Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on January 29, 2011 at 03:01 PM

Two things to share today.

On a classic CCB post, a new comment and my answer, excerpted here:

I am curious, does this type of learner end up doing well in groups and capable of being a team player? Is the intractability saved mostly for Mom (I feel like this sometimes)? Do you seek out more group opportunties or is this child destined to be a independent worker or entrepreneur?

Group dynamics are very interesting. Natural leaders tend to lead, negotiators tend to negotiate, dynamic thinkers come up with ideas, detail-oriented kids manage quality control, and etc. — and, it’s important to stress, no one child fits only into one category. Again, they tend to be a mix of traits. In a group situation, one particular trait may stick out to the adults, and that child gets labeled and the adult moves on. But careful study and documentation can reveal secondary traits that are strong and important... [continued]

Read more at The Relentless Learner post.

And, another follow-up article to the Tiger Mom brouhaha, this time in the New Yorker:

On our bad days, we wonder whether this way of thinking is, as Chua might say, garbage. Last month, the results of the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, tests were announced. It was the first time that Chinese students had participated, and children from Shanghai ranked first in every single area. Students from the United States, meanwhile, came in seventeenth in reading, twenty-third in science, and an especially demoralizing thirty-first in math. This last ranking put American kids not just behind the Chinese, the Koreans, and the Singaporeans but also after the French, the Austrians, the Hungarians, the Slovenians, the Estonians, and the Poles.

“I know skeptics will want to argue with the results, but we consider them to be accurate and reliable,” Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, told the Times. “The United States came in twenty-third or twenty-fourth in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated.”

Why is this? How is it that the richest country in the world can’t teach kids to read or to multiply fractions?

...

Taken as a parable, Chua’s cartoonish narrative about browbeating her daughters acquires a certain disquieting force. Americans have been told always to encourage their kids. This, the theory goes, will improve their self-esteem, and this, in turn, will help them learn.

After a generation or so of applying this theory, we have the results. Just about the only category in which American students outperform the competition is self-regard.

America’s Top Parent: What’s behind the Tiger Mother craze?

The last bit about self-regard reminded me of when we discussed perfectionism and praise. The previous part about how we can’t teach kids to read or multiply fractions reminded me of those other recent interesting articles attacking our educational system’s results.

As always, this is open thread so feel free to ask any question or discuss whatever you wish — and have a good weekend!

 

25 comments

Comment by Stacey on January 29, 2011 at 04:06 PM

I just wanted to share this here but we've just passed the Kindergarten sign up period for next year. I know I've been talking about all the homeschooling ideas for years but I was always afraid that something would come in between our dream and reality. But we've made it. Our learning life has been coming together a lot lately. I'm not sure if it's Alder's age or my self confidence but I have a clearer picture now.

I recently got over was the journal thing, and it was actually the easiest thing that did it, I ended up with some very tiny journals (the kind that come in threes) for some reason they are much less intimidating than full size book. I can keep it on me all the time and at the moment I don't differentiate between learning and information and other thoughts I have except by a note at the top of the page.

I'm still working on the recording aspect but this is a start.

I have a lot of thoughts about the quotes but they haven't come together into anything logical yet so I might say something more. I mainly wanted to share.

Comment by Anne T. on January 29, 2011 at 04:11 PM

In regards to perfectionism, my son who is approaching 3.5 has just started with the "I can't do it! Do it for me Mommy!". This especially relates to drawing. We have been playing a game where we take turns telling a story, drawing it as we go. I use my left hand, to try and cut down on the comparisons between our work, but this "I can't do it/make it look right!" has come up. And he doesn't want to sit and scribble by himself, he wants me to participate. I don't know how to discourage the perfectionism in this young age.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 29, 2011 at 05:07 PM

stacey, congratulations! :)

wonderful re: the small journals being less intimidating. :) this is yet another reason i point people toward post-its .. how intimidating can a post-it be? ;)

"at the moment I don't differentiate between learning and information and other thoughts I have except by a note at the top of the page" - as hs'ing is a lifestyle, it can be hard to separate everything out .. i know that when i started hs'ing, i wrote reams just about my thoughts about what our new life was going to be like.

and then, hs'ing and everyday life are so intwined...

thank you for sharing .. love hearing what you're doing. can't wait to hear about your homeschooling adventure with alder.

hi anne, it's good to hear from you. ;)

here's a post full of information about this common problem -

confidence issues and the young artist - http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2008/3/18/confidence-issues-and-the-young-artist.html

in addition to all the information contained therein, i would say ...

keep in mind this isn't something you can fix immediately. set your goal and work toward it steadfastly. you want him to do his own work and be *happy* with it - content to do his best and continue to strive to do better.

flat out do not dry for your child (or, for teachers out there, your student). this is nonnegotiable.

give him attention by talking about his drawings and, if he asks questions, yours. give him companionship by drawing *with* him.

