I am a teacher at heart. For as long as I can remember, this is what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. No matter what job I had, I still identified myself as a teacher first, then what ever else I was doing. Now, I identify myself as a mom first, but part of being a mom IS being a teacher, so it is a natural fit for me. As I have talked about before, we are on the home-school path. Each day that goes by with my daughter I am more and more convinced that, at least for now, this is the right choice for us. For her, for me, for our family. And I am looking forward to engaging our son as well, which will likely happen earlier and easier than it did with my daughter, since we are already in the home-school groove.
Part of deciding to home-school meant, to me, that I needed to look again at my educational philosophy. All through the Education program at the UW-Madison we were tasked with developing, identifying, and articulating our philosophy. But I have not really done that since I was last teaching, many moons ago. I am finding that over time my ideas have not changed drastically, but have become more clear, more personal to me.
So, what do I believe?
First and foremost I believe that we are all (or should all be) life long learners. That getting an education does not begin at the doors to school and end when we walk out of them. Rather it is something that should occur every day of our lives. Every day should allow us to learn something new, even if it is just how NOT to do something!
I believe that learning is best done by doing, by being hands on, by getting in and getting dirty. I believe that given the chance, every child can find success, though it may not look the same for every child. I don’t believe that there is always one right answer, or one right way to do something. Yes, there are absolutes…but how you get the answer is really the key. I believe that the journey, how you get the answer is often more important than the answer itself. We should be giving our kids the tools to ask questions, challenge ideas, and how to seek out the answers to their questions. I don’t believe in a lot of rote memorization of facts and dates, though some of that is necessary I will agree. Rather I believe in teaching the ideas, the concepts, why certain events were important, how events are connected and how they influence the people, places, ideas, and situations that come after.
I believe that failure, or lack of success IS an option. How else can we learn than to make mistakes? Take risks? Test ideas and theories?
I don’t believe that education is a one size fits all type of deal. Everyone learns differently; has different strengths and weaknesses; learns at a different pace; has different interests. Yet everyone can be successful. Sometimes that success is not measurable on a standardized test, but by the milestones reached, the goals accomplished. I don’t want either of my kids to be simply evaluated on how they do on a test. I don’t want them to feel discouraged because something is challenging to them and the teacher has already moved on. Or to feel bored because they get it all ready and the teacher is still on step 1 and they are ready for steps 4 and 5. I don’t want them to learn that there is only one way to do something, one way to find the answer. And I want them to have ownership over their education. That is not say that they will be in control or that we will not be guiding them through their education. But I want them to have a say, I want them to feel like their interests are important. That they can learn about what they want to and I will fit the math/science/writing/etc into these interests.
While I am sure I can find a school, or even a teacher who will see education in a similar way, the school districts today are under enormous pressure and strain. Teachers have to prove, via standardized tests, that their students are learning. Schools must achieve certain level of performance results on these tests for funding. Teachers are in classes too large, with kids who have all different kinds of needs, with little or no support staff. Parents expect their child to be the star, that they will be given the grades that parents think they deserve. Teachers often have little or no support from home when it comes to discipline. Children are being raised to believe that they have an equal voice as the teacher, or any adult and should the teacher call the student and/or the parents on this, the teacher is the one in the wrong. I don’t blame the teachers. They are in an incredibly difficult position. Every teacher I know is passionate about being a teacher, they went into to teaching because they wanted to help children to learn, grow, discover. But right now that primary task is so overshadowed by everything else.
I am a stay at home mom with a background in education. I am passionate about teaching, about learning, about discovering with my kids. Why not give home schooling a shot? Why not see what we can learn and discover together? And if some point either of my kids are not getting what they need, or it is just not working, we will re-evaluate what our options are at that time. But for now, this feels right. We can ensure that our kids are getting the type of education we feel is important, we have control over what they are learning and tailor their education to fit their skills, their interests, go at their pace, and stop and focus on any challenges that may present themselves.