Cherish them. Protect them. Guide them. And most of all- don’t rush them into adulthood. It will come too quickly without your help.
There’s a disturbing trend happening in our culture today. In a world constantly chasing fame and fortune, parents have begun to prepare their children for this lifestyle at earlier and earlier ages. Gone are the days of teaching 4-year-olds how to tie their shoes and play with their dolls. The good ol’ days of letting your children run, explore, and use their imaginations is almost a thing of the past. We have now entered the Age of Overeducating Your Kids.
It’s a well-known fact that children are maturing at faster and faster rates these days, and adults everywhere solemnly shake their heads and click their tongues in despair because of this. But let’s take a look at one possible reason why this is happening.
Just a few generations ago, children were able to run and play and, well…be kids. Games of Kick the Can and street hockey were to be…
“Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday School’s meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?” -Charles F. Potter, Humanism: A New Religion (1930)
Welcome back for the third installment in this series. In my first post, I addressed the issue of safety. The second was about the importance of personalized learning, and now today I will be discussing the issue of values.
There is a common misconception among most parents and education departments today that schools have the right to instill values in our children. This is, indeed, troubling as we take a look at the “values” being espoused in classrooms today:
Christianity being belittled and misrepresented
Birth control pills and condoms being handed out, many times without parental knowledge
The legitimacy of the traditional family being replaced with alternative curriculum
The enabling of known psychological disorders, rather than treatment
This is but a sampling of the types of behaviors common in schools today. The attack on Christianity, to me, lies at the very root of this problem. General principles of right and wrong that have been practiced since the foundation of this country are rapidly being replaced by a “do whatever feels good” mentality, and it is hurting our children.
There was an issue at the elementary school by our house last year, when a teacher was presenting a lesson on wants and needs. Upon asking the class for some examples, a little boy raised his hand and said, “We need God,” to which the teacher snarled back, “We don’t need God.”
What kind of a message are we sending to our children if we are raising them in one way at home, and then sending them to a place where they will often spend more time than they do with their parents, only to be bombarded with ideas contrary to the family’s? And I’ve heard the “school as a mission field” argument (which I plan on addressing in a future post), but that doesn’t cut it with me. There are adults who cannot handle the opposition they face everyday. Why would we expect our precious children to stand against it? Additionally, kids tend to look up to their teachers and value their opinions. Are you comfortable sending your child to a place that devalues your beliefs?
Let me make it clear that this is not a diatribe against teachers. I am well aware that many times it is out of their hands. Several years ago when my kids were still in school, two of the teachers, who I did not know at the time were believers, used to approach me after school all the time and ask me to confront the principal about what they felt were injustices but couldn’t do anything about themselves for fear of repercussions. Again, if adults are uncomfortable with the situation, how much more are the children?
If there is one thing you can be sure about, it is that schools are not religion-free. They are well-steeped in the religion of secular humanism, thanks, in part to the Father of Progressive Education himself, John Dewey, who was not only a Secular Humanist but a co-author and signer of the first Humanist Manifesto.
And it goes far beyond Dewey himself. Here are some more stunning quotes about our supposedly religion-free school system:
“What the church has been for medieval man, the public school must
become for democratic and rational man. God would be replaced by the
concept of the public good.”- Horace Mann
“There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there is no need for the
props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then
immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed,
natural law or moral absolutes.”- John Dewey, the “Father
of Progressive Education;” co-author of the first Humanist
Manifesto and honorary NEA president.
“I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged
and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly
perceive their role as proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity.
These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most
rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort,
utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in
whatever subject they teach, regardless of educational level – preschool,
day care or a large state university. The classroom must and will become
an arena of conflict between the old and the new – the rotting corpse of
Christianity…and the new faith of humanism.”- John J. Dunphy, “A New
Religion for a New Age,” The Humanist, January/February 1983
“Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill,
because he comes to school with certain allegiances toward our founding
fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in
a supernatural Being, toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate
entity. It is up to you teachers to make all these sick children well by
creating the international children of the future.”- Harvard Professor of
Education and Psychiatry, 1984
I could go on and on with examples like these, but I think you get the picture. Suffice it to say that schools are, indeed, teaching religion, despite what they say or even believe. Without some semblance of a clear indicator of right and wrong, our schools will continue to confuse and, inevitably, deceive our children.
