Friday, October 2, 2009

Teach Your Own

The following excerpt comes from Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling by John Holt and Pat Farenga.

We can sum up very quickly what people need to teach their own children.
First of all, they have to like them, enjoy their company, their
physical presence, their energy, foolishness, and passion. They have to
enjoy all their talk and questions, and enjoy equally trying to answer those
questions. They have to think of their children as friends, indeed very
close friends, have to feel happier when they are near and miss them when they
are away. They have to trust them as people, respect their fragile
dignity, treat them with courtesy, take them seriously. They have to
feel in their own hearts some of their children's wonder, curiosity, and
excitement about the world. And they have to have enough confidence in
themselves, skepticism about experts, and willingness to be different from most
people, to take on themselves the responsibility for their children's
learning. But that is about all that parents need. Perhaps only a
minority of parents have these qualities. Certainly some have more than
others. Many will gain more as they know their children better; most
of the people who have been teaching their children at home say that it has made
them like them more, not less.

I am currently reading Teach Your Own from cover to cover and devouring every word. John Holt is widely regarded as the Father of Homeschooling in America and he has written many books on that subject, as well as books that are more generally about how children learn.

This particular passage really made me think about how I regard my role in the homeschooling of my children. Above all, I believe it is my job to nurture my relationship with each daughter and to give her the space and oppurtunity to fulfill her potential. But consider that these relationships happen 24 hours/day. We don't take a break from our relationship for 40-50 hours/week while I go to work and they go to school or daycare. A relationship that involves togetherness on almost a constant basis is something that few adults participate in. It's not always easy.

Because of the intensity of the togetherness shared by my daughters and I, I have committed to learning as much as I can about the dynamics of good relationships. I've had to think about what I value in a good relationship--openness, honesty, trust, harmony--and make sure that I am modelling those attributes. Reading Nonviolent Communication (by Marshall Rosenberg)has been an enormous help to me, and I am trying every day to put into practice the suggestions from that book which will bring me into a better relationship with my daughters. In a nutshell, nonviolent communication is about listening and observing. I am learning that a truly compassionate, connected relationship requires much listening and observing and a lot less talking than I would have thought. (Talking less is a significant challenge for me!!)

I am more and more excited about the next 20 years of homeschooling!! And I feel very fortunate to have figured out how to make the relationship the priority this early in our journey.

I'm just trying.

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