Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Best Schools

Responding to Clark Aldrich.

I have often written, the best place to learn about forestry is in a forest, the best place to learn about law is in a courtroom.

This is no doubt influenced by my own childhood, as I spent what added up to months in summer camps.

What I learned there has nothing to do with tests or academics. But I learned to sail a boat, paddle a canoe, build a fire, find food in the wilderness, sing (badly) at a campfire, and so much more.

I also learned attitudes of self-reliance and independence, camaraderie, ceremony, attentiveness, and appreciation for wild spaces. I would not be the person I am without that experience.

I wonder, why can't childhood be a series of adventures - two months at a camp, a month in a courtroom, two months traveling with police officers, three weeks at the fire station, and more?

What I want most of out an education, I think, is to spark a dream in a child's eye, a dream born out of authentic experience in a real world, and nurtured with the best care and support a society can provide.

5 comments:

  1. Exactly right -- and you've just described what most homeschooling parents are already doing with their children, or aspiring to. Many (like us) are enrolled in their public school districts, taking courses only as needed (online and in classrooms), getting remedial help, going over portfolios, accessing resources, etc. The rest of the time, children are learning in their homes and communities, on their own or with others depending on what works best. Right now, this model looks to me like the best care and support a society can provide.

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  2. No, it's the 'best care and support a *parent* can provide'. There's a big difference. Especially for those whose parents are unwilling or unable to provide the same level of learning.

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  3. The school district ("society") directly supports children in our home learners program: full-time teachers available for consultation and assessment, full curriculum and resource support, one day a week of in-class learning, monthly field trips, direct funding for materials/technology and lessons (music, dance, art, tutoring, etc.), individual learning plans, special ed./gifted programs...the list goes on.

    Yes, parents facilitate most of the learning, but not in a vacuum -- it's a partnership with the school district where the parents take more responsibility for the process than they would if they just joined the parents' association for their kids' public school.

    Nobody claims this should work for everyone, but as a public education option for families who can and want to provide the richest learning opportunities (at home, in their communities, in nature, while traveling) for their kids, it's a pretty cool path.

    At least theoretically, that is. We'll be trying it this year for the first time with our two daughters, and we're pretty excited. The reality may be quite different, but we'll see.

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  4. "What I want most of out an education, I think, is to spark a dream in a child's eye, a dream born out of authentic experience in a real world, and nurtured with the best care and support a society can provide."

    This is one of the best and most succinct explanations of education I have read in a while. Thank you.

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  5. I have often written, ... the best place to learn about law is in a courtroom.

    Very little law gets practiced in the courtroom. For non-litigators the amount is even less. I'll go so far to say that most lawyers never set foot in a courtroom.

    Today, most young lawyers learn how to practice law (after actually some law in law school) by searching the firm's document management system to find documents drafted by more experienced lawyers dealing with the same or similar issues.

    I think they call this the worked problem method of learning which is a more productive method of learning for novices, such as novice lawyers.

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