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17 Feb 2023
The Conflating of Institutions and Teaching
The idea of teaching seems to be inextricable from the idea of ‘going’ to a ‘school’. A building nearby that has a milieu so different from your home that the two are different teachings. But teaching is teaching. It’s a skill set and also an art form. It’s also a spiritual quest for some.
It’s a skill set in that you need to be good at a subject. Not by having a degree in that subject but having great interest in it. It’s an art form because it’s hard to replicate how a teacher gets a child engrossed in a history lecture. For some, who we’ll look at below, it’s a calling. They spend their life making a subject enjoyable and to spur curiosity amongst young minds.
Now, homeschooling. People are considering it for a few reasons. First, the WFH phenomenon. It’s now possible for one spouse to work from home, move to a cheaper town and with the savings gained, have the other spouse teach kids full time. Second, the ‘culture’ at schools. A lot of social ‘science’ is being taught that relegates other subjects to the sidelines. And third, infrastructure. Schools don’t seem to have enough money. I’m no one to comment on anyone’s situation but there are things to consider for a choice that will last many years.
Teaching: The best teachers I’ve had are people devoted to their spiritual quest of teaching. Unless you are a parent who is also a teacher with the same fervor, you won’t teach like them. For example, there is a small chance that my kid will get a math teacher like Eddie Woo, the cheerful Australian teacher explaining why zero factorial is one. But there is zero chance you will teach math like him. I’ve never thought about that concept until I saw it. I loved how he leads the kids to the conclusion in a fun, treasure-hunt sort of way. And what about Carl Sagan, Sal Khan and Niel deGrasse Tyson? If the argument then is that those are videos you show your kids anyway, it’s still a school that’s virtual. You’re not doing the heavy lifting. The dissonance comes from understanding the change in landscape. Those buildings are how teaching aggregated before the internet. Going forward, instead of a building, they’ll get into a virtual space. We must find these enthusiastic teachers and empower them on online mediums for subjects like math. You’re still stuck if you want to teach chemistry or biology beyond what’s in your home. Will you love pinning that grasshopper and dunking it in formaldehyde? The point is, what you’re doing will consolidate into a new schooling model. Great teaching will come together no matter what you do. If you hear of a neighbor who teaches biology like Eddie teaches math, you’ll stop your own lessons and send your child to that neighbor. That’s a school. It’s just a devoted person taking the pain to open your child’s mind.
Environment: Let’s say you don’t want teachers holding drag shows. Fair. Girls having transgender boys show up in their bathroom. Fair. I haven’t experienced any of this (yet) so I can’t comment. My question is: what’s the damage caused with only you and your family influencing their thoughts? How do they think outside your family’s philosophical box? If you say they don’t need to, the problem is worse because you believe your philosophy doesn’t need improvement through outside ideas. Improving your thinking from unpleasant feedback is the essence of learning. If your children ask you tough questions about history, religion or society will you help them answer the question themselves with rational optimism? Or will it devolve into, ‘because I’m saying so’? I’m asking this to myself as much as I’m asking you – I know I’ve said the latter a couple of times. Is it possible that a random kid at school might be able to give a perspective that allows them to open their mind more? There will be bad kids but they’re not worse than bad ideas. If your child learns how to evaluate ideas, she’ll know to reject bad ones (and kids) at school. She’ll also learn completely novel ones. How would this work at home if all the people you visit are cousins and friends with whom you’re in an echo chamber? But say, you have an eclectic group of friends from diverse backgrounds. Then do you, the parent, manage to absorb and assimilate good ideas from your friends and weed out bad ones?
For centuries, there weren’t ‘schools’. There were only gatherings in the town square or under trees or monasteries where a wise person spoke. When those numbers swelled, they must have moved to a barn, and then an empty building. The teaching drove this, the institution came later. Regular folk were too busy with backbreaking trade or agrarian work to teach their kids anything except their own vocation.
In conclusion, keep in mind the teaching comes first. For both the above points if you had good answers and still homeschool, more power to you! Let me know what methods you applied to counter these issues.