Ted talks: Navigating schools in the age of transition
Whether you choose to go the path of homeschooling, public school or private school, as a parent, you absolutely need to homeschool. This is the message I got from the talk “Navigating Schools in the Age of Transition” by Dr. Ted Spear, the founder and head of school of Island Pacific School, Bowen Island's independent middle school.
Fortunately, this does not necessarily mean endless math drills, nor pulling your child out of their current school to become a homeschooler. What it does mean is taking the reigns of our children’s academic and particularly emotional learning into our hands and ensure that more than just the basic skills are covered.
Tall order? Yes, especially with our busy lives and schedules. Critically needed? Again, yes.
As an International Baccalaureate education provider, Ted shared two of his deepest fears that keep him worrying late into the night. These are the new academic facts that:
1. Homeschoolers are now admitted into Ivy Leagues Schools like Harvard and Yale (see http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/01/26/how-my-child-went-from-home-school-to-harvard-and-yours-can-too).
2. The continual and massive emergence of completely free open online courses means that now anyone with access to the internet can receive a basic education.
Providers such as the innovative Khan Academy boast over a million individual students each month to learn basic math to quantum physics online. Suddenly, knowledge that had been reserved for top students, top schools and often a certain economic bracket has been thrown wide open to all with a simple click of a mouse.
But is it really this simple? Can we all just get a decent education online? Ted doesn’t think so. The emergence of homeschooling and online courses show that schools need to better support our children’s needs in an increasingly changing world where their future is not nearly so much paint-by-number as it was a mere few generations ago during. That’s why he sees the need for a marriage of academia with what he calls “a cultivation of humanity” that intends so free a person from their ignorance and supports them in the fullest expression of what it means to be a human being. This type of liberal education requires a shift from pure skill focus to more of a virtue or attribute focus. This is why Ted wishes that each student will leave his school with a good head on his or her shoulders.
Where does this leave us as parents wanting the best for our kids and their academic future? Some of us have our own fears about making a wrong decision about our children’s education. Ted suggests that educators should “compliment what parents are doing.” This means that no matter what school your child goes to, it is up to us parents to take responsibility for our children's education with conscious intention and pragmatic action.
What does this look like in the lives of such parents and hectic schedules?
Ted suggests that parents need to provide three main essentials:
1. To equip children for the changing times with critical thinking and wisdom.
2. To inspire children to maintain their deep curiosity.
3. To support children in achieving their own personal excellence by not only “doing well” but also “being well”.
Yikes! This strikes me as a tall order for some of us who sometimes do all we can to just get through the day. But merely focusing on getting through our days and weeks does not mean empowering our children to thrive in life.
For Ted, one way to facilitate this cultivation of compassion and humanity at home means peppering our dinner conversations with rich inquiry and discussion and the occasional, “So what do you think about that?” This, of course, presupposes that we are actually sitting down together long enough minus screens and texting interruptions to have meaningful discussions. One of my dear friends would regularly bring a newspaper article to discuss at the dinner table each night with her preschoolers.
In addition to sharing dinners with family, this could mean inviting interesting conversationalists to the table. Fortunately, for us living on Bowen, there seems to be an abundance of these people.
Another simple thing Ted suggests is that we don’t just leave the field trips to our children’s schools. He recommends to take the time as a family to go to museums, galleries, planetariums or the latest IMAX show and include a little conscious discussion. This can be as simple as framing our outing with a brief statement such as, “I read the show is about polar bears. I wonder if it is about global warming or just how they live?” Then book-end your trip with: “So, it actually was about global warming. What did you think about the show?” The key is inquiry, musings and critical thinking.
For some of us, we may already be doing these things. For others, it may be a good reminder to be more involved in our children’s daily musings, using life and our experience as opportunities for rich learning.
One thing I know for certain is that whether or not a child goes to a traditional school, it is in our best interest to supplement the education with some creative homeschooling discussion.