A Different Kind of Easter Lesson, or What I Don’t Want to Teach My Child

On Saturday Harmony and I went to a local park after hearing that there would be an Easter egg hunt. She’d had a little practice already picking up a few Easter eggs, so I figured that with her cute basket that grandma decorated she’d have fun getting a few more. The Smarties candy she found in one of the eggs before had been a big hit!

Once there, it was evident that this was a big event. Hundreds of people crowded the cordoned off areas of a large soccer field. We found the designated area for one and two year olds (Harmony is twenty-two months) which had eggs neatly lined up in a straight row down the middle of a dining room-sized square surrounded by tape. Seemed simple enough! The bell would go off and the little ones would toddle into the area to get a few eggs, right?

I talked with Harmony about what would happen. She was excited to get the eggs, pointing out several yellow ones near the edge that she wanted (her favorite color). She held her basket and sat on my lap watching the other toddlers around her in various states of patience and impatience. As the bell was preparing to ring for the children to gather the eggs, the parents got their kids in ready position. I held Harmony’s hand next to the line.

The ringing bell startled the children. They all, including Harmony, looked momentarily surprised at the loud noise, many of them reaching for their parents for comfort. Then, to my shock, rather than reassuring their children that everything was okay, the parents instead began dragging the little ones into the ring, snatching up eggs to shove into their baskets, shouting “get them, get them! Pick up the eggs, quick! Grab that one before he gets it!” and causing utter mayhem.

Harmony dove for my arms, completely overwhelmed by the confusion. As I held her close, sitting on the sidelines, I saw only one child actively picking up eggs on her own. I was the only parent not hovering over the eggs. Several toddlers were crying as their mothers or fathers added eggs to their baskets. Within half a minute they were gone. Harmony and I sat bewildered. One woman came back and dropped two dented eggs into Harmony’s basket, saying that she saw my child hadn’t picked any up. I managed to thank her half-heartedly.

Fortunately, Harmony didn’t seem to care at all that she hadn’t participated. She was ambivalent to the two eggs given to her. I was feeling upset still, but once the crowd dispersed, Harmony calmed down quickly. We played on the playground nearby, talked with some new friends we met there, smelled the spring flowers, and enjoyed the swings. For my daughter, this was more exciting than an egg hunt, and it was a good reminder for me to see what really mattered to her.

Afterwards, I found out that several of the eggs had tiny X’s marked on them which meant that the child could exchange the special egg for a prize, such as a stuffed animal, bunny ears, or small toy. This explained a little more the mad dash for eggs that the parents had exhibited. But were their actions justified? Not in my mind. What exactly had been the point of the egg hunt?

As we prepared to leave, another volunteer offered Harmony a lollipop. Despite never eating a lollipop before (my child is super picky, even about candy), Harmony accepted it this time, and was soon happily licking away. She smiled at me as we left the park.

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The Number One (Very Personal) Reason I Am Home-Schooling My Daughter

There’s a good reason I chose the job I have now. My youngest students are usually around five or six years old, and the good ones stick around through high-school. The average age of my students right now is probably twelve. Children are so fun to be around!

The magical years between five and twelve are especially beautiful. Boys and girls alike are eager to stretch their wings. They want to find out what they can do, and do it better. They want to know how and why everything works. They begin to engage in detailed conversations. They want to absorb, to challenge, to improve, to re-imagine, to grow. They are finding out their talents. They are still attached to their families, yet beginning to create their own persona, eager to explore the world a little farther outside their comfort zone every day. Their imaginations are huge, their curiosity boundless, their energy vibrant.

So once my daughter turns five years old, there’s no way I’d want to send her away to school!

As Harmony approaches her second birthday, her personality is already blossoming. She is so intent on learning, so excited to wake up each morning and play. The older she gets, the easier it is to understand what she wants and needs, since her vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. We still have our hard moments when I get impatient and frustrated with her clinginess (she’s still little, I need to remember), and she gets whiny, but with the help of my supportive family we are finding our way together in grace.

We have conversations (short, but fun). We go on picnics together. She helps me cook and bake in the kitchen, clean our home, and shop for groceries. We take trips to the library, hang out with our friends, go on walks almost every day, collect rocks, play endless imaginary games with her horse and pony figurines, and draw pictures. I can only see Harmony becoming MORE interesting to be around as she gets older!

Yes, I am a teacher for children, so I naturally love being around children to begin with. Yes, I have a unique situation where I can be at home with my daughter during the day because my job occurs in the later afternoon and evening. Yes, not all parents will find that home-schooling is the best option for their family. Yes, we have other reasons for wanting to home-school such as freedom to learn at the child’s own pace, ability to follow the child’s interests, less standardized testing all the time, etc.

But the main reason that I want to home-school Harmony is because I love being around her. And I hope that as we grow to know and understand each other more as she gets older, that she’ll love being around me, too.

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New Facebook Page!

I’m finally stepping out of my comfort zone to do something new with this blog: I created a Facebook page! If you ‘like’ the page, then you’ll get frequent updates, as well as links and quotes that will only be posted on Facebook, and opportunities for discussions about education. I hope you find it interesting and helpful!

Click here to like Life is the Teacher on Facebook!

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Sharing Some Link Love!

Here is a selection of articles that I’ve found about children and education on my excursions around the web lately. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comment section, whether you agree or disagree with what you read here. My hope is that we approach new concepts with an open mind, willing to consider possibilities, while remembering that ALL children are beautiful individuals who learn differently!

How to Grow a Home-School Group

Confessions of a Home-Schooling Parent

How to Respond When Someone Challenges Your Decision to Home-School

Reading at Five: Why?