don't feel like you have to draw with your left hand -- would you pretend you couldn't read so he wouldn't feel bad about not being able to read as well as you? do your best work and make sure he knows you have complete confidence that his drawing will improve steadily as he works on it.

he's bumping up against something that requires real effort, and this will happen again and again. don't expect miracles from yourself (we all slip!), but work on making the kind of learning environment you want for *all* the challenges that are coming. be encouraging without false praise. set a calm attitude of enjoying the effort while doing the best we can. enjoy being together, nice materials, a comfortable work spot. celebrate successes. model good reactions to failures.

you might want to take a step back and draw side by side rather than on the same piece of paper. he might have an easier time taking pride in his own separate work that he can show off to another family member, that you can hang up, etc. (i'm sure you do some of this, too.) you might be able to steer the shared storytelling in a different direction and unentangle it from the drawing.

i empathize with you fully, as i am both a recovering perfectionist and have at least one perfectionist son. :)

and .. some more posts about drawing with children -

drawing with children - http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2008/3/10/drawing-with-your-children.html

drawing with your children, continued - http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2008/3/17/drawing-with-your-children-continued.html

observational drawing - http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2008/2/10/art-lesson-observational-drawing.html

and .. some more posts about perfectionism -

the perfectionist - http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2007/10/30/the-perfectionist.html

it's not (all) about the art - http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2008/2/26/its-not-all-about-the-art.html

a work of one's own - http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2010/9/14/a-work-of-ones-own.html

Comment by patricia on January 29, 2011 at 06:36 PM

Lori, did you see this Tiger Mom/PISA score rebuttal?

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jan2011/tc20110112_006501.htm

I appreciated the perspective in this one.

Comment by jane on January 29, 2011 at 08:22 PM

Sometimes I wonder about all the rankings between the US and other countries.

I guess I have this question: and I put it out there for anyone to answer because I have not seen anyone address it. I'm 48 years old and when I went to school there was a strong tracking element. (I'm not saying that this is right, just stating the situation) Within this track, you were either the overachiever, the middle of the road or the kid that went on to vocational or manufacturing jobs.

All this has changed, and believe me I am all for pushing kids to learn as much as the are possibly able. But, here in NY state. Every. single. student. needs to pass the state exams. Regardless. That means kids, that in the past, who might have gone into a manufacturing job must pass these tests. Some kids just can't.

Are other countries testing every.single.student. Or are we only seeing the students that are "tracked" to become lifelong learners. Surely, China has a very strong manufacturing base (seeing that they have all our jobs :)) Are those workers educated as much as our older students?

I just put that out to you for thought. I on the otherhand, am trying to get my son into honor classes and am being told that there is only room for 20. Period. And the reason why, because they need a bell curve of student achievement in order to get funds from the state. If there are too many A and B students and not enough D and F students...funding stops. Go figure.

Comment by Laura on January 30, 2011 at 12:23 AM

Thank you for your wonderful blog. I work in an elementary school and wondered if you might have any thoughts, or suggestions about "gifted" or high achieving students who brag/boast to their classmates about their "superiority" in a particular subject? This bragging/boasting can also turn into putting other kids down when it takes them longer to master a concept. The bragging/boasting child is not sought out as a partner by his classmates - not surprising.

The Dr. Seuss book, "The Sneetches" came to mind as a way to address the subject with the whole class. I'm feeling a bit challenged with this topic especially since the "genius" label is often being used and reinforced by parents, making our efforts at school more challenging.

Have you written anything on this topic?

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 30, 2011 at 01:19 AM

patricia, i can't keep up with all the various follow-up articles; thanks for the link!

in general, i take everything i read about rankings with a grain of salt. still, i wonder about this -

"America is second to none. Rather than in mastery of facts learned by rote and great numbers of accomplished martinets, its strength lies in the diversity and innovation that arise in an open, creative society."

going back to those previous "interesting" articles (http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2011/1/18/interesting.html ) i have to ask, what about those graduates who can't pass the army entrance exam?

jane, my husband and i were discussing this same topic (tracking). (he was also bringing up the same fuzzy stats that patricia's article digs into. he's an engineer.)

re: tracking, that's the way it was when we went through school. you got separated right off the bat .. well, not *right* off the bat, because kindergarten was still about learning to tie your shoes. but first grade reading groups and then right up to your high school track to college, job, or military.

that system was reviled by many. but we've talked about this before -- the current system doesn't seem to leave room for anyone to *not* go to college. what about the kid who, in my day, had a work-school program (not unlike an internship) that led him straight into a good job after high school? there's the idea now that *everyone* should go to college, and i don't agree with it. too much debt for young people to saddle when they can only get jobs that don't require the education they just paid for. (again, we've talked about this before - http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2010/3/23/life-ready-education.html )

i don't know what the answer is, but i agree with you -- i don't think the answer is to shove everyone into the same category.

re: your son and the honor class, i don't know what to say about that. obviously it's a farce. i know a bright, bright young girl who told me, devastated, that she missed getting into the honors program by a single point on a test .. and she believed that meant she wasn't smart. it's enraging.

laura, agree that it's reinforced .. by parents, by teachers, and by the students themselves, obviously. (both sides)

what age children are these?

