Fight for Human Capital
I don’t believe in drop and leave! As a country, we drop our children off at day care at very young ages. We expect our children to fulfill a complete 3-6 hour day by the time they are 5 years old. By age 6, our children are expected to pull a full 6 hour shift and by 7 years that day is extended to include homework, enrichment programs, activities, and sports–as a general rule. I question how much time parents get to spend with their own children. The development of the drop and leave program originates from the Industrial Age–the time education was implemented into our system for life and it hasn’t changed since. Essentially, an 8-10 hour day is not uncommon for our babies. Yes, they are babies. I use Seth Godin’s words from his manifesto, “Stop Stealing Dreams”, exemplifying the disconnect of the human spirit from institutionalized educational systems, following his visit to Harlem Village Academy, New York City,
…top-down industrialized schooling is…threatened, and for very good reasons. Scarcity of access is destroyed by the connection economy* at the very same time the skills and attitudes we need from our graduates are changing.
While the internet has allowed many of these changes to happen, you won’t see much of the web at the Harlem Village Academy school I visited, and not much of it in this manifesto, either. The HVA is simply about people and the way they should be treated. It’s about abandoning a top-down industrial approach to processing students and embracing a very human, very personal and very powerful series of tools to produce a new generation of leaders.
Avoiding the drop and leave is a conscious decision between my husband and me. We home school and we place our son, Otto, in the driver’s seat in our effort to abandon a top-down industrial approach for his education. We ground ourselves in an un-schooling and humanistic approach, which gives him the purest of opportunities for student driven learning; where ideas are guided by what he wants to learn from them. We value Otto’s choices for learning as a human. It works because he is genuinely engaged with his learning. Our goals are to foster that engagement for learning, support his independence, as he grows to be a passionate, self-initiated learner for life. He already discovers new ideas and innovative thoughts, ponders choices before he makes decisions–reflective of leadership–and a far cry from institutionalized thought where he waits for direction. No, this kid is in control!
Despite Otto’s strengths, he still needs us. He is only eight years old…after all and we let him know we are here for every tiny step he takes with his life. Knowing he is supported is the meaningful piece that builds the bond between child and parent–teacher–coach. His ideas and thoughts are valued and that offers ownership for his learning–the key to developing his strengths. My husband and I divide and conquer. He is the coach for sports and I am the teacher, and we use these labels interchangeably since guidance is our goal. Neither of us relies solely on our own resources, rather we turn to our community for support. The process in and of itself instills a connection beyond our classroom walls at home. Otto’s classroom is life, his community, his cousin’s backyard, Grandma and Grandpa’s house, the trails we hike, the schools we visit, the museums we relish, our treasured camp trips together. The list doesn’t stop–neither do his dreams.
One of Otto’s dreams is to play the drums and play them well! His interest sparked our search for a drum teacher, since we know it isn’t a discipline either of us can delve. We were excited to discover a local prodigy who has extensive experience and displays all the quirky characteristics of an individual who is profoundly talented with music. Perfect choice! He has scheduled drum lessons with his teacher, but at home Otto gets to practice anytime he wants. His learning environment is set up for it. Time is not an issue, because we don’t have to fight the clock to get things accomplished. While he is furthering his talents at his own speed, Otto is also genuinely enjoying the process. And the fact that he gets to play in his dad’s band is a plus. We recognize Otto’s need to explore the drums whether it’s short lived as he discovers the drummer within, or long-term as a dream he decides to fulfill. Which ever, the learning experience is one wrapped in unity–a team effort with vested players.
Although homeschooling is not for everyone, It is a process that …[embraces] a very human, very personal and very powerful series of tools to produce a new generation of leaders. Babies still need parental involvement in their education and embracing a child’s needs and desire to learn is potential for humanizing education.
*connection economy concept coined by Seth Godin in relation to the understanding of advertising and the use of a variety of mediums to sell products that essentially leave the consumer empty; supply and demand based on want not need.