Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on September 19, 2009 at 11:38 AM

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,” is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world. — Paul Hawken's commencement address to the University of Portland, May 3, 2009


Comment by Sarah Jackson on September 19, 2009 at 03:38 PM

There's a lot to think about here. The Mary Oliver quote resonates with me right now because we took Gunnar out of school as well to homeschool him and I can *feel* the disapproval of the grandparents, etc. even if they're not directly voicing it. I'm confident that the path we're taking with him is the right one, so I'm just trudging along and not even bothering to try and explain or justify our decisions. He needs a deeper, more connected way of learning and I'm happy to be able to give him the space to do that at home. Thanks for giving me something to ruminate on today.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 19, 2009 at 06:19 PM

When bad news is being bandied about, there are those who seem to almost delight in repeating it and creating an atmosphere of doom. Then there are those who become so despondent they just give up. Then there are those who get up and do something.

There are many in education who fall in one of two camps — the camp that says nothing will ever change and the camp that says every new thought is an old thought that didn’t work in the first place. Neither of these camps ever seems to bring much change.

The people who bring change are actually doing.

All homeschoolers are education reformers. Even those who buy boxed curricula and do “school at home” are creating a big change for themselves — because they are doing school •at home•.

“Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider.”

We can talk and talk and talk about what we’ve done wrong as a society and what we continue to do wrong, or we can begin to change things for ourselves.

Comment by Amy on September 19, 2009 at 06:40 PM

"...restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider."

This just makes me think of parenting in general, especially those last two. I need to be open to reimagining and reconsidering, not only the way things are but the way I'd hoped they'd be. It's when we're holding fast to our original ideas--no matter how nice they might have been--that we are quite possibly missing something so much better. And I feel like it's a constant. Is this working? Is that working? If not, why not? What can we do different?

Sarah, I feel what you're saying, and it comes through in such subtle ways, the disapproval. My kids started at a charter school this fall. The grandmother who never once asked about our homeschooling, NOT ONCE, just can't wait to hear all about their school adventures. And of course I feel like she thinks one is valid, and the other is not. I try not to take it personally, but it makes me a little angry.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 19, 2009 at 06:53 PM

so true about holding onto our original ideas (or dreams) and refusing to change.

“is this working .. if not .. what can we do different?” this is exactly what i am trying to teach my children — to see what is and then make intelligent choices. not to be afraid of making false steps, because there’s no such thing as perfection anyway — there’s just continuing to work toward something better.

Comment by Cristina on September 20, 2009 at 02:12 AM

Wonderful food for thought here.

Isn't it funny how all of the what ifs are usually negative? What if you're doing the wrong thing? What if you screw up your kids? What if something happens?

Well, what if I succeed? Will public education be rocked to its core? Will parents remove their children in droves? Will the school system's educational philosophy change because I chose the less traveled path? Probably not. People put their kids in school because they understand the routine. They know what is supposed to happen. If the kid works hard, he gets good grades, goes to college and gets a job. It's predictable. Alternative educational options are not as well known. You can't even ask some of the typical questions like how's school or what grade are you in. This is scary to some people.

What ifs are just worries. And worries are fears of the unknown. "A life lived in fear is a life half-lived." I don't know what the results of this great adventure will be because I'm choosing the journey, not the destination.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 20, 2009 at 03:34 PM

cristina, i was thinking about the doom-and-gloom about our environment, food, politics, economy, etc., too. what if we opened a newspaper (do they still have newspapers?) or turned on the evening news and heard about people who were dedicating themselves to making the world a better place? things that were going right? positive changes? that doesn’t seem to be the tune people want to pluck or hear.

it’s not (to me) a matter of being naive, but choosing where to put my focus. of course things go wrong. of course we make mistakes. of course things happen that we didn’t expect. but we keep going. and in the meantime, there’s this day, this moment.

if we succeed, will public education be rocked to its core? evidently not, since i keep reading statistics that point out how much better homeschooled students do on various tests than traditionally schooled students. and tests are what they care about, right? it’s confusing (as it was to me when i ran my private school) that you can show someone an alternative that is better in every single way and yet they will still choose the other option. people in paris today are eating big macs. it’s a puzzler.

alternative educational options are less well known? or less well regarded? i think it’s the latter. people would rather be one of the crowd. they would rather be ordinary than extraordinary, on the whole. this is remarkable to me, yet i see evidence of it again and again.

the fact that people worry about this alternative path, this road less traveled, is not surprising to me — i’m only surprised that they are so good at squelching their worries about that path more traveled. that as long as many other people make the same choice, they feel inoculated and anesthetized against the what-ifs of their more common choice.

Comment by Teri on September 21, 2009 at 03:12 PM

Wow. Just wow. I love this post.

Comment by Susan Gaissert on September 21, 2009 at 03:47 PM

Thank you for this. I can't wait to read the address.

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