Comment by patricia on January 30, 2011 at 02:09 AM

I agree--the article I linked doesn't really address the students who can't pass a basic army entrance exam. But whenever we get in a fear-based scenario, like we are now, worrying that other countries are surpassing us, the tendency is to overcompensate and throw out all we're doing right.

Here's a little section from Thomas Newkirk's book Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones (about writing in schools) that addresses this:

"The reason for this clamping down is fear. Those who are pushing standardized, scripted education first created a climate of crisis--despite all evidence to the contrary, they would claim that reading failure was widespread in schools, that we were in an epidemic, that schools were failing, that we were still a "nation at risk," and that a big new remedy (theirs) was the answer. They invoked "science" as the key to reform, the white knight who will ride in to save us from the muddle of impression and habit. In such a climate, teacher professionalism, diversity, local decision making, risk taking--all become luxuries we can no longer afford. We see the same process with civil liberties in this country: We are in a seemingly endless war on terror that means we must relax our scruples about government eavesdropping, or torture, or holding enemy combatants indefinitely without charging them. Traditional expectations for privacy and due process are simply too risky in this frightened world. One way for schools to deal with this fear is to adopt comprehensive programs that, in effect, outsource planning to textbook companies who claim that their programs are research-based, even "guaranteed." In the process, there is a confusion of standards with standardization; of quality with uniformity; of consistency with excellence; of test scores with assessment."

This interests me. Of course, none of this answers the problems of what to do about students who can't meet basic standards upon graduation. Still, I hope we don't leave behind what our nation does well with education in an attempt to mimic the countries that are testing higher.

Comment by Erin on January 30, 2011 at 02:21 AM

Anne T> I just wanted to encourage you through this time that your 3 year old wants you to draw for him. It's so tough at first to refuse to draw for them!

My oldest (now 5) is a perfectionist by nature and the "draw it for me!" bug hit us hard at about 3.5. As Lori sggested I refused to draw for him, but I would draw next to him if I was able, and say a lot of "Mama is a lot older than you and has had a lot of practice- when you've had lots of practice you will be better too." Or if that was causing problems I wouldn't draw but I would ask leading questions. If he wanted to draw an elephant I would ask, "what parts does an elephant have?" and as he listed parts I'd suggest he add them to his drawing. If he said he didn't know how I'd ask what shape the part was to lead him to an idea of how to make it. Now that he's older it's not often a problem and he draws quite a lot, but it was very tough at first to stick to not drawing for him. It has been so fruitful though!

Comment by Luisa on January 30, 2011 at 02:50 AM

I don't have anything to contribute to the conversation today. I'm just really enjoying the comments and will be back to read them again. Like Stacey I feel like I'm still learning and figuring it out. Glad to hear she has a good journal system that works for her. I also followed up on the business week article and to be honest I don't know what to make of Tiger Mom. I am new to homeschooling all 5 kids this year and still figuring it out but I am confident about one thing I don't want to be Tiger Mom.

Comment by Anne T. on January 30, 2011 at 04:03 AM

Thank you Erin! It's so hard and perplexing for me to hear "I can't, you do it" coming out of the kid who's normal answer to everything is "I can do it, let me do it!" i'm glad to hear your process of encouraging him bore fruit. I was an art major in school, so I really want this part of our learning to go well.

Comment by Cori on January 30, 2011 at 04:25 AM

Thank you, your response was helpful. My son plays well with other children, tends to be a leader type and is less bossy these days. I do wonder how he would do in a group project situation. I'll have to see what I can find. We homeschool and with local groups it is usually a) heavy classroom instruction (maybe no projects) or b) not well attended on a regular basis. I might need to facilitate something myself, after I get more comfortable doing it. Do you know of any national groups or organizations (dare I say Boy Scouts?) that are compatible with Reggio?

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 30, 2011 at 01:48 PM

patricia, yes, i suppose the real problem then is, who gets to identify what we were doing right? ;)

i do see your point, and thank you for the interesting quote.

i'm old enough to have seen the pendulum effect in action, swinging back and forth as we don't so much solve our problems as stab at them ineffectually from different directions.

personally, i think a sea change is needed in education, but i get that that is unrealistic. right now, the only way you can experience a sea change in education, with a completely different approach based on completely different values and goals, is to homeschool.

erin, thank you so much for sharing your experience!

luisa, we're all still learning and figuring it out. :) i'm glad you're enjoying the conversation.

that's what i think is so great about something like this tiger mom brouhaha -- it brings up a lot of issues and gets us to think about what we're doing and why.

anne, i can imagine how if you were an art major this would be even more important to you. i can only say that i have gone through the same thing again and again, and it has always worked out in the end!

cori, i don't know of any organizations or groups existing that would give a similar experience.

you could facilitate something yourself -- unfortunately, you've hit the main problem on the head: attendance. attendance at hs'ing activities/groups is so unreliable and spotty; i'm not sure what can be done about this. preferably you would have at least a *core* group that would meet faithfully. some people have suggested to me that if people pay, they stay -- so, charge some fee to get them to feel they need to attend to get their money's worth. ;)

when the time comes, let me know and i'll help you as much as possible.