Homeschooling is a valid path to instilling our own values and beliefs into our children, and this is not exclusive for Christians. No matter what your beliefs may be, it is your right as a parent to raise your children to reflect the beliefs of your family.
It is inconceivable, and a bit laughable, that the public education system has felt it necessary to trample on the moral values which are central in our lives. Let’s face it… they can’t even handle academics properly anymore, so why would they continue to take on more burdens for themselves? Unfortunately, I think we all know the answer to that.
The time has come for we, as parents, to take our children back. Government education has crossed the line once again, and it’s high time we do something about it. Who’s with me?
Join me next week as I look into the freedom of choice that accompanies the homeschooling lifestyle!
Learning is not one-size-fits all, so why should your child’s education be?
In last week’s post I addressed the issue of safety in public schools. Today I’m moving on from there to examine the importance of personalized learning as a means to a successful education.
Personalized learning isn’t something one usually thinks of when thinking about public school. In fact, as I searched for stock images to use for the photo here today, I simply typed in the word “learning” and found that almost all of the pictures that came up had something to do with desks, books, and classrooms.
Why is that? I’m going to venture a guess that when many of us set out to learn something on our own, we are not going to run to our desk, shut the door, and plop open a huge textbook. Yet that is the accepted image of what learning looks like because that is how it is done in school.
But what if learning doesn’t look like that for you? What if it doesn’t look like that for your child? Chances are, if they are in school, they are going to be singled out as “special education” students. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, you might say; and for those students who truly do have learning disabilities, it surely is not such a bad thing. But what about those students who are simply wired differently?
Mounds of evidence have recently been produced detailing the complex differences in how people are wired and how they learn. Indeed, there are people who thrive in a school setting- I was one of them- but to assume that all people should be able to do so does a great injustice to the millions upon millions of intelligent people who would greatly benefit from a different approach to education.
For those unlucky students who are singled out as “special education,” the harm done outweighs any good that may be done through the schools, no matter what the school’s intentions.
During my children’s time in public school, one of my sons was recognized (labeled) as being delayed in reading comprehension when he was in 4th grade. Naively, I assumed that the teachers knew what they were doing and agreed to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) to help him with this. The help that he received was minimal, and the only input I received from one of his aides was that, “He understands better if it’s about something he’s interested in.” Well, duh. He needed an IEP to find this out? How many adults have a hard time reading about things they have no interest in, let alone a 9-year-old?
After about a year, I was informed that he no longer required assistance, but that they recommended that we keep his IEP in place, just in case. Again, I trusted that they knew best, so I signed another one. The following year I withdrew my children to homeschool them, and I received a letter from the school district stating that I needed to have a Special Education teacher approve his homeschooling objectives because of his IEP. (This is in the PA Homeschool Law.) I called the district and explained that, while the IEP was still in place, he hadn’t actually been receiving any special instruction because he no longer needed it. Since he still technically was listed as Special Ed., however, I did have to comply.
After about a year of homeschooling him, we moved, and he asked if he could try school again because he wanted to see what middle school was all about. I reluctantly agreed. The new school took notice of his former IEP and decided to start putting him in special classes again. I told them that this wasn’t necessary, but they said they would just try it for a while. A few months in, I noticed that he was bringing home reading homework that was equivalent to what I was teaching his 3rd grade sister who was four grades behind him. I resolved then and there to take him back out and homeschool all of my children through graduation.
