I recently stumbled across a blog post by Penelope
Cruz Trunk about homeschooling: Homeschool is a how-to-live decision not a how-to-learn decision
I fully respect the title of the post. I agree that the decision to homeschool needs to take in to account many factors unrelated to a child’s education. We will most likely never homeschool our children because I doubt my wife or I will ever desire to dedicate our lives to staying home and being with the kids full-time. That said, you never know. Homeschooling may become a viable option if we can’t figure out a better solution (although in that situation I think the goal would be to start a coop-style school).
About halfway through the post, though, she makes this statement:
A third-grader is too young to know if they should homeschool.
This just about blew my mind coming from a major homeschooling advocate (of course the reason that this third-grader couldn’t make the right decision was because he decided against homeschooling).
Of course a third-grader is too young to know if they should homeschool or not. Add 30+ years and the accompanying wisdom and you’ll have an adult that still can’t feel confident making such a decision. Hell, it wouldn’t be much of a decision if we already knew the answer.
That’s not the point. The point is that this is their life and they not only deserve as much control over their own lives as is possible, but will benefit greatly from the practice they receive making decisions and learning from mistakes constantly throughout their childhood.
All I really care about with the education of my children is that they get the opportunity to make as many decisions as possible throughout their childhood. Some of these decisions will affect the rest of the family and so the decision won’t be up to them 100%, but I hope to involve them in all of the decisions as much as possible and I would certainly never ignore their opinion because they’re too young.
Learning is easy once you develop the ability to make quality long-term decisions. As with learning I don’t think you can develop the ability to make good long-term decisions without making a lot of mistakes along the way. One of my biggest issues with traditional education is that it greatly restricts the number of opportunities that a child has to make a decision.
The decisions that children do face tend to be along the lines of “should I do my homework or play some more”. These aren’t really decisions. We know what the right answer is, it’s just a matter of whether we choose the right answer or not. These are exercises in will-power. They certainly play a role in life, but they aren’t really practice for the complex and dynamic decisions that we frequently face throughout life.
The more we frame the question about whether a child should be allowed to make a given decision around whether that child is old enough to make a good decision, the more we rob children of the opportunity to deal with a complex decision and learn from the mistakes.
This doesn’t mean we should allow a child to reach in to a flame or that we shouldn’t provide the child with thoughts and advice in a non-judgmental manner. All it means is that we need to look at each decision as an opportunity for a child to experience the complexities and ramifications of decision making in life. I can’t think of a more valuable skill for a child to learn.