Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Intelligent Confines

I don't talk much about homeschooling on my blog, so it shouldn't come as a big surprise that I (veteran homeschooler that I am... COUGH!) take a more low key approach. By "low key" I don't mean that I don't take it seriously or that I try to make things easy for Ms. Boo. Neither is the case.

But I went to preview some material today with a local rep from a well-known homeschooling company. The rep was nice, but he was, of course, trying to sell me something, so he was talking up the program. The only problem was that what he said played to the part of schooling (home or otherwise) that I hate the most: intelligence worship.

Here's the thing. It is not my goal to have Ms. Boo reading better than anyone else. It is not my goal to have her reading before anyone else. It is not my goal for her to know more vocabulary than anyone else. It is not my goal to have her recite her addition facts faster than anyone else.

It is not my goal to compare her to anyone else at all.

I taught high school for five years. During my second year of teaching, I had a father come in with his daughter for a conference. He had another, younger daughter taking chemistry at the same time, but with another teacher. The younger daughter was bringing home As. The older daughter (the one in my class) wasn't. The father was not pleased.

There were some issues involved that we worked through. She got nervous during tests, etc, etc, so we all agreed to try a few changes and see how things went. I thought that was reasonable.

The girl was respectful and socially mature. She had friends and seemed to enjoy school. She was a gifted musician, and a hard-working student. She struggled in chemistry, but was not even close to failing, and was willing to work hard to get the grades she did. I really didn't have any other concerns.

But her dad did. He launched into a conversation with me which I believe stemmed from GENUINE concern about his daughter. He was very concerned that her grades in my chemistry class were not good enough. WHILE HIS DAUGHTER SAT LISTENING, he went on to say that, getting good grades in band isn't good enough. He couldn't understand how her grades weren't better, given that her sister was getting As. He mentioned something about college. "She needs better grades in math and science. Those are more important than her music."

I was just looking at him, sort of in disbelief over what he'd just said about his daughter, when he asked me, "Right? Don't you think that math and science are so much more important?"

I couldn't think fast enough to form any kind of eloquent answer so, as politely as I could, I just said, "No."

I think he was surprised to hear it. (And I think his daughter was GLAD to hear it.)

Why do parents push so hard? Why do we care so much that our third grader performs better at reading than 95% of all ninth graders? And why do we want to tell people about it? Why do we get angry when they can't read something, or if they don't want to? When they can't recall the capital of Oregon or the answer to 12 x 12?

Tedd Tripp, in his book Shepherding a Child's Heart, lists "Good Education" as an unbiblical goal of parenting. While I think that "Good Education" is important, I think he says it well:

I have met scores of parents whose goal for their chldren was a good education. These parents are driven. They will work with Suzie for hours each night. They coach and prod, they encourage and warn, they will stop at nothing to have their child succeed. Their goal is seeing their child achieve academic awards and scholarly recognition. They are persuaded that education brings success. Unfortunately, scores of disillusioned and broken people are throroughly educated. It is possible to be well-educated and still not understand life.

I think there is a lot to be said for the false connection we make between education and success. If we define "success" as a child who grows up to be good at something they love and were CREATED BY GOD TO DO, then I think that will alleviate a lot of the intelligence worship we tend to engage in. Instead of pushing to get Suzie smarter and better than everyone around her, we start to focus on developing the things that God has made her good at. Sometimes that can be done without an "A" in calculus. Sometimes that can be done without attending college. And it can almost certainly be done even if you don't learn to read until you are in the sixth grade.

Yet parents push. And many parents, unlike the one in my story, push for excellence in EVERYTHING. Their kids are not allowed to be mediocre in anything. I think one reason for this might be because of our own insecurities. We know our kids are a reflection of us and we are so afraid of what people will think of us if our kids are "dumb." What will people think of me if Bobby can't say his alphabet? Or, won't everyone be so impressed with my parenting when they find out how advanced my children are in piano, and Latin, and physics, and ... and... and...? The sad part of this is that children are raised with no concept of what it means to be normal... most people are great at a thing or two, and just okay at the rest (and if we're being totally honest, everyone is downright bad at a few things as well.) And that's FINE!

Worse, for homeschoolers, is the temptation to "prove them wrong;" to stick it to all the people who said that Jane wouldn't get a good education in your home, or who constantly spouted advice because they thought you were "doing it wrong."


My kids are who God made them to be. I truly and honestly want them to read. I want them to read well. I even want them to know what 12 x 12 is.


But it may not be any time soon... and that's okay with me.

I refuse to make "comparison" my educational philosophy.

And I refuse to worship intelligence.

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Blogger Jeana said...


Tue May 29, 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Tricia said...

Great post!

Tue May 29, 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Luisa Perkins said...

What about Pezmama worship? Is that okay?

I think I've written this to you before, but I'll write it again: If I were a pagan, you'd be a good candidate for adoration. Fantastic post!

And: ouch. You're prompting uncomfortable self-examination. Me no likey.

Wed May 30, 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger Noodle said...

Well said. I'm having to reevaluate lately, and it's an encouragement to read your stance.

Thu May 31, 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

I'm glad you are like that. I talk to many homeschooling mom's who are trying to prove something.

Sun Jun 03, 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Noodle said...

Do you read Sandra Dodd? I thought you might be interested in this, in particular. :)


Wed Jun 13, 10:45:00 AM  

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