I called the Special Education Department of our school district and told them I wanted his IEP removed. A few days later I received a phone call from his learning support teacher telling me that he wasn’t ready to have his IEP removed. I immediately informed her that he had received straight A’s, and I was confident he would do just fine. I also explained that he wouldn’t be coming back in the fall anyway because I was planning on homeschooling him again. She reluctantly agreed. (I’d like to add that she had to because the law says that an IEP must be withdrawn if a parent requests it.)
Shortly afterward I discussed this ordeal with a friend of mine who is a retired teacher from that district, and she told me to never allow the schools to label any of my children because once they are labeled, they are always labeled. This is obviously bad for the students but lucrative for the schools who receive federal funding for these programs. The more students with IEP’s, the more money.
The ill effects of our experience with the Special Education label have not ended. Years later, my son still considers himself to be unintelligent and slow because that is exactly what was ground into him during that period of his life. I am not saying this was intentional, but that is exactly what happened, nonetheless.
The stigma of school-sponsored labels has no place in a home learning environment. One of the most awesome things about homeschooling is the fact that we, as parents, have the autonomy to educate our children in the way that we see fit. If they do well with textbooks, then that’s what we can do. If they need to move around quite a bit, we can offer lots of hands-on activities with shorter stints of written work. If our children love to read, what better way to learn than by reading a good historical fiction or any other books written by people with a passion for the subject? As a matter of fact, children who love to read can easily be the least expensive children to educate because the library is free!
Understandably, schools cannot and will not tailor their curriculum to meet the needs of each individual student. It would either require far more resources than schools could ever have, or it would necessitate a complete overhaul of the entire government school system, and I think we all know the likelihood of that ever happening.
So as it stands, parents of children who are not flourishing in the school environment simply because of learning styles have two options. We can either go with the status quo and agree to have our children labeled for life, or we can bring them home and design a method of learning that will work best for them, no matter what that method may be.
Now tell me, which sounds like the better option to you?
Join me next week as I address the issue of including our own values in our children’s education!
Every day millions upon millions of parents send their children off to school without a second thought. Schools are good, right? They’re there to educate the future of America, aren’t they?
What would you think if I told you that that’s not what schools were intended for at all? What many parents- and more than a few teachers- don’t realize is that compulsory schooling was not mandated to educate but to train obedient workers.
Don’t believe me? How about some history?
150 years ago, during the Industrial Revolution, factories were popping up everywhere and people like John D. Rockefeller were desperately in need of workers to run them. Unfortunately for them, however, people weren’t looking for jobs. At this point in time, the vast majority of Americans were self-sustaining. They grew their own crops, built their own houses, made their own clothes and toiletries, and bought only what was absolutely necessary at the general store. Most children learned their skills from helping with the family or apprenticeships and only attended a one-room schoolhouse for the few months out of the year they were least needed at home. Compared to modern society, these people were much more resourceful than we are today because they did everything for themselves, and it worked for them.
Since Rockefeller, among others, was a wealthy man, he had much clout with the government, who certainly saw the benefits of what he was trying to accomplish.
Enter compulsory schooling, when children began to be required, by law, to attend school. Students were instructed in specific subjects for a set period of time everyday, regardless of how relevant it was to their lives, and they were expected to drop what they were doing, no matter whether they wanted to continue doing what they had started or not, and change classes at the ringing of the bell. Students were also conditioned to blindly obey commands, as this would be beneficial for the foremen of these factories. Individual thinkers were not needed nor wanted in this setting. Factory owners wanted obedient, hard-working employees who did not mind the day-to-day monotony of what they would be doing and who did not rock the boat.
You may be thinking, but that was 150 years ago.
When I first began to read up on this, I thought the same thing. But let’s take a closer look at some common practices and see how they just might reflect this Industrial-era mindset of not-so-long ago.
School uniforms (conformity)
Mass instruction regulated by the government (conformity)
Senseless busywork (obedience)
Separate subjects which are to end immediately at the sound of the bell in order to move on to the next thing (obedience, conformity)
Singling out those who learn differently (conformity, elimination of individualized thinking)
Politicians love to talk about education reform- especially this time of year- but how sincere are they? Before any true improvements can be made, the true intention of compulsory schooling needs to change. And, honestly, I don’t think that will ever happen.
