Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Manual on Child-Rearing

Few parents realize that nurturing their children's gifts- including advocating in their children's schools - is an ongoing, time-consuming process. It's also crucial. Research shows that parents play a more important role in the development of a child's gifts than schools. A supportive, advocating parent can make the difference between a meaningful education and wasted years.

- Jan and Bob Davidson with Laura Vanderkam, "Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds"

If there was a manual written for child-rearing, the first thing is should say is that raising children is time-consuming. I really had no idea how time-consuming it would end up being when I had my first child. Advocating for my son eventually became so time-consuming, emotionally draining, overwhelming, and, most unfortunately, utterly fruitless that I relented and began homeschooling.

I realized that I would spend less time in a week teaching my child than I would dealing with teachers and the emotional repercussions of the well-intentioned but harmful diagnosis being thrown at him. I was getting calls nearly daily about one problem or another. I got the usual lines about how giftedness had nothing to do with this, "all our children are gifted", etc.

My initial experience homeschooling was not as productive as it could have been. Like most new homeschoolers, it took me a couple years to realize that boxed curriculum and "one-size fits all" learning did not work for me or my son. The books in the boxed curriculum were read and absorbed at an amazingly high rate. A month later, the books were done and the rest of the materials were left untouched. At that point, I realized that if I wanted my son to learn something, I should hand him a book and ask questions later.

The biggest lesson I've taken from homeschooling is that, for every topic, there is a faster, more enjoyable way of learning than is generally done in the schools. The problem, however, is that method may be different for each child. Unfortunately, most teachers do not have the time to find the way that works for each individual child. They are also required to have the child produce some sort of work that "proves" they learned something.

I'm beginning to think that schools go about this whole process incorrectly. I wonder what would happen if the classroom became an environment where children were provided materials they needed to learn and then were able to demonstrate their learned knowledge in ways where they were more comfortable. I think much of our current system is about checking off a list of things a child should do while not actually caring if this helps develop the skills or the desire necessary for life-long learning.

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