Sunday, November 7, 2010

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants - An Explanation

As I've thought about the people I want to share about in the Standing on the Shoulders of Giants series, I've realized that the ones I'm most excited about are those who have never homeschooled their children and who may not be proponents of homeschooling.

And most of them are men.

That puzzled me at first. Maybe even bothered me for a time.

A friend of mine talks about The Great White Male who has never been home with the kids and yet shows up as  the expert at homeschooling (or parenting) conferences, and she wonders why that's so, considering it's usually (not always) mothers who are home with their children or who do the bulk of "parenting" on a day-to-day-basis (although I know of many super involved dads).

I'm glad she wonders. I'm glad she's drawn my awareness to this, because I can see she has a point.

So as I've been thinking about my line-up, I realize that what I'm going for is not the day-to-day of what homeschooling looks like, as the possibilities are endless and will depend upon the unique personalities and situations within each home, regardless of any particular path a family may choose to follow. Plus, there's lots of information "out there" on different styles of learning at home, with a plethora of websites and yahoo groups and books, etc. available. A simple google search will point the way.

No, what I'm looking for are the underlying philosophies about learning and living with our children that help us build a firm foundation - the ideas that ground us in what we're doing so that we can face questions or criticism with unwavering confidence. What excites me about these ground-breaking people is not that that they are advocates of homeschooling but that they are advocates for change, for doing and seeing things differently. They are advocates for children and they expound the importance of being unique and individual. They expose the pitfalls of public education (and society in general), open it up for scrutiny, and sound the alarm that we must start doing things differently and soon. They are the voices crying out in the wilderness, preparing the way for what comes next.

And people are listening.

Of course, home educating families have taken it upon themselves to create a fabulous solution in their own homes. We are living the change. And sometimes it's frustrating to hear these people speak about the behemoth known as the public school system when we know and live something that works. To us, homeschooling is the logical next step.

But can we expect these prophets to speak for us as a specific group? Can we expect them to promote home education specifically?

I don't believe so. The reality is that not everyone will choose home education for their children for any number of reasons. These children deserve something better, too, even if their parents are unable or unwilling to provide it. I also believe that these ideas (and associated hopes and dreams) are bigger than venue: bigger than schools, bigger than home education. These ideas get to the heart of what we, the human race, hope for. These ideas are ultimately about respect and dignity.

Perhaps, eventually, some of these great thinkers will realize how futile it is to change the machine (push the river, shift the paradigm), as John Holt did, and look for things Instead of Education. By the way, it wasn't until John Holt published that book and heard back from homeschoolers (who were already living his suggestions) that he was even aware of homeschooling. It was at that point he became a homeschooling advocate, started Growing Without Schooling, and wrote his only book specifically about homeschooling, Teach Your Own.

Not everyone will be like John Holt. We can, however, choose to use their words and their ideas to build our case, to create the philosophical theoretical base we need to ensure that homeschooling continues to be an option available to us (and our children) for many years to come.

It was Sir Isaac Newton who said, “If I have seen farther then others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

As home learning parents, I believe we can claim that, too.