Join me in the first installment of my series, “Why Should We Homeschool?” as we address the issue of school violence.
(Image courtesy of Prawny at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
As providence would have it, I awoke today with the plans to write this specific post today and, upon reading the front page of our local newspaper, found that things are, indeed, as bad as I have been saying for quite some time now. According to this report, our local school district reported nearly 3,000 incidents of violence just last yearalone. Of these 3,000 incidents, the police were involved 500 times and students were arrested almost 300 times. Again, this occurred in one school year.
Lest you believe these incidents are few and far between, this is not the case. Whereas teachers of yesteryear had to worry about “serious” infractions such as gum chewing, talking in class, and speaking out of turn, today’s teachers are faced with the threat of assaults against them and their other students, sexual assaults (unfortunately, we have had several of these in our district- some including the assaults of elementary students by other elementary students), weapons being brought to school, drugs, bomb threats, and far too many more to list. Suffice it to say, sending your children to school everyday is a risk.
In fact, the very first line in this article tells of a third-grader who became so angry at another student that he wrapped his hands around the child’s neck, as if to choke him. As sobering as this may seem, what was reported next was even more startling. This was the child’s 14th discipline report in 7 weeks. My question is, why was he still even allowed in the school?
This story is not surprising to me. Several years ago when my children were still attending public school in this district, my daughter, who was in 2nd grade at the time, would come home everyday telling me tales about a boy in her class who would hit the teacher and rip her jewelry off of her, run around the classroom dumping out all of the bins of books, and would cause the entire school to be put on lockdown over and over again. My daughter, a good student who absolutely adored her teacher, would come home worried sick everyday and, frankly, afraid, because all she would ever hear was the teacher screaming at this boy day after day. There was no learning happening. It was quite impossible. Yet, the school did nothing about this situation.
The final straw came when my daughter arrived home to tell me that this child had thrown a desk that day and hit her on the leg with it. That was it for me. I called the district and asked to speak to the superintendent. I was told that I had to go through the chain of command, starting with the teacher. Since I had spoken to the teacher several times about this because I was very sympathetic to her, I called the principal. I was given the explanation that they had to “follow certain protocols.”
What?! Protocols?? Why does it seem that the disruptive students are being catered to while all of the other children are being terrorized everyday? This should.not.happen.
Interestingly, about a week later my daughter informed me that she hadn’t seen this boy in a few days. I believe he was gone about a month, and when he came back, my daughter said he was a completely different child. I suspect it was my phone call that jump-started the disciplinary action to be taken, but why was that even necessary? It was quite obvious the child was violent and disruptive, yet the administration dragged their feet on doing anything about it.
And, again, unfortunately, this is not exclusive to our district. Read any newspaper at random, and you are likely to see at least one school incident reported several times a week.
What bothers me the most is that parents are aware of these situations, and yet they unhesitatingly send their kids off to school everyday without a second thought. Is the compulsory school mindset so ingrained in the minds of these people that they are failing to see the problem?
(Image courtesy of fantasista at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Homeschooling provides a safe alternative to these dangerous situations. Kids who are placed in stressful situations are less likely to learn anything when they have more important things on their minds- like making it through the school day unscathed. Additionally, the amount of time spent reprimanding these disruptive students is taking precious class time away from the children who actually do want to learn.
Parents of homeschoolers are often accused of sheltering their kids from the “real world.” If sheltering our kids means keeping them safe from harm, then okay. I’ll take that label because this is one parent who will not gamble with the well-being of my children by placing them in these precarious situations. That is one risk I will never be willing to take.
Join me next week when I address the issue of personalized learning in the homeschool environment. Thanks for reading!
Today is Part 2 of my Homeschooling on One Income series. Part 1 described how our family manages daily living on one income. Before homeschooling, it is essential to work out a budget plan for day to day living if you have a limited income.
