Monday, 26 November 2012

Rambling about Cognitive Dissonance

cognitive dissonance

noun Psychology .
anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like,

Okay, so  anyone who has delved into the world of ... well, any opinions expressed on the internet whatsoever, knows that lots of people think differently on every single topic imaginable.

Sometimes I agree with both sides of the vast divide between opinions, and it often makes my head hurt.

I have read convincing arguments that home education is a bad idea. The article linked is short, and pretty simple in the points made, but I think there are certain underlying factors that mean home education is not a good idea for every single person on the face of the planet. I get that.

In fact, I get it so well, that I have sent 2 of my children back to school. I'm not enamoured with school, nor do I think it's the be-all and end-all of a child's life experience. (does anyone think this, though?!?) School provides resources and exposure to ideas that I can't give my kids at home. Most home ed families would agree on that point!

I have also watched and read arguments in favour of educational reform and child-led learning that make absolute sense to me. Our brains are not wired to accept facts and figures at the rate other people decide. We are not vases waiting to be filled up with the carefully apportioned knowledge the government has deemed appropriate for certain age groups. Life just doesn't work that way.

But my five year old daughter is a total extrovert and was unhappy with our home school groups. She didn't like being different from everyone else at church, and is very satisfied with the notion that she is a "school kid, too". That makes it sound like we were closeted away at home all the time! We were often out and about, but there's a rather small home ed population in our area, and we had to drive long distances for certain activities.

My eight year old son has autism. When we first moved to this area and decided to home ed, my husband and I both felt that a change of town, house, church AND school would have been too much for him to bear. The only change we had control over was school, so we kept him home. It was the right choice at the time, because he adjusted to the change after a couple of months with minimal behaviour disruptions.

Academically, both kids are doing fine, as far as I'm aware. They aren't mega-geniouses at the top of the class, and they aren't bottom of the heap, either. They learned different things at home than they learn at school according to the National Curriculum. That's ok. I didn't follow the National Curriculum anyhow.

My nine year old is still at home. She has a very transient interest in school, and will sometimes say vague things like "I might like THIS school" but she isn't set on it like the other two were.

So we do some child led learning, and I prod her if I feel like she isn't doing any learning for too many days in a row. But I mostly try to bite my tongue and work on my "striking while the iron is hot" skills. She recently has shown an interest in WWII, the diary of Anne Frank, and we have talked about the social implications of the War. She has done a fair amount of reading on Ancient Egypt and started noting down cool different hieroglyphics.

This all sounds rather more impressive than it actually is, I'd wager. If you blink, you'll miss it. Because she isn't being assessed or tested or measured, who's to say it's going in? Then again, who's to say it isn't?

At the end of the day, I believe school works for some, and doesn't work for others. I think home education has the potential to be something great in a person's life, and something that limits him/her academically and socially.

It's kind of hard to hold both of these ideas in my head at the same time; to not only hold them in my head, but live them out every day. I walk my children to school, depositing them in an institution that is modeled after a factory and is dedicated to churning them out in pre-packed boxes, all neat and tidy. I go back home to a house full of random conversations, learning based on the flavour of the moment and simply have no control over what my child will take interest in. (to be fair, that last one is true for all kids, everywhere)

Which will work out best? Will my so-called unschooled daughter find her feet? Will she learn everything she needs to know to live life as an adult? Will her self esteem and social skills survive intact? I ask the same questions of my schooled children.

Parenting is a bit like conducting a long-term science project. I add a bit of this, stir in a bit of that, take notes on what went wrong and aim higher for next time. I don't really know what the end result will be, but when you think about it, it isn't my project at all. I'm just the facilitator, watching my child spread wings and fly.


Anonymous said...

I think you have the right approach - each child is an individual, and they need different things at different times. The very fact that you revisit decisions is a strength :)

Raisin4Cookies said...

Thanks, and I hope so! I'm trying to be more flexible in my life, because living is all about change.