Comment by Cori on January 30, 2011 at 04:02 PM

You know, I'm drawing a complete blank on how to facilitate a group project. At first I'm thinking I need to find the right project, but the kids need to do that. So then I guess I need to think in terms of what I can provide to the group: supplies, library trips, internet research, and my hubby could provide building expertise, if they choose to build something... Just thinking aloud here.

I see your book recommendations for Reggio, is there one in particular that will be helfpul for elementary school?

Comment by patricia on January 30, 2011 at 04:14 PM

I agree with you, Lori, and I keep waiting for the pendulum to start back the other way, because there are so many kids in public schools and I worry about them. The culture was so different when I taught in the late 80's-early 90's.

I've been so glad to homeschool and to be able to disregard that pendulum and its decision-makers altogether. :-)

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 30, 2011 at 04:58 PM

cori, reggio schools are for younger children, so the books are useful for philosophy and ideas but you won't find practical examples of elementary-age projects.

for a project group, don't worry about the topic and just concentrate on the purpose -- getting children together in a particular atmosphere, with a lot of materials and support. as you say, they will choose the topic. usually one or two children with a strong interest will draw the others in. the topic in and of itself is not important.

if you could find one or two other families to be your core group, who would attend faithfully, that would be best. then you could let the projects develop naturally.

patricia, unfortunately, the pendulum is always leaving someone out; when it swings in one group's favor, the other suffers. twenty years ago i had a good friend who graduated high school barely able to read and write; i suppose some would call her a child left behind. (although they didn't leave her behind -- they kept promoting her.) has anything changed in the last 25 years? i don't think so, not in any essential way.

i prefer the freedom teachers had in the 80s, but i can't say education as a whole was any better for the children. and thus the pendulum swings...

Comment by amy on January 31, 2011 at 12:19 AM

Hi Lori, Do you have any resources that might provide a jumping-off point for me to work reading, writing, and math into visual arts? I do have some ideas, and a deep faith that my son and I would figure it out together, but right now he's in school and our time is limited. I can't get into all the pros/cons of school/not-school for us (let's just say I'm completely willing to homeschool) but pulling him out mid year isn't something we'd do (and isn't something he wants), so that's my situation for now. But meanwhile, I'm afraid homework is killing any love of learning he might develop, not to mention our relationship. I need a rescue operation...

Comment by Jen on January 31, 2011 at 03:42 AM

Back to tackle the college issue. Life has prevented me from responding sooner.
I am preparing to leave college. I decided to go back to school last year when the opportunity presented itself. I love learning and there are very few subjects that I do not fall down the rabbit hole when searching out more information.

I decided to try to obtain my teaching certification. After all, I have a passion for education, have read just about every education book I can get my hands on, have a knack for explaining or showing things in a way that correlates to all learning types and I would always have the opportunity to continue learning if I were teaching.

I have an undergraduate degree that I didn't work hard to get, much to my surprise. College was supposed to be difficult! Students had to study outside of class for several hours a week, right? The only time I studied was when a group study sessions were proposed and even then I did little studying and more writing study guides for others. I graduated with honors including a school-wide honor. I felt like a cheater when people congratulated me for hard work. Hard work? I just showed up, listened and did what I was told.

Fast forward and I am back in a college classroom as a student. If I thought that my first degree was easy then what does that make this? A majority of the students are in college not because they care to learn but for one of three reasons: they were told to get the piece of paper so they can get a job (forget being interested in the topic), because someone else is paying for it (in this state there are many benefits if you are receiving an undergraduate and/or Mom & Dad foot the bill) or because one can live off of student loans and grants without working. Unfortunately I am not exaggerating on the majority part. Doesn't anyone want to pursue knowledge?

Then there is the fact that the students in classes I am taking are going on to be school teachers. In a recent elementary math class for teachers there were only a handful of students in the class who could figure out 10% of 100. No time limit. They simply didn't understand. The professor lamented the fact that he had to teach elementary math to adults who were supposed to teach the next generation. I could give numerous similar examples from that class and others. Are there individuals who will be decent teachers? Yes, but they are (unfortunately) the exception. A very few will be excellent teachers. There is basically no screening to become a teacher, just a very, very pathetic basic skills test and a background/fingerprint test. No interview, no references required.

