I set off to the library with Violet on Saturday to find some good reading on education, but I have been disappointed so far. Of course, the books I really wanted were checked out, so I have them on request and will look forward to reading them soon.
I did pick up Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery, by David Albert. I have enjoyed perusing his website, and his articles in Home Education magazine.
But I plan to return the book unfinished tomorrow. Because I like Mr. Albert I am hesitant to say anything bad about the book, so maybe I’ll say that it was the wrong book for me at this time. Mr. Albert writes with a light, sometimes sarcastic, touch, which can be enjoyable, but at this point in my homeschooling journey I don’t feel inspired by little barbs at unimaginative teachers, lemming-like parents, the stupidity of education professionals. It may be the combined effects of aging, my depressive tendencies, my general sensitivity, premenopausal hormones, compassion meditation — whatever it is, excessive snarkiness towards either individuals or broad classes of people just brings me down and makes me mopey. So that’s strike one.
As a lifelong outsider, I also grow increasingly wary of all celebrations of outsiderness. It may well be that most people would be better off getting out of their boxes. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never gotten to make that choice. It does seem to me that one of the supreme joys of outsiderness is finding other outsiders to band together with. I imagine this is what makes intentional outsiders so snarky — a few outsiders are a little band of rebels, but when too many join the band you’ve been co-opted into the mainstream again. I like to read in homeschooling books about the joys of discovering something new, of learning that what you’ve always been told is wrong, or that what you’ve always secretly believed is right. But I don’t like the feeling that the joy is in being different from those clueless others.
Differences can be wonderful, and we should surely allow for them (as if there were a choice) and appreciate them. Difference itself, on the other hand, is a value-neutral concept. (See my earlier post with Garrison Keillor’s thoughts on the subject.)
So, strike two. Also, I’d rather be reading something a tad more practical, and more adaptable. Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery feels very personal, which is lovely if you are in the mood for something more memoir-ish, like chunks of education philosophy or policy mixed in with meandering, pleasant anecdotes. But I’m not, so strike three. Back to the library with you.
I also picked up Elizabeth Hainstock’s Teaching Montessori in the Home: The School Years. I should have observed the subtitle before I checked it out: “An authoritative guide for supplementing your child’s basic math and language skills.” That is, as the book explains more fully, supplementing a traditional school program. So I am not the target audience for this book. In addition, the style of instruction for the language skills is just so dry for my taste! I know, I know — I did no instruction with Violet and she was post-secondary in her English skills by the end of her 2nd grade year, which means that I have a wrongheaded notion of what learning literacy skills really looks like. Maybe.
But maybe not. I think this may be an area where we are effectively unschoolers. For one thing, I am not into phonics except as an intervention when whole language learning has not worked. In my experience, kids do a combination of learning and applying letter sounds and using word recognition to learn to read. Hainstock is a proponent of phonetics from the get go, which means that I am not inclined to use her methods.
I have her Montessori preschool book on request, however, and will try to approach that with an open mind. And to that end, I really am trying to approach Victoria’s education with an open mind. She is different from Violet, the autodidact, for whom my role as educator is primarily to provide resources and stand back. I may find, in years to come, that these methods that hold no appeal to me personally are perfect for her, or not.
Right now my poor little Victoria is lying in my bed, sick. I often feel that her constitution is just not quite as strong — she gets sick fairly often, and she seems to feel much sicker, for longer — but maybe that is a Victorian concept. Only 4 more days of preschool and then I think we’ll have a welcome home party for her just like we did for Violet!