Even now, my beloved and our children are off at school. However, it’s not what you might expect.
We are raising what some wag called ‘free range’ children. On the one hand, we don’t make them study anything. We don’t make them do homework. They don’t take any classes they don’t want to take. It gets worse: our 10 year old doesn’t know how to read yet. Our kids don’t do much conventional mathematics – those who have taken the SATs didn’t do too well on the math portion the first time around. For those who do read and write, their spelling runs from questionable to atrocious. They spend hours and hours a day hanging out with friends, and often, at least when they are younger, while away the day playing video games.
Clearly, we are destroying our children! What kind of maniac would do this to his own kids?
On the other hand: our children are extremely well behaved and helpful. They are articulate and responsible beyond their years. When the 10 year old decided he needed his own computer, he set up a snack shack at school,* ran some bake sales on our front yard, and, over the course of a year or so, saved up $350. When they decide they do want to study something they succeed, to the point where each of the two children who are college age got into the colleges of their choice: Thomas Aquinas and Benedictine, and were or are outstanding students. The next two are shooting for Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and Thomas Aquinas, to start in 2015. I expect them to get in and do well also.
A brief discussion with any of my kids will quickly make obvious that they are intelligent, thoughtful, and better informed about history, philosophy and logic than most adults – even the non-reading 10 year old.
Right now, the 20 year old daughter is in her 3rd to last semester at Benedictine, where she is an outstanding student studying theater, voice, violin and piano; the 18 year old son is taking classes at Diablo Valley College and prepping for the SAT and putting his application together for Thomas Aquinas; 17 year old daughter is taking French and EMT classes at the local community college while attending Diablo Valley School. She plans to graduate this year and start at Thomas More College next fall; the 10 year old is building universes in Minecraft and getting ready to start violin lessons.
Even more important: we don’t have arguments about going to Mass. Everybody piles into the minivan and we go. My kids are disturbed more by people who fail to treat the Mass reverently that they are by the idea that one must go to Mass. These days, the two at home teenagers get up before 6:00 a.m. so that they can go to daily 6:30 Mass with my wife and me – nobody makes them, or pressures them. They talk about how, when they get out of college, they want to get involved in the faith formation classes at the local parishes, because they see the need for more rigor.
Apart from bragging on my kids, the point I’m trying to make is that what we think of as schooling and education has nothing to do with actual learning or success; in fact, what we do in K-12 schools is meant to destroy any chance a child has of being a person of intellectual and moral integrity. I’m dead serious here. I’ve covered this, and will continue to cover it, in detail, here. But apart from theory and history, it is a matter of simple logic: if schooling as commonly understood was in fact necessary for the kind of success described above, then my children’s success would be logically impossible. But they do succeed. Therefore, etc.
So what is source of their success? I’ll speculate, in no solid order:
– A solid, consistent, unbroken family life. Their mother and father love them and each other, no ifs, ands, or buts. That is the background against which all other instruction or modeling takes place;
– A consistent message of responsibility. Each of their lives is their own, they are responsible for it. Things are not just going to happen unless they make them happen. Tempered, of course, by:
– Each of us have responsibilities to others that are not the result of our own choosing. The family you have, and the community you’re in, due to no choice of your own – but you have to love them anyway.
– We are each here to love, honor and obey God in this life, and to be happy with Him in the next.
– Consistent message: You’re smart. You can figure it out. This means we do not bail them out wen they fail – help, sure, as requested, but none of that damaging parental takeover (I see it all the time) wherein the kids learns that he is incompetent and any glory goes really to his parent. You cannot succeed if you cannot fail.
– We’re Catholic. This puts us at odds with most of the world most of the time. We go to Mass on Sundays and holy days, and we pray before meals. We measure ourselves against a higher standard, and throw ourselves on the mercy of Our Lord.
You do these things, and school as generally understood is revealed for the fraud that it most assuredly is. I would rather my kids wander the streets all day than be subjected to the tender ministrations of Fichte, Wilson, and Barnard.
My plan for this school year: after making a serious dent in the Sci Fi reading queue, I shall split my time between Philosophy (rereading some Hegel, Aristotle and Plato) and Education History & Theory. So, expect further writhing horrors to be brought into the light of day. and I’m not talkin’ Sci Fi here, neither.
* To run a snack shack at school means making a motion to the School Meeting, getting and selling product, keeping track of money and making change, and paying a 10% tax to the school. It also means learning about inventory shrinkage and the problems of advancing people credit. He started this when he was 8.