Next is the quality of the education. It's so very, very sad that I don't want to think too much about it because I fear for my children's future education, should they decide to pursue higher ed. The essay structure has been dumbed-down to the point that we (students) are given a five-paragraph essay outline detailing how to write the essay. More-or-less fill in the blank. Students complain that it's too difficult! I would say it's sixth grade level, not college! Information is fed in bite-size chunks that my six-year-old could comprehend. The students complained if "difficult" work or information was involved.

Many higher ed institutions are so concerned for money at the moment that they've entirely forgotten that the students and pursuit of education is the purpose of the school. The school I am attending has proved to be no different. I dropped one class because the person hired was not a professional or expert in the field, had been hired the week before, was consistently unprepared for class and thought very high of herself despite her lack of knowledge of the subject material. Many classes are now taught by graduate students in place of professors.

My opinion? College has become a business rather than an academic institution. It does not surprise me that students leave college having learned no more than when they began. Writing skills are not needed for college. Simply fill-in-the-blank and you'll receive full credit. Extra credit is given for things such as having your name at the top of the paper. One class I had gave credit on every exam simply for having your name on the exam. I thought I left that behind in first grade.

So when someone tells me they have such-and-such degree it tells me they put their name on the paper and filled in the blank for their essay. What I do not assume is that they are a professional in the area of their major.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 31, 2011 at 04:49 PM

hi, amy. i don't know; i have so many questions. how old is he? there are a lot of ways to integrate reading, writing, and math into visual arts .. but if he's overloaded with homework, would he appreciate that? what are you wanting to do?

jen, thank you so much for your really interesting experience .. i'm sorry it's been so painful. i have much to say...

i agree with your conclusion, which is that college is now a place where you exchange money for a degree, not an institution of learning. my friends who teach college regale me with stories of students who are completely unprepared to do college-level work, don't do the work required, and are passed through the system anyway; their hands are tied by the administration. you can imagine what this does for their morale.

"Doesn't anyone want to pursue knowledge?" even in the 80s, when i was in college, i was appalled by my classmates' complete lack of interest in really learning. they were just there to get their piece of paper and then on to get a good job. i met some intelligent people in college, i had some challenging professors -- but overall, i was shocked by the real purpose, which seemed to be an exchange of money and time for a degree. that was more than 20 years ago...

"In a recent elementary math class for teachers there were only a handful of students in the class who could figure out 10% of 100. No time limit. They simply didn't understand." this does not surprise me. i think it would surprise a great many parents.

"Are there individuals who will be decent teachers? Yes, but they are (unfortunately) the exception. A very few will be excellent teachers." a few years ago i started off a talk to a group of education majors by saying "a few of you will be excellent teachers. most of you will be mediocre." it was easy to spot the few; they were the ones who sat up a little higher in their seats and grinned from ear to ear. the others were offended. their professor was thrilled. there isn't a lot of truth-telling going on in those classrooms. the emperor is always naked.

i know that what you are describing is true, because i've seen it as well. it's worth adding that not *all* of those teachers will be mediocre because they can't figure out 10% of 100. a lot of them simply have no inner fire to teach. they want to walk into the classroom, deliver the boxed content, and walk back out. i think a lot of parents assume that the majority of teachers chose their career based on their deep love of teaching, but from what i've seen, they are in the minority.

i have worked with so many teachers over the years who are wonderful, dedicated, and truly striving to do the absolute best they can do for their students. unfortunately, they'll be the first to tell you that not every teacher at their school feels the same.

and even among the teachers struggling to do simple math, there are those who really, truly want to be a good teacher .. but the system is not set up to help them; it's set up to push them along. i've worked with teachers who were given classroom materials they didn't understand and then left to figure it out on their own. they wanted to make things better in their classroom, but there's no one to help them. when i read that schools should get rid of their worst teachers, i wonder about some of these people -- they wanted to learn, they wanted to do better, but they weren't supported. we're going to throw away these teachers; who are we replacing them with? where's our commitment?

"Next is the quality of the education. It's so very, very sad that I don't want to think too much about it because I fear for my children's future education, should they decide to pursue higher ed." this hearkens back to what we were discussing before -- the only way anyone is going to get a good education is if they take responsibility for it, direct it, manage it, demand it. they will always be free to just take the path of least resistance; the days of schools demanding performance from students are over.

of course, it sounds like you set out wanting an education and can't get one anyway. so i fear with you.

"The essay structure has been dumbed-down to the point that we (students) are given a five-paragraph essay outline detailing how to write the essay. More-or-less fill in the blank. Students complain that it's too difficult! I would say it's sixth grade level, not college! Information is fed in bite-size chunks that my six-year-old could comprehend. The students complained if "difficult" work or information was involved." again, something i hear from my professor friends. students come in to whine and complain that the work is too hard. professors have to back up and teach the students skills they should have learned in high school.