One of the many arguments I see coming from opponents of homeschooling is the myth that only affluent children can be taught at home because of the costs involved. This is laughable to me. We homeschool an extremely large family on a welder’s income, so there goes that idea. To make matters worse, many prospective homeschoolers buy into this reasoning and begrudgingly enroll their children in public school because they feel they can’t afford it.
I’m here to tell you today that, no matter the homeschooling method, there are enough resources out there that, given the right amount of research, almost anyone can afford to homeschool.
Here are resources that we have used for homeschooling that have been very affordable, if not downright free!
– There is such an abundance of free homeschool printables covering pretty much every subject online that I really could just stop right here. There are also wonderful unit studies available- again, for free! Take time and look through homeschool blogs. There are so many writers who are excited to share their wonderful ideas with you at no cost.
– I have gotten my younger children workbooks at Dollar Tree. Yes, Dollar Tree. This store is actually where I get most of my school supplies throughout the year.
– More expensive does not always mean better. Do your homework. Our family used Konos unit studies for years. The initial price tag of $110 might sting a little (although this is considered inexpensive compared to other curricula), but you have to look at the big picture. There is enough material to cover 2 1/2 years of schoolwork, and there are activities included from K-8. So this is perfect to use with multiple children; you could even have the younger children go back through it again when they’re older because there’s that much material in there.
– Instead of buying Language Arts curriculum, use lapbooking to fulfill that area. And I don’t necessarily mean those lapbooking worksheets that you print out and just have them fill in. Let them decide what they will put in it. Encourage them and give them ideas, but let them have the final say. I promise you, they will enjoy it so much more, and they will remember more.
– Don’t forget the library! Even before we started unschooling, the library provided the abundance of our learning tools. It’s not just for books anymore! (although that’s my favorite part :))Our library has movies, music, free online foreign languages through Mango Languages, story times, and toys that you can borrow and take home. Devin and I always jokingly say that if the library starts selling food, we’re moving in!
– Buy used. Ebay, Craigslist, and Amazon are but three of dozens of places where used curriculum can be bought and sold.
– Let life be your curriculum! That’s right…life…because every waking minute of your child’s life…of our lives…we are learning. Let them explore! Let them collect rocks and salamanders and leaves! Teach them to use search engines (also free!) to identify and classify their finds. Even watching the dreaded TV will provide learning. (I’m not one to let them watch unlimited TV, but I will allow it 1-2 hours a day if they wish to watch it. Sometimes they don’t.) Just the other day, I overheard Caollin correctly use a scientific term that I knew I didn’t teach her. Where did she learn it? Spongebob!
This is how we’ve afforded to homeschool in our household. We are so blessed to live in a society in which we can find an abundance of learning resources in as little as the click of a mouse. So before you nix the idea of homeschooling for financial reasons, I say stop. Take a step back, and rethink it. The world is at your feet.
What are some ways that you have cut costs in homeschooling? Leave a comment…you just might give the advice someone desperately needs!
On the fence about homeschooling? Follow along with my new series, “Why Should We Homeschool?”
(Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
The end of the school year is quickly approaching, and it is during this time that many parents may begin to seriously ponder the idea of homeschooling. Let’s face it. Our schools are in trouble, and if the past tells us anything, it’s a pretty sure thing that no amount of reform is going to change anything in the long run.
Having said that, the benefits of homeschooling are so much more far-reaching than academics that I’ve decided to write a series of posts on many of the advantages of educating your kids at home. While I could easily cover this topic in one very basic article, I don’t think I could adequately do justice to the myriad of blessings that come along with this very important decision of keeping your children at home.
My hope is that this series will enable parents who are on the fence about homeschooling to see the big picture and realize that this commitment is not simply about academics but so much more. I invite you to follow along on this journey of why we should consider homeschooling.
What about you? Can you think of any additional benefits I haven’t mentioned? I would love some feedback on this!