My "paragraph panic attack"
March 3, 2004
I am schizophrenic when it comes to living my philosophy of education. I remind myself of a two headed dragon. One head looks like your stereotypical librarian and carries a crop and the other has chocolate all over the face from eating bonbons with the children. Unschooling is a natural but sometimes terrifying lifestyle for me. I freak out every once in awhile and panic because ‘we are not doing enough.’ Yesterday, that fear reared its ugly head and compelled me to dig up my son’s old Language workbook, which I wish I had thrown away.
Looking where we left off, I realized that we should be learning about paragraphs: what a topic sentence is, how to construct them. I tried to show my son how important it was to learn about “paragraphs,” so I got out seven Language text books; texts that would be used from 6th to 12th grades. These texts were some used by our local public school and had been given to us. I opened each of these seven books to the section on “paragraphs” and placed them all out on the floor in front of my son. I said, “See! If we were using and keeping up with our curriculum we would be learning about paragraphs every year for seven years! That’s how important it is to learn about constructing paragraphs!” Something about saying those words out loud ended my panic attack.
If my son were in public or private school or we were using a traditional curriculum he would be learning many of the same things over and over each year. Not only that, but each year starts out with a review of the year before. Traditional education is much like a soap opera: you can jump in at anytime and easily pick up on the plot.
I showed my husband how the table of contents were the same in EACH book year after year. Even Language books sold by other companies have basically this same table of contents. Why?? My husband said, “Well, we kept forgetting the information so we had to learn it again each year.” If this is true, why not learn the information that final year, like, in 12th grade? Even in my college freshman English course we had to purchase a book with a similar table of contents including how to construct a paragraph. Another suggested book was Strunk and White's, "The Elements of Style," which I highly recommend to anyone. It starts out with an explanation on "how to form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's." So, if you didn't pick up how to add an 's to show possession somewhere during the 13 years of your public education, Strunk and White will be right there to teach you so that you can pass your Freshman English course! I still use this book to this day because for the life of me I can't remember how to properly use a colon and a semicolon. I am sure that I passed the 'colon and semicolon tests' in Junior High and High School.
I figure that as long as we are: keeping journals, reading books together, and researching whatever interests us; we will be fine! Basically, if my children enjoy reading and writing, they will have an advantage over children who are forced to read and write all of their lives and who might end up hating reading and writing.
Looking at how traditional curriculum is basically the same information year after year, helped me to relax. Even if we start “formal” academics in High School we won’t miss anything. I am totally delaying “formal academics” and focusing on relationships and having fun together while my children are young. Childhood is so brief and our home is not a school. I don’t want to create childhood memories of school work and stress, instead, I want to create good memories of being a loving home.
We flew kites outside in our front yard. I would rather my children fly a kite than sit in a desk learning how to construct a paragraph. They’ll have plenty of time for that. Right now they are gaining the experiences that they can one day write about.
I’m not for burning books or banning books, but, I think a practical hobby for my family should be origami. I can think of at least seven books with hundreds of pages with which we can start.