One of the topics I’ve read about in homeschool articles and books is the idea that the time of the genius and prodigy is disappearing in many school systems. The idea behind this is that many schools (not all…) are set up to create well-rounded jack-of-all-trades students who graduate having a grasp on all subject matters, which is great, right? I mean, what can be more useful in life than having a solid understanding, if not a mastery, of all subject matters? Well, okay, but what about the kid who has a special gift for, let’s say, understanding light and shapes and has the ability to work towards creating artistic masterpieces to inspire the world, not to mention to support her future family in a job created around her passion?…should that kid have to spend hours upon hours trying to learn, let’s say…advanced algebra, if algebra, beyond its basics is uninteresting, frustrating, and stressful for that particular student artist? Can hours spent in algebra tutoring, when the child could be painting and studying style and art history instead, really be worth it? There are only so many hours in the day, and if a child or older student has a desire and a real gift in one particular area, why are we pushing that child to give up time which could be spent working on that gift and asking her to put the time towards dabbling in all subject matters? And why can’t a 16 year-old be trusted to know, declare, and prove to her parents and teachers that she is a gifted scientist and should be allowed to invest most of her time and educational resources into excelling in that field? Does a chemistry whiz kid really need to spend more than half of her school hours on other subject matters? Certainly there are reasons for her to spend some time learning about grammar and social studies and such, but more than half of her learning time? Is that really the best choice for her? (Clearly, I am really passionate about exploring these questions…you know, the girl who loves to write but spent her high school career obsessing over a need to excel, which meant, for me, that I wanted to get A’s in not just English and History, but in all of my classes, and all of my classes included Chemistry and Algebra. No where did I get the idea that it is okay to not be the best at everything. Either I was a straight A student, or I wasn’t one of the best students, in my childhood mind (and I’m betting my childhood mind didn’t come up with that on my own, although I do only have myself to blame for even caring if I was “one of the best”). I don’t use all of those subjects now. I don’t. I know we all hear, “You’re gonna need this someday.” But, ya know what: Ten years out, and I haven’t needed to work with the periodic table yet. But, I have been sad when I think back on the time I could have been writing, reading, learning about the craft that I love, live, and work with everyday. It’s sad to me that I spent so much time stressing and banging my head against my palm as I stared at my chemistry book, while trying to get Scarlet O’Hara and her world out of my head. And, I was no genius at all, and certainly no prodigy, so when I consider what that would be like, to be put in a world of required classes when all you want to do is work with an amazing gift and ability, something to share with the world, well that is just a tragedy. I think so anyway. Of course there are kids who enjoy learning about many different things and want and need to work with all subject matters equally. Not everyone only leans towards one or two particular areas, and that is great, pretty greater than great, actually. That is a gift in itself. And not everyone knows what they want to do at a young age, and those kids should not be forced to choose before they are ready. What I’m saying here is: Education shouldn’t be one size fits all. I look at my three kids and am amazed at how different they are, and the idea that they could all be made to fit into the same course load and curriculum is pretty astounding to me. This thought makes me so thankful for those teachers out there, other moms, and members of the “village”, who take an interest in children as individuals and help them to identify and work with their particular gifts. How cool are those people? I know I’ll never forget certain teachers for encouraging me to step outside of the box and be heard. I cannot tell you how much I hope my children have that kind of encouragement, and it’s gonna start with me. I’m pretty sure I will fail at many things in my life as a mother, but I sincerely hope that embracing the variety in my children and their educational needs will not be one of them. Matching socks and never getting annoyed at bedtime….yep, I’ll fail at those every now and then for sure, but hopefully I won’t fail in embracing the differences in my children.
Wow. This was not what I was planning to write about at all. I was planning to write about my five year old not liking math, and how we are encouraging her to learn math in fun ways. I was going to talk about how important it is for kids to learn everything, even the things they don’t love, and there I ended up going the total other direction. So, let me say this, just to pull the two poles together here and make myself clear: It is important to me that my kids learn about all subject matters. Just because they may not love math, doesn’t mean they don’t have to work to understand it. Math is important. And if one of my children turns out to be a grammar hater, well, she is still going to need to learn how to write and speak intelligently and clearly. HOWEVER, one of our reasons to homeschool is to allow our kids to work with their natural abilities, gifts, and interests. Their education can be shaped around what they enjoy and do well. We can push them and challenge them toward greatness, I hope.
Um, yeah, so here’s what I would have said before the rant took me over:
Our Kindergarten gal loves to cook. So, her math time has been all about cooking lately. Our girls especially love fun cooking tools, like these adorable tea cup measuring cups. We’re still all about all things tea party around here.We’re learning about measuring, addition, subtraction, and greater than and less than all through cooking. And this works much better for her than a worksheet. It works much better for me too, because once math time is over in the morning, we tend to end up with dinner cooking in the crockpot. Our three girls especially love when I let them “invent” their own meals. Last week, they made up something called “Favorite Dish”. Each girl put in one favorite ingredient in the crockpot during a math lesson. We ended up with butternut squash, apples, and country ham.
We threw in some honey, cinnamon, and butter, and let me say, considering the kids picked out the ingredients, it could have been a lot worse. Math tasted pretty good that night.
Whew. My fingers are tired. Thank you for making it to the bottom of this page. Really. 🙂