Ken Robinson Has It Right…Which Leads to the Question…

How do I, as a parent and home educator, get it right for my child?

I was recently listening to a TED talk featuring Ken Robinson Bring On the Learning Revolution! in which he says, “Education in a way dislocates very many people from their natural talents.”

Immediately my mind flashed to last Friday and the disastrous end to homeschooling for the day. A few worksheets of writing practice (numbers and the alphabet) took forever to complete. In the end, it took Emily FOUR HOURS to finish just a few worksheets (about 30 minutes – tops – of schoolwork).

In between there were tears…yelling…it was awful.

And I was left wondering why something that worked so well the first few days, failed so miserably on that day.

Robinson called for a revolution in education and again my mind flashed to Friday. As we drove away from a cleaning, heading towards a handful of errands, I explained, “I have a responsibility to educate you, to help you learn. The biggest one right now is learning how to read, how to write. Daddy has to work and go to school, I have to do cleanings, teach classes, write and educate you. Your job is to learn. We all have jobs to do.”

Later this led to a discussion about how if learning was her job, she felt she should get money for it (a logical conclusion since she sees us getting paid for our work). Which brought to mind Joel Salatin’s quote about allowances for children, “No child should be paid to breathe.”

Mmm…yeah…NO. “Perhaps I misspoke. When I speak of work, I speak of having a purpose in life, which gives our existence meaning. Yours right now is to learn and play. Right now, that is your life purpose.”

As I sat back, satisfied with my reasoning, Ken Robinson brought up the subject of “the tyranny of common sense” and quoted Abraham Lincoln who said in a 1862 speech, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country.”

Robinson went on to discuss the idea of “to disenthrall” – pointing out that there are certain things we take for granted, things or ideas that we simply accept without question.

Such ideas, perhaps, as that the only way for Emily to learn how to write is have her practice writing letters and words over and over again. [sigh]

Perhaps this is the key to successful homeschool. The rules I have learned, even in the most liberal touchy-feely, Montessori-based schools of my youth, were…inadequate and flawed. As I argued with Emily, explaining that she HAD to learn how to read, that she HAD to learn how to write – I found myself hitting a wall that was, quite suddenly, not made of bricks, but of glass. And it had a door…

Does she need to read? YES.

Does she need to be able to write? YES.

Is having her practice with worksheets the only way? NO.

I realized I was taking the easy way out. I said to myself, If she practices her letters, then I will know that she knows them. But if she doesn’t practice, how will I know she can write? Circular logic at its best.

Instead I realized that instead of boring her to death practicing writing letters that she already knows most of, I could test her, make it into a game of sorts, and then help her refine her writing skills where it is needed. Like remembering the differences between ‘b’ and ‘d’ or ‘p’ and ‘q’. And that is just one way I could do it.

I realize too that she recognizes my game for what it is – make work. In my mind, it made sense at the time. LOOK – she can write her ABCs! LOOK – see how busy she is with homeschool? LOOK – at the pretty little girl so eagerly learning, so obviously ahead of her peers.

I recognize that not only am I still searching for the perfect learning opportunity, but that I’m settling for a quick fix, one that will let me walk away satisfied and oh so proud of myself. Quite the feather in my cap. I taught my daughter how to READ. I’m her TEACHER. Just LOOK at my brilliant daughter.

My ego was involved – and I recognized it for what it was. In some small (or big) way – homeschooling my child wasn’t just because it was right for her, or because I wanted the best learning program for her, it was about my ego and pride.

It was…difficult…to face those realities. More difficult still to realize that setting my pride and ego aside would not make the magic curriculum or learning tools appear. And again the question hit me again – How do I, as a parent and home educator, get it right for my child?

Ken Robinson went on to explain that one of the realities we often accept without question is that “life is linear” – if we do things in a certain order, (get good grades, go to college, get that degree) then good things will happen to us, we will be “set for life.” Reality, as he pointed out, is quite different. He said, “life is not linear, it’s organic.”

Or this statement, “We have built our education systems on the model of fast food…where everything is standardized…it is impoverishing our spirits and energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies.”

I remain convinced that homeschool is the best alternative available to us right now. So the question is – how do I nourish my daughter’s mind and her inquisitive spirit. How do I feed her tidbits of knowledge, tickling her interest until she reaches out, grasps hold of her education and jumps in to what she wants with both feet?

Robinson went on to say, “It is about passion. Often people are good at things they don’t really care for. It’s about passion and what excites our spirit and energy and if you’re doing the thing you love to do and that you are good at, time takes a different course entirely…human flourishing is not a mechanical process but an organic process.”

“It’s about personalizing education to those people you are actually teaching.”

Okay, I’m on board with that.

Robinson closes by quoting a poem from Yeats, and then saying, “Every day, everywhere, children spread their dreams beneath our feet, and we should tread softly.”

So…just how do I accomplish this goal? How do I make sure she is getting “the basics” so that the OCD, list-making, number-ticking side of me is satisfied? How do I bring the cornucopia of knowledge before my child, refrain from trying to stuff it down her throat, and instead light the fire of learning within?

Yeah…that is the question.

To be continued…


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2 Responses to Ken Robinson Has It Right…Which Leads to the Question…

  1. Jessica says:

    Vigorously nodding my head to virtually every line (and on most of your other posts too)! My daughter and I are much like you and Emily (Sarah is about to turn 5, we’re just wading into the homeschooling waters, and expanding our homesteading practices) so I am so glad to have found your blog. Thank you for your thoughtful, candid, and detailed posts – they have been helpful and encouraging!