Sunday, April 29, 2012

Education vs. Schooling: a homeschool mother in crisis

If there are any readers still out there, not completely turned off by my neglect of this space, I will continue to offer a few words here and there.  Not that any of you are hanging on my words, of course.  And I offer little excuse, other than there are times when my attention is needed elsewhere.   And I hate technology.   And all of its drama.   And complications.  I think I was born in the wrong century.  Yet, God has placed me in this time for a reason, and so I carry on.  Which brings to mind the term 'carrion', "dead and putrefying flesh, unfit for food."  Seems I am in the mood for dissecting words this evening.  Forgive me if perhaps my words are not fit for consumption, as I am sure they will offend some.  At times they are just the train of thought that whistles its way down the tracks of my mind, and perhaps should not always be shared with others.  They are what they are, take them as you will (or not).
I have spent much of my life in what many would call "the field of education."  I was home schooled (third grade to graduation), and so self educated myself in a number of subjects through high school.   I went to two liberal arts colleges and came out with a language degree as well as certification to teach.   Throughout college, I tutored elementary students and graduate students.  I taught night classes at a university for extra income.  After college, I spent three years teaching in a Catholic school.  I came home to raise children, and am now teaching them.  Every part of my life has been touched by "education."  And yet,  I constantly ask myself, "am I educating my children?"   Seems this time of year I always battle with the self doubt.  One reason attending the St. Emmelia conference is such a great boost of encouragement, and I am feeling the effect of having to be absent this year.  "Educating my children."  What does that even mean?  What do we mean when we say we want our children to receive "a good education."   Ironic really.  I have a piece of paper with a state seal on it that says I am qualified to educate other people's children.  And I am still asking the question "what is a good education?".  If you ask most, the answer usually is to equip them with the skills needed to get a job.  Utility.  Practicality.    We can thank (or perhaps condemn) John Dewey for revolutionizing our understanding of education in America.  For Dewey, education equaled utility.  The goal: preparing citizens to be put to use in society.  Pragmatism.  Or, as Dewey preferred it, instrumentalism.  That which is most useful, most instrumental for society.  A skill.  A way to be valuable to the whole.  Which could lead us into a whole other topic concerning the value and worth of a person in this type of society, the type of society we have rapidly become, but I digress.

My other specialty: language (BA in Spanish, with a minor in English).   As a lover of language and words (thank you Professor Leslie  for introducing me to the OED, I am ever grateful for your infectious love of words and their true meaning), I understand the value of tracing a word to its origins.  Education.   From the Latin, educo.  In Spanish, my particular field, "educado".   In Greek, "paidea".  What does it mean?  Knowledge?  Facts?  Information? Skills?  Well, yes, they are a part.  However, we have lost the true meaning.  "The process of nourishing or rearing a child or young person."  The bringing up of a child. In Spanish, a child who is "mal educado" is one who has been poorly raised, not one who has been poorly schooled.  It is about the formation of character.  The raising and nurturing of a child.  Forming, uplifting and recognizing the nature of the human being, reaching the soul.  Are my children receiving that kind of education?  Or have I allowed the focus to become utility, practicality, how is this child going to fit in, to become useful to society in the future?   Even worse, how is this child going to be successful (that is, wealthy, famous, recognized, appreciated) in this culture?   It is easy to forget that schooling and education are not equal.

As I am struggling for answers, where do I  turn?  To the church.  And where do I get the best guidance in the "education" of children?  With the wisdom of Bishop THOMAS resounding in my head, I must remember what my goal is.  Remember why I educate my children.  And so, when those seeds of doubt creep in, when the voices whisper that I don't have time to go to services during the week,  that attending liturgy for St. Anthony - a model for humility as wisdom -  is not as important as studying Latin, I must remind myself of that goal.   And to comfort me, to remind me of my greatest desires, I turn to the Akathist to the Mother of God Nurturer of Children.  Every month our parish offers the opportunity to pray this Akathist as a community.  If I honestly wish to pray those prayers, then I must accept the words which it declares.  And so, it has become my home school manifesto.  My mission statement.  My reason for "educating" my children.  And what does it say?

"Raise my children to be earthly angels, wise as servants but innocent as doves, to have knowledge of good but not of sin, to be meek that they may inherit the earth, pure in heart that they may see God, the light of the world that their light might shine before men.  To order their lives wisely, following the example of the saints.   To seek first the Kingdom of God, to be the least of all, that they may be great before God, to deliver them from falsely-theorizing orators, to strongly oppose atheists, to run from the world and the delusion of the world, to serve Thee in obedience and chastity, to stand before Thee with reverence, to bear good fruit, to live in a holy manner, to be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven and make them heirs of eternal blessings.  What more could a mother hope for, that her children be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, to make them heirs of eternal blessings?  Only that she herself may also be made worthy of those same blessings.


Nicole said...

One of the highlights of the St. Emmelia conference for me is when we sing that Akathist together with the other families. It really sets the tone for the whole conference I think and renews me as well. I wish sometimes that my own parish did one of these now and then. Hey, wait. I'm the Matushka. Maybe I should go bug Fr. A.

Maria said...

I was impressed the first time I read your post on why you educate at home, and I just read it again. I think it expresses very eloquently what many of us would like to achieve in raising our children, whether we are able to educate them at home or not.

If you had set the bar lower for yourself, everything would be much easier and perhaps you wouldn't get discouraged, but what would you achieve in the end? Everyone who sets out on the narrow path stumbles and falls and has to get up again. Your reason-to-homeschool is a great reminder of why to get up and keep trying. Good strength to you!

Maria said...

P.S. Don't you find that crises of confidence and other lows are likely to hit in the days after Pascha? Great Lent requires so much energy and commitment, and provides so much structure, that it is easy to founder when we reach the end of Bright Week, as if we were collapsing over the finish line -- only we're not finished at all....

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Wonderful post! Just what I needed right now. Thanks.