Hope everyone is staying warm and having fun in the snow (those that have!) It’s been a while, I know. I can say it’s been busy (which it has,) and it has been hard to get back into the swing of things after the Bar Mitzvah – between family visiting, Thanksgiving, having a few weeks before getting ready for more family coming to visit, etc. All that is true, but there were times where I could have sat down to write, and I have thought about it for weeks. The real reason for not writing is simply because I could not think of anything to write about; school has been slow. However, as we are finishing our vacation, and hopefully tomorrow we will get back into the swing of things, I came across some videos and readings today that I do want to talk about. The topic is nothing new to homeschoolers, but it seems to be something that few non-homeschooling teachers want to talk about very much, or perhaps better put, something that might be talked about but few think there is much they can or want to do about it.
When we first started homeschooling, about 8 years ago, when asked why we were homeschooling we just answered because we wanted to. That answer was true, but it was not the complete truth. Almost 8 years later I now feel comfortable talking about the complete truth. The real truth, the real reason why we even considered homeschooling is because our son did not fit inside the box. No, we are not talking about the cardboard box that he did fit into, it is the school box – the one that the schools want to put all students into so that they can teach our children the easiest – the box called “NORMAL.” Teachers want each child to have both feet and both arms, both hands and their bodies all in the same box. I don’t really blame them, teaching more than one or two children at a time is not easy, I know, I have 4 children of various ages in my daily classroom and I have taught in a preschool that had 4-5 times as many children all the same age than I teach now. Teaching is not easy and I have great respect for teachers.
Those who read my posts regularly know that I have one boy that thinks really differently than the rest – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and I would not change him for anything. My husband was tired Shabbos night and we were just sitting and talking about ADD medicines. He preceded the conversation by telling me that he was in no way suggesting anything, he was just talking. Oh, medicine would work well on our one child, he would be a textbook patient. His concentration would be great, his learning would jump up, etc. Um, yeah, I think medicine would work well for me too. I get sidetracked often, can’t seem to focus, etc. I believe most of us would benefit from medicine! But No. Not just “no”, an unequivocal No. One thing that most people do not think about – these ADD medicines do one thing I refuse to do to my children – it CHANGES them. Even once off, the child is changed. The child would not be the same kind of child they were before the medicine. There are other negatives to being on these medicines, such as becoming stubborn. The medicine is made to make a person focus. That might be fine and dandy until a child has a tantrum. The medicine makes a person focus on the negative so much more just like it makes him focus on the good. Oh, but then my husband told me that there are medicines they give children for defiance as well. Nice. (There IS a time and place for everything, and there is a small, small, small percentage of children who actually do need it, and should probably be on it. I just believe there are too many people (children AND adults) who are on it that do not need to be and people are just confused as to when the medicine is really needed.) When I hear that there are many classrooms in the country where all the children are on medicines, shouldn’t that concern us? I could go on. We are destroying our children’s creativity when we make them focus with medicines. When someone has focus medicine, there cannot be creativity. Yes, children need to be taught to focus in learning, but by making them focus all the time we remove their ability to be creative.
Why do people like medicines? It makes it so much easier to teach a room full of children if they are all the same. Imagine; 15 or so children who are not able to sit still, not focus and interrupt, or 15 children who are sitting dutifully in their chairs, are quiet and listen. On the other hand, it is hard for me to look at any particular parent and say they are doing wrong for the school systems are set up for almost 100% failure if a child does not fit into a box. It is something that has to change from the top. The schools have to change before we can suggest change to others.
My oldest, while in preschool, had at least 2 arms and one foot outside the “box.” For three quarters of the year the teacher thought my child was not as intelligent as the rest of the children. She told me that my son was not able to compete with them. At the end of the year parent-teacher interview she exclaimed, “Your son is very intelligent!” By this time we had already decided that to keep him in school past the next month was going to be a big mistake. We had already decided we were going to homeschool. As the years go by, I am constantly seeing how every child learns differently, and it is not just that girls learn differently than boys – I have 4 boys and each is very different. We have to expect that. Why? Each person that is created is unique. We know that each one of us has a unique mission to fulfill and if one of us does not fulfill our mission, the world is not complete. Hashem gave each one of us a unique set of qualities that match our specific mission, therefore there are no two people the same. If we know that and understand that, why should it surprise us when someone says each child learns differently?
חֲנֹךְ לַנַּעַר עַל פִּי דַרְכּוֹ – Train (teach) a child according to his way (Mishlei/Proverbs 22:6)
Teaching is not a one-size-fits-all. My answer to my husband as to how to deal with any of the children who I might be having a harder time dealing with – I have to change my teaching style, not change the boy. I don’t want to change any boy, that would be taking away from who his is and his ability to fulfill his mission in this world. I can see all my children when they are older and they are going to be able to live just fine, it is just that right now their parents need to guide and mold them into who they need to be – not change them. I have found, through experience, that by adjusting myself and growing myself, my boys tend to follow suit, on their own, without having to argue and fight with them. I have to change my ways to teach according to his way.