Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom
I am a big fan of Seth Godin. He inspires me–and much of the world–to think bigger, to embrace change, and to consider new ideas. For these reasons, I eagerly downloaded and read his recently released free manifesto on education, Stop Stealing Dreams.
In blog-sized chapters, Godin outlines his ideas about how schools can and should be reformed so they allow kids to thrive while learning and to graduate prepared for a new and connected world. On all this, I couldn’t agree more.
I have doubts, though, about Godin’s thoughts on homeschooling. It’s not that he portrays it negatively. On the one hand, he acknowledges this educational path:
“Thousands of caring and committed parents are taking their kids out of the industrial system of schooling and daring to educate them themselves.”
But on the other hand he states:
“There are several problems, though–reasons for us to be concerned about masses of parents doing this solo.”
Photo by mikebaird
Godin is right–the world should be concerned about crazy homeschooling families like mine and yours.
After all, social movements have always been started by groups of people who made solid institutions feel “concerned.” I imagine quite a few were concerned when abolitionists would no longer keep silent about the evils of slavery or when women rose up and demanded the right to vote.
These movements went on to change and influence the world, and as homeschoolers continue to model a successful path through our modern-day educational minefield, so will we.
“The cost (in time) of one parent per student is huge–and halving it for two kids is not nearly enough. Most families can’t afford this, and few people have the patience to pull it off.”
~ Stop Stealing Dreams, Chapter 121
Without a doubt, homeschooling involves a major time, effort, and cost commitment from families, making it out of reach for the majority. But it is within reach for many, and the important things in life always involve a sacrifice of time, cost, and commitment.
I’ve heard a similar argument before–when my husband and I completed two international adoptions to add Trishna and Elijah to our family. Opponents of adoption say that the cost is prohibitive and therefore it doesn’t work on a mass scale. Some suggest that those who adopt should instead donate the money to charity, to make a difference for greater numbers of children.
There is some truth to this argument. Adoption is a broken system–a miracle for the one, not a solution for the masses. I don’t know why my two adopted children received this miracle, but they did. And our entire family is blessed because of it.
Industrialized schooling is a broken system as well. And if it’s in my power to give my kids a superb education, it’s also my obligation, my responsibility to do so.
Just because we can’t solve the beast of schooling and all its problems overnight, it doesn’t mean that we can’t give our own kids the education we know they need and deserve. Mother Teresa said it well: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”
The one lives in our homes, and through our choice to homeschool we act to nurture their dreams. Not because it’s easy, not because we have the patience to pull it off, but because our children are worth it.
So we rise to the challenge.
“Without experience, new teachers are going to make the same mistakes, mistakes that are easily avoided the tenth time around…which most home educators will never get to.”
~ Chapter 121, Stop Stealing Dreams
Our mistakes provide our kids with the best education of all. The idea of avoiding mistakes comes from the notion that even when reformed, education remains a top-down, expert activity. That it is a teacher’s job to educate the student. But a true teacher’s job is to inspire the student to educate themselves, to “transfer emotion,” as Godin calls it.
And at that quality, homeschoolers come out on top. Who else can transfer emotion better than those who care more than anyone possibly could for their students? We do it all day long–when we bake apple pies in the kitchen with plenty of “help” or when we laugh together over the latest chapter of a read-aloud.
Perhaps the most inspiring thing we do is make mistakes–and apologize afterwards. Mistakes are to be embraced, not avoided. Not feared.
Photo by Monica’s Dad
“If the goal of the process is to create a level of fearlessness, to create a free-range environment filled with exploration and all the failure that entails, most parents just don’t have the guts to pull this off.”
~ Chapter 121, Stop Stealing Dreams
On this point, I firmly agree. Far too many parents are setting up schools at home exactly like the floundering institutional giant we’ve pulled our kids out of. If we follow their failing formula, we’ll get their failing results–kids who hate learning, who do the bare minimum, who follow well but are afraid to lead.
We have to be willing to pioneer and forge a new trail. I know that we can.
Homeschoolers have passion, courage, and conviction. We can fight through our fears and come out on the other side; we can fail forward and provide our kids with a world-class, leadership education.
Someday or Today
Photo by graymalkn
“The common school is going to take a generation to fix, and we mustn’t let up the pressures until it is fixed. But in the meantime, go.”
~ Stop Stealing Dreams, Chapter 131
Godin advises parents and children to keep attending school, to keep pushing boundaries, but not to abandon the institution. For some, that might be the right choice. But I refuse to allow an institution to steal my kids’ dreams while simply waiting and hoping for a better system to someday evolve.
My children don’t need a great education someday, they need one now.
Homeschoolers are part of a revolution, one unique for our time.
May our role in it impact the educational world–making it into one in which all individuals emerge from childhood with their dreams still intact. In the words of Margaret Mead,
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Thank you, Seth, for all this good food for thought. Head here to download your own copy of Stop Stealing Dreams.
This post originally published on March 5, 2012.