"I dropped one class because the person hired was not a professional or expert in the field, had been hired the week before, was consistently unprepared for class and thought very high of herself despite her lack of knowledge of the subject material." well, there's that high regard again!

"[W]hen someone tells me they have such-and-such degree it tells me they put their name on the paper and filled in the blank for their essay. What I do not assume is that they are a professional in the area of their major." a college degree doesn't mean what it used to. it's not a guarantee of a certain level of education. i was the first person on one side of my family to go to college, and i had many romantic thoughts about liberal education. by the time i left my university, i was completely disillusioned.

your story is depressing, jen, but it needs to be told. thank you for sharing it!

Comment by Anne T. on February 1, 2011 at 07:38 PM

Worked on the perfectionist in art issue while in a music/art class today. Would have been a whole lot easier if every other parent wasn't drawing and gluing and writing and placing things for their kid. Grrrrrrrrr this is why I really appreciate everyone's encouragement, it's like always swimming upstream.

Comment by Lori Pickert on February 1, 2011 at 10:15 PM

oh, i feel for you, anne. i taught an art class once for 2- and 3-year-olds. i was amazed at how controlling the parents were -- telling the kids what to do (or *indicating* or *suggesting*), doing it *for* them (!), and .. this killed me .. pestering them about making a mess -- both on their clothes (why is your small child wearing nice clothes to a hands-on art class?!) and on the floor and table (why do you care when it's not your space and it's dedicated to children's messy art?!).

my son also took an art class for 2- and 3-year-olds that i didn't teach; parents were required to stay. i sat around and watched him paint and glue and etc. while parents did the same sorts of things .. micromanaging their toddlers and preschoolers. would be funny if it weren't so maddening. some of the children were accompanied by babysitters instead of parents. you would think this would mean more freedom .. but no! the babysitters were just as focused on getting these small children to produce neat, recognizable works of "art". probably so they didn't catch heck from the parents. ;)

keep swimming!

Comment by Elizabeth Fern. on February 1, 2011 at 11:15 PM

I don't really know what to think of all this Tiger Mom stuff. When I first read the article I was alarmed and felt that maybe I should turn into one myself. But then I have to ask myself, "What are my goals for homeschooling?" Am I homeschooling because I want my children to be able to compete in the global market? No. I homeschool to foster a love of learning and strong family bonds. And even after those 2 main reasons, I still don't feel called to make sure they have an 'advantage' in the global market. I think it's more important, especially with a teetering economy that my children learn basic life skills like how to garden, sew, maintain a car, cook, make-do, invent things to fit their needs etc so IF I assigned a curriculum it wouldn't be advanced mathematics it would be canning and preserving etc.

I do question how these children of Tiger Moms don't become depressed, sucidal and even choose to raise their own children this way. In response to the outrage and backlash the Tiger Mom's own daughter wrote a letter to WSJ praising her mom and loving her.

I know if I acted as a Tiger Mom to my daughter, she would resent and hate me. In our homeschool, I always try to foster a connection with my daughter and will choose the method that will help me with this goal - that's why project-learning works for us.

My biggest concern with child-led learning is if it does foster a certain self-absorption in children. I have homeschooling friends who are critcial of this kind of learning because they think it teaches the child that the world revolves around them and caters to them. They think rote learning and 6 hours of desk learning teaches children virtues. I know I've posed this concern before but it's always nice to have reassurance on this score.

Of course, I see some of these children in tears who seperate learning into a set time and when I ask them what they like to learn about they are quick to say, "I don't like learning...let's talk about something else please." But after reading the Tiger Mom article, who knows? Maybe these same children will thank their parents for making them write 500 lines, "I will not talk during dinner" or "I will finish all of my latin assignment" I guess time will tell.

Comment by Lori Pickert on February 2, 2011 at 02:58 PM

"My biggest concern with child-led learning is if it does foster a certain self-absorption in children. I have homeschooling friends who are critcial of this kind of learning because they think it teaches the child that the world revolves around them and caters to them. They think rote learning and 6 hours of desk learning teaches children virtues. I know I've posed this concern before but it's always nice to have reassurance on this score."

there is a persistent idea that children should submit to their elders and do as they are told, and there is a persistent idea that suffering is good for you. so many public schooling parents have said to me -- and it amazes me -- that hs'ing is wrong because children need to be exposed to the "real world" or they won't know how to deal with things like bullies later in life. bullies are mentioned frequently as an example of something children should have to deal with; they shouldn't be spared.

