Wednesday, May 23, 2007

School Imitates Life?

I've been thinking for a year or so now about the whole smart baby thing, and my ideas are evolving to include my growing and aging children.
Online parent centers, Einstein Baby, Gymboree, etc.
Things that by design are for for the most part playing upon parents' fears.
There are exceptions, of course, some adults and children have special circumstances and needs, and the whole "Art Imitates Life" thing is a great blessing for them.
But I find it curious, for the most part, that people would buy (literally) so deeply into the whole idea.
Buy this video, place your nine month old in front of it (or on your lap, if you're especially dedicated) and sit and look at pictures of cows, and dogs, and babies' faces, and ducks, and zebras.
And we'll name them as we go along.

Later on we'll sell you a first-grader cd-rom to play on your computer, and you can play a game with an octopus - he'll tell you what kind of pizza to make, and you put on the toppings, and he'll slide it into the oven. Ready? Half mushroom, One quarter pepperoni, One quarter sausage! Go!
This particular game is on JumpStart, which I love.

If you look through early curriculum books, you get such questions such as "Which of these does not belong?" and "Which is less, and which is more?" and "Which is larger?" or smaller. And there's sorting, and classifying, etc.

You can do all of these things to prepare your young child for real life, and its challenges.

Or, you can take strolls around the neighborhood, and see ducks, and kitty-cats, and dogs of all shapes and sizes, and interesting trucks, and lots of faces, and hear many, many interesting and diverse noises. And you can visit the farm. And the park. And the zoo. And the natural history museum. And Great Aunt Hilde with her seventeen cats. Who, incidentally, always has something wondrously delicious just now coming out of the oven - just for you.

You could also make your own pizzas. With pepperoni on half, mushrooms on the whole thing, and green peppers on half.
And chocolate chip cookies. And bread. And brownies (which is on our to-do list today!)

And you can help to clean up, and put the forks with the forks, and spoons with the spoons in the silverware drawer. And put the biggest pan at the bottom of the stack in the cupboard, and the smallest pot on top.
And you can clean your room, and put your cars in the red basket, your dinosaurs in the biggest box, your Star Wars toys in the blue one, and your Animal Rescue stuff in the other big blue box.

The purpose of education is to prepare people for the rest of their lives. To teach them to be able to support themselves, get along within a society, and how to manage their affairs competently.
The purpose of public school originally was to get people ready to be in the work force. Learn how to take orders. Learn how to work. And to learn the value of conformity.

It seems to me that between the two, the best value is education (the process of developing the knowledge, skill, mind, character, etc).

I realize, of course, that most (hopefully) parents will not assume that their children are living rich and full lives simply because they are enrolled in public or private school.
They'll probably still take a romp into the woods on the weekend. And visit the zoo. And drive to the beach once a month if it's less than two hours away. And catch and identify frogs from a nearby pond.
They'll be willing to take a picture of the lizard that they chased for an hour, so that they'll be sure to get its description exactly right when they get home to look it up.

It seems that the whole school thing is just a way to ensure that one is exposed to various cultures, and creeds, and opinions, and observations, and theories.

Some might say that it's easy to be so positive and comfortable about my children learning when they're so young.
But I don't expect my children's inquiries to become arrested at age seven. Why would they be? My son's learning didn't stop once he learned to say "Mama! Cookie." Or once Maddie learned to walk.
Why would we assume that their curiosity about the world, and their desire to make sense of it wouldn't mature as they themselves do?
Mine certainly didn't.

It seems to me that all of these 'tools' are just contrivances to help parents feel secure that they're doing right by their child. Giving them a leg up - a head start on life.
It is not my intent to criticize those that have their children in school. This blog is about my take on parenting and living an unschooled life.
While thinking and being an uschooler, I am finding more and more that these attempts to educate our children are just a textbook way of imitating real life.
Why not just dance? Why not visit an old railroad monument? Why not take a four hour drive to a deserted ghost town? Why not spin wool?

Why not live the Experience?
And bask in it, and feel it, and taste it?....

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