Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Motivation by Fear

We've recently come to unschooling as a learning method. It's a very counter-intuitive way of teaching. Learning is "delight driven" and children are surrounded with a rich environment and opportunities for exploring. Direct teaching and lessons are avoided although curriculum is still present and accessible.

My first thought when I heard about this method of education was to question if children would spend the whole day watching cartoons and learning how to play video games. Years ago I read the Tao and occasionally a lesson from the Tao pops up in the course of my day. Leading from behind is a central concept of the Tao. It's a hard discipline to master, but the value of encouraging your "troops" to move out ahead of you is immeasurable. In the course of a day I couldn't even begin to plot out the lessons we've been learning since we threw out the lesson plans and started unschooling. I have learned that my son can be organized, disciplined, motivated, and goal oriented. He just wants to set and achieve his goals, not mine. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact there's a lot right with him directing his education.

He retains more information, studies for longer periods of time, has better comprehension, and more original thought about a subject when he chooses what to study. Education's purpose is to prepare us to learn what we need to survive and find employment when we're adults. In the course of a year without lessons my son will still learn math, science, reading, social studies, and spelling. He may not learn them the same way a child in a brick and mortar school learns them- but he will learn them.

If you're interested in flags of the world and pursue that course of study you will learn geography. While learning geography you will learn a bit about foriegn cultures. The study of foriegn culture will lead to trying out international cuisine and cooking. Cooking will lead to the study of math and chemistry. Math and chemistry in the kitchen will lead to science experiments and nature observation. Nature observation will lead to climate studies. Climate studies will lead to statistics. Before you know it your school year is over and no lessons were planned, no lessons were taught, a few worksheets were filled out while the child was bored in the waiting room waiting for the doctor, no busy work was completed, and your child now speaks rudimentary German and plans to enter a Lego engineering contest.

We tend to believe traditional school is the way to go- because most students graduate able to survive and find employment. It's easy to follow the traditional path because it works for most and until you've tried something else there is always a fear of failure. What if I do something different and find out that the only way to learn to read is through phonics and worksheets? What if I try something different and find out that the only way my son can manage to complete his work once he's an adult is if I make him sit up straight in his chair and do two hours of homework every night when he's seven? What if I allow my child to be a child... and he's still a child when he's 47?

Fear is great motivation for keeping the status quo. What if we allow two men to say they're married and then my children think it's ok to marry men (keep in mind my kids are all boys)? What if the state recognizes same sex couples as having equal legal rights as hetero couples? What if my sons see gay people who are recognized as a couple without condemnation and then they don't grow up to marry nice women and give me grandchildren (I am counting down the years... it's the only way I'll ever have female descendants)? What if?

What if we each live our own beliefs (non violent beliefs) and teach our children the values important to us? What if we trust our sons to grow up strong, moral men even if they see others who are different than they are? What if we allow true delight driven motivation to guide us?

I know some who read this will argue that man is programmed for pleasure and will seek the evils of the world if left unguided. What if we trust in the Spirit to guide our path? What if we relax a little and take the time to reflect about what truly brings us pleasure? Is it the sinful, evil things of the world that pleasure you? If you're like me (and I bet you're more like me than you'd like to admit) the images that come to mind when you think of pleasure may be:

the feel of a baby snuggled into your neck,

smelling fresh grass and sunshine warmed earth,

laughter shared with loved ones,

loose, tired muscles achieved through hard physical work,

hearing your children learning to reason and use logic,

the first butterfly flutter you feel the first time you're pregnant,

the smell of fresh baked treats and the excitement on the faces of your family when the treats are served.

Most of us left to a "delight driven" existence would not choose the evil and unwholesome. We would still make good choices. I don't choose to love my family and care for their needs because it is commanded or legislated. I care for my family because it brings me pleasure to serve them and through serving them serve God.

My good choices don't come about because of fear, but some of my bad choices do. I sent my son to school for three years and ran him around to therapy and worked hard to ensure he was "normal." In my heart I knew he would be better off growing up more slowly and maturing slowly into the man he'll become. Fear made me push him with an exhausting schedule. I made him spend 6-8 hours a day either in school or working on homework when he was a kindergardener. The busy work (neatly completed) was not worth the toll that particular action took on the heart of my little boy. He had the best homework completion rate in his class... because we spent several hours a day on homework and school concepts... and I sent him to school. He achieved in school... but he's achieved out of school too and with less damage to his heart and mind.

When we stop and think about what really, truly pleases us it is the good and wholesome that wins out 99% of the time. If we lead "delight driven" lives... truly delight driven, not rebellious or counter culture just to be different, we'll probably make better lives for ourselves and our children.


Mrs. B. Roth said...

Love this post. Love learning from you.

I, however, was a pleasure driven creature in my late teens and early twenties. When I lived at home, I rebelled against my parents by being really, really good. But when I got out on my own, I made "alternative" choices that were self serving and not quite wholesome.

It wasn't until after I'd been married and committed to my marriage (that took a couple of years, too) that I grew up and realized what brings real happiness.

I couldn't guess what the percentage is, but some people never mature to the point where they put anything above their own entertainment, convenience, and pleasure ... it seems to be the root cause of a lot of divorce, if you ask me. I don't know what it is that brings about the change from selfish to selfless (not that I'm selfless, but my life is significantly less about myself, so that is self less, right?).

Crichton spends all day at school learning nothing, or very little. He comes home and hates the crap homework they give him, he's much more interested in writing books and "teaching" his imaginary archeology students out in his "office." He's interested in languages, history, geography, and dirt digging, but his teacher is still making sure no child is left behind in the basics of reading. No child left behind makes it hard for some children to get ahead.

Sorry for the long comment ... I just wish I were brave enough, organized enough, to be willing and able to either take my kid out of school and teach him, really teach him, or find him a better school.

Maybe I'll go reread those home schooling books again.

Thanks for being a wise voice in my life.

Mrs. B. Roth said...

Maybe the thing that makes us selfless is realization of our obligation to the next generation. Once you acknowledge your place in the universe, you act more accordingly.

katie said...

What stunning women I'm related to:)

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room