(to hs’ers, of course, the “real world” is something that happens outside institutional learning. but i digress…)

the same adults who take these positions re: children wouldn't submit to similar circumstances themselves, of course. it’s seen as a rite of passage. i even had a mom tell me very seriously that children need to deal with school being boring because they will encounter that in their work life as well. so, childhood is a long, hard lesson on the long, hard adult life ahead. or something.

does project-based learning make children self-absorbed? does it make them think the world revolves around them?

i believe children embrace learning and become enthusiastic, passion-driven learners only when they see how it connects to themselves .. how it helps them connect with their interests and their purpose. what is education for, if not this? and the rote learning, six hours at a desk a day .. what is that kind of education for? not, i think, connecting you with your deepest passions and your purpose.

connection is key. children need to see how they fit .. projects give them a chance to see that all learning is connected, that basic skills like reading and writing and computing are necessary to do the things that interest them, that they can make and do and contribute to a larger whole. it is a two-way street. the child participates, contributes, joins in with the larger community, makes something worth making, provides something worthwhile. the child absorbs learning, knowledge, skills, help from the community .. and then gives something back.

a child who participates in the larger community -- whether it is family, church, project group, or town -- knows that the world does not revolve around him. rather, he sees that he is a small but vital part of a larger whole. he sees that he can learn and he can contribute.

a child whose parents are mentors and partners in learning knows that the world does not revolve around him. it is a shared relationship, a negotiated curriculum. the parents encourage and support, but they also share their own work and expectations. the child makes requests; the parent attempts to fill them in a reasonable way. the parent may tell the child "it's important for you to learn this" outside of project work. there are usually rules and expectations in the family that the child must abide by. simply learning through projects doesn't mean a child is catered to.

it does mean that a child is told, through action and environment, "learning is for YOU .. for you to learn the things you need to know, so you can do all the things you want to do." but the parent doesn't hand the child a satin cushion to sit on and then tend to their every whim. that message -- that learning is for the child -- comes with work, responsibility, trial and error, experimentation, *work*. the message doesn't erase the work -- it just puts the work into its proper context. why should a child put his all into something that he cares nothing about, that is designed to please someone else in some inexplicable way? project learning says this is about you .. then expects the child to give his all for something he cares deeply about.

these same parents suggest that children will only be willing to do things that interest them from here on out .. but really project learning teaches the lesson that all kinds of knowledge and skills are needed to meet one’s goals. a small child understands that to do what he wants to do, he needs to be able to read and write, to measure and add and subtract, to talk to people and keep track of what he's learned, to listen and to share. children who grow up with this kind of learning understand much more than the forced learners that knowledge and skills prepare you to do fascinating work that matters.

rather than self-absorbed, in my experience, children who learn in this way are much more engaged with the world -- they know themselves better, they are more confident, they seek out connections, they accept help, and they enthusiastically participate in and contribute to their community.

"Of course, I see some of these children in tears who separate learning into a set time and when I ask them what they like to learn about they are quick to say, "I don't like learning...let's talk about something else please." But after reading the Tiger Mom article, who knows? Maybe these same children will thank their parents for making them write 500 lines, "I will not talk during dinner" or "I will finish all of my latin assignment" I guess time will tell."

they probably will thank their parents. tiger mom, after all, is grateful to her parents for the way she was raised and chose to raise her children the same way. at least one daughter praises her in turn. we come up through our family culture and values and prejudices, and we internalize them. this has to be why so many people say, "well that's the way it was for me and i'm fine!"

it's hard to turn aside from the dominant culture and carve out a different path for yourself and your family. we make this choice based on our own very individual feelings, values, and yearnings for what we want our family and our world to be like. this mirrors the opportunity we’re giving our children. we’re allowing them to be themselves first, whole, and understand who they are, then make a meaningful contribution to the world with their passions, talents, and purpose.

Comment by Elizabeth Fern. on February 2, 2011 at 09:10 PM

Lori,

As usual your replies bring peace of mind and much encouragement to the way our family learns.

"there is a persistent idea that children should submit to their elders and do as they are told"

Oh! I've heard this so many times. "Do as I say not as I do!" I think my friends are quite shocked to learn that in our house respect is a 2 way street. Yes, I feel the need to be respected but so do my children. If our children feel they're rights and dignity have been trampled on by my words or actions, my husband and I want them to tell us so we can mend our ways. And through our example, they're more willing to correct their ways when we feel we've been disrespected. Many problem behaviors have an underlying cause...usually there's a disconnect in the relationship. That's why I love project-learning. Not only does it build educational connections but emotional connections as well. Truly, when we foster a deep connection through our learning and spending time together reactive displine is rarely needed.

"and there is a persistent idea that suffering is good for you. so many public schooling parents have said to me -- and it amazes me -- that hs'ing is wrong because children need to be exposed to the "real world" or they won't know how to deal with things like bullies later in life. bullies are mentioned frequently as an example of something children should have to deal with; they shouldn't be spared."

I shudder when I hear that excuse about bullying. No child should have to go through that. Ironically, bullying tends to happen when you get a bunch of children the same age together for hours at a time. Usually these children often feel a lack of purpose as well. No where else in real life except the occasional club meeting or sporting activity will you actually be amongst people who are all the same age so the arguement that it prepares them for "real life" doesn't hold true.