Unschooling: Am I Ruining My Kid’s Life?

Banishing Bullying: Ten Disciplines of a Learning Leader

American Kids Need a Forest Kindergarten

Fifteen Ways Home-Schooling Is Like Living in a Frat House

How ‘Flipped Classrooms’ Are Turning the Traditional School Day Upside-down

Classroom Shock: What I am Learning as a Teacher in Finland

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The Story of David, Who Knew He Wasn’t Luke

David was putting all his energy and heart into the piece he was playing. I sat on the edge of my chair, thrilled to see the great improvement he had made this week. This particular piece was quite difficult, one that had been a big step in technical and musical development for David, and I was glad to see that he had taken the challenge well.

As he finished the final chord, there was a slightly anxious look on his face. “Hey, you have it completely memorized! That’s great!” I cheered. I praised several other positive changes he had made that week in the music too. David grinned, but the worry in his eyes was still there, though I couldn’t figure out why.

When I said, “It’s so enjoyable to hear everyone play this piece, because I love the different interpretations each guitarist finds in these beautiful phrases,” suddenly David wilted. I was startled. What did I say wrong?

Seeing my confused look, David sighed and mumbled without making eye contact, “I know I’m not Sarah, and I know I’m not Luke [two students who are known to be top players in our studio, whom David personally knows]. I’m sure they can play this piece much better than I do.”

A light dawned. I had no idea he had been worrying about how he played compared with other students! With complete sincerity, I was able to say this: “I don’t want another Sarah, and I don’t want another Luke. I want a DAVID! You bring your own touch to the music, and nobody else will have the exact same way of playing it. That’s the beauty of being a musician! You should be proud of the work YOU are doing to bring this piece to life musically!”

David visibly straightened up taller in his chair. After that, we worked on relaxing tension in his right shoulder, fixed the fingering in a tricky passage, and talked about the phrasing. David was now attentive and eager. His music sounded even better at the end of the lesson.

Some students thrive on competition with each other, some are more internally motivated, and some cringe under the pressure of comparing their skill with another. It’s a delicate balance that requires sensitivity from the teacher and a knowledge of who the student is as a person. Thankfully, as David’s teacher, I learned a valuable lesson and was able to help him through this situation, but I’m sure this won’t be the last time I deal with the issue of crippling comparison in my students. For now, I am grateful that the anxiety over this piece of music is diminished and he is free to make the music his own without comparing himself to someone else. 

* Students’ names have been changed.

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Those Endless Steps

Just because you’re a good musician, does not mean that you will be a good music teacher.

Just because you’re a good music teacher, does not mean that you will be a good performer.

Just because you’re a good teacher, does not mean that you will be a good parent.

Sometimes you can be both. But not always.

Sometimes life feels like an unfair balance.

Learning these hard lessons is… well, hard.

The longer I am a teacher, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

The more I perform, the more I hear how flawed my performance is.

The longer I am a mother, the more I feel completely unqualified to parent.

The good part is….

…the longer I am a teacher, the more I am humbled and eager to learn from others.

…the more I perform, the more I fall in love with music.

…the longer I am a mother, the more I come to respect children, and to love my own child.

Interacting with others, especially in the role of mentor, teacher, or parent, is the best way to see your own weaknesses exposed. This week I’ve been taught how much I need to grow in patience, compassion, humility, self-control, and more patience. Did I mention patience? That’s a big one.

Sometimes we look at the future and only see endless steps of a hard climb ahead.

 

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Thank goodness that often what we see in the present is only a tiny glimpse of the incredible experiences that await us as we persevere to our goal.

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The Two Institutions That Control Your Child’s Life

“Two institutions at present control our children’s lives: television and schooling, in that order. Both of these reduce the real world of wisdom, fortitude, temperance, and justice to a never-ending, nonstop abstraction. In centuries past, the time of childhood and adolescence would have been occupied in real work, real charity, real adventures, and the realistic search for mentors who might teach what you really wanted to learn. A great deal of time was spent in community pursuits, practicing affection, meeting and studying every level of the community, learning how to make a home, and dozens of other tasks necessary to becoming a whole man or woman. 

But here is the calculus of time the children I teach must deal with:

Out of the 168 hours in each week my children sleep 56. That leaves them 112 hours a week out of which to fashion a self. 

According to recent reports, children watch 55 hours of television a week. That then leaves them 57 hours a week in which to grow up.

My children attend school 30 hours a week, use about eight hours getting ready for and traveling to and from school, and spend an average of seven hours a week in homework- a total of 45 hours. During that time they are under constant surveillance. They have no private time or private space and are disciplined if they try to assert individuality in the use of time or space. That leaves them 12 hours a week out of which to create a unique consciousness. Of course my kids eat, too, and that takes some time- not much because they’ve lost the tradition of family dining- but if we allot three hours a week to evening meals, we arrive at a net amount of private time for each child of nine hours per week.

It’s not enough, is it? The richer the kid, of course, the less television he or she watches, but the rich kid’s time is just as narrowly prescribed by a somewhat broader catalogue of commercial entertainments and the inevitable assignment to a series of private lessons in areas seldom of his or her own choice.

But these activities are just a more cosmetic way to create dependent human beings, unable to fill their own hours, unable to initiate lines of meaning to give substance and pleasure to their existence. It’s a national disease, this dependency and aimlessness, and I think schooling and television and lessons have a lot to do with it.”

~ Excerpt from Dumbing Us Down, by John Taylor Gatto

~ A weekly post sharing a quote from a book I’m currently reading ~

~ Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section ~

~ You can read more quotes every Thursday on my other blog,

Playing the Music of Life ~

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