Friday, April 27, 2007

My Philosophy of Parenting and Education

I've gotten stuck on my next unschooling post, some of which is due to tangents, but most of which is because I've realized that I haven't thoroughly worked out how unschooling fits in my overall approach to education and life. I have an intuitive sense of where it works, but as I tried to put it into words, I realized I had a lot more work to do than I thought.

While I'm letting unschooling percolate in my brain, I thought I'd try to pull together the big components of my views on education. It's hard, as much of what I believe about education comes out of my beliefs on parenting, which in turn are an outgrowth of how I try to apply my Christian beliefs to my life. Nevertheless, I will endeavour to do so, briefly (which doesn't come naturally, as must be obvious by now).

I believe that parents are ultimately responsible for the entirety of their children's education. They may choose to delegate some aspects (hiring a tutor for some areas, or utilizing a public or private school, for example), but the parents are still accountable. As well, there is much more to a complete education than the traditional academic subjects. Knowledge of calculus and physics isn't very useful if you lack character. And all the character in the world is beyond useless if you don't know Christ.

As a parent, my ultimate goal is to help my children discover what purpose God has for them and ensure that they are well-equipped to carry it out. To reach that goal, there is a lot my husband and I will need to teach them. I strongly believe the best way to do so is by example.

Charlotte Mason believed that habits are very powerful, and that parents should purposefully work to form good habits in their children. The result would be a blessing in both the parents' and the children's lives. I strongly agree, and the easiest way to form good habits in your children is if you, the parent, have already formed those habits in your own life. I have a lot of work to do in this area, as I have fallen into several bad habits and lost many good habits.

As well, teaching and training by example requires that you spend a fair bit of time with your children, or they will never see your example =). As well, during this time you must be doing the things you want them to learn. I believe the best (and easiest) way to do this is to simply include your children in your daily activities, making sure to verbalize your reasoning and thought process as well as describing what you are doing. Again, this method requires that you, as the parent, are doing the things you want your children to learn. Honestly, though, if you don't think something is worth doing on your own, then why do you want your kids to do it?

While this places a lot of responsibility on the parent, it is also freeing. You can't *make* anyone but yourself change (and sin makes that one impossible without the grace of God), so it frees you to focus on what you *can* do - pray and work to be a good example. Try to be the person you want your kids to become.

That really sums up my basic approach to parenting and educating in general; honestly, I see them as interchangeable. For those who like labels (and I'm not denigrating labels - I rather like them myself, even if I rarely fit nicely inside one), I find that attachment parenting and grace-based discipline, as well as the continuum concept (to an extent) are parenting methods that match my beliefs; education-wise, I find that Charlotte Mason and unschooling are compatible (classical education is as well, but it doesn't have nearly as much of an impact).


Jane said...

You are thinking through many of the same things that I thought through, but it's nice that you are doing it before you reach the years when you are expected to "educate" your children. I was thinking and homeschooling at the same time, and sometimes we had to make abrupt course corrections!

Bruce Gee said...

Hmm, homeschooling, attachment parenting, classical education. Why do these things sound so familiar...? Ah, got it. We've been swimming in these pools for eighteen years, that's it!
I can say that my wife and I have had many an abrupt course correction, as Jane has mentioned.

This attachment parenting gig is not for the faint of heart. Once begun, you have to carry through on it, I think. With children ages 25, 18, and 13--and two of them now launched--it is nice to be able to mostly LOOK BACK ON IT! But our oldest has told us: "You saved my life, and now you're doing the same for the other two." That's just awfully nice to hear.