"i believe children embrace learning and become enthusiastic, passion-driven learners only when they see how it connects to themselves .. how it helps them connect with their interests and their purpose. what is education for, if not this? and the rote learning, six hours at a desk a day .. what is that kind of education for? not, i think, connecting you with your deepest passions and your purpose."

Of course! Isn't this the way it is for me? Why is it that I can spend 20 hours at a homeschool convention or quilting workshop and love and relish every minute of it but I dreaded and hated the 20 hours I had to sit for a Continuing Ed. course I recently had to take? I remember recently having to be trained in my job (albeit temporary job) and every fiber of my being hated it. We were told to memorize vocabulary and try as I might I couldn't memorize it until I made the connection that I could apply the defintions and the training to my life at home as a mother and homemaker - How much easier was it for me to learn! The wall came down and I ended up teaching everyone else around me

I hated economics in college, now I'm wanting to learn Austrian economics because I can see the importance of learning it.

I've loved all things Jane Austen since I first saw the 1995 version in high school. I couldn't wait to take my Jane Austen class as a senior in college. It turned out to be the only time I HATED Jane Austen. I hated being told what the author intended. I skimmed the books for quiz and test questions and loathed turning the pages to write reports on a topic chosen by our professor. Now I'm back to reading several of her novels for complete enjoyment every year and even find myself quoting her because her words have made their impression without me having to memorize them.

"a child whose parents are mentors and partners in learning knows that the world does not revolve around him. it is a shared relationship, a negotiated curriculum. the parents encourage and support, but they also share their own work and expectations. the child makes requests; the parent attempts to fill them in a reasonable way. the parent may tell the child "it's important for you to learn this" outside of project work. there are usually rules and expectations in the family that the child must abide by. simply learning through projects doesn't mean a child is catered to."

Yes of course! The very nature of homeschooling, of being in a family with it's routines, resposiblilities, rules, the needs of a toddler needing to be tended to, the mutual negotiations and the example the parents set of selfless love, encouragement and companionship helps a child to become his best self.

You mentioned too the family's involvement in ministries and causes outside the home. My husband and I need to talk about that and make that a reality. We've always wanted to, now we need to arrange our priorities to make it possible.

"it's hard to turn aside from the dominant culture and carve out a different path for yourself and your family. we make this choice based on our own very individual feelings, values, and yearnings for what we want our family and our world to be like. this mirrors the opportunity we’re giving our children."

Again, you hit the nail on the head. When people ask me what my goals for homeschooling are I tell them I want her to come away knowing love...love of God, love of learning, and I don't ever want her to doubt my love for her. That's why my emphasis is on building connections.

Thank You again Lori! Your response was a great blessing.

Please finish your book. ;-)

Comment by Lori Pickert on February 2, 2011 at 09:50 PM

you know, i was thinking about this more today. i always see those parents who favor submission, force, and coercion to be revealing how little they think of children. they think children are lazy, unmotivated, sneaky. they think children won’t offer up respect unless it’s demanded of them. why do they think this way? they must believe these same things are true of themselves — *they* are lazy and wouldn’t do work unless it was required, *they* are unmotivated and have no interests, *they* are sneaky and would avoid work wherever possible. so they see themselves in their children. any person who loves to learn, loves challenges, loves to work and fulfill their life’s purpose .. that person would certainly see those same qualities mirrored in their own children, just waiting to be encouraged and mentored.

“Ironically, bullying tends to happen when you get a bunch of children the same age together for hours at a time. Usually these children often feel a lack of purpose as well. No where else in real life except the occasional club meeting or sporting activity will you actually be amongst people who are all the same age so the arguement that it prepares them for "real life" doesn't hold true. “ and — also ironically — what adult would put up with bullying, in the workplace or among their friends? it seems to me that the only adult who would allow themselves to be bullied would be one who was conditioned to accept that kind of treatment as a child.

“The very nature of homeschooling, of being in a family with it's routines, responsiblilities, rules, the needs of a toddler needing to be tended to, the mutual negotiations and the example the parents set of selfless love, encouragement and companionship helps a child to become his best self.” again, back to the idea i was trying to express in my first paragraph — what kind of person looks at a hs’ing family learning through projects and sees a child being catered to, a child who is totally self-absorbed? they are invoking all their own negative experiences and prejudices. i see a family living, learning, reading, talking, exploring, sharing, making together, each person helping the other, supporting, encouraging, challenging. the family is the first community; it’s where we teach our children how to interact with the world, where they fit in, how they fit in. there aren’t enough people who have had a healthy, joyful experience with learning and with family. they can’t recognize something they’ve never experienced; they can’t even seem to acknowledge that it could exist.

thank you so much for your kind words, and i promise — i really am going to finish this book! :)

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