Tuesday, September 17, 2013

fear and keeping up

In school today, my high school students were memorizing how to cite sources.  "Last name, first name, colon..."  Actually, that's probably incorrect.  But that's what google is for.  I vaguely remember how to cite because of the many papers I wrote.  And if I need to refresh my memory, then I'll google it.  Gone are the days when I had to go to the library or find a book with citations.  It's a little hard for me to understand why students have to memorize such a thing.

I was thinking about it a little later, trying to be dan l'kaf z'chus.  I know that the teachers in this school are thoughtful and have reasons for what they ask.  This definitely will make the students more mindful of sources and citations.

But it got me thinking about unschooling some more.  I was thinking about how I could, theoretically, sing the bentching with Elazar every day.  But he doesn't really like it.  Chana, since she knew how to read Hebrew when her chiyuv came upon her, and she practiced for a few months beforehand, has been able to bentch quite smoothly when she wants and needs to.

Sometimes I get nervous, seeing such young children, like in first, second, and third grade, accomplish SO much.  They read so much, learn so much, sit so long...  I thought I was past that nervousness, seeing as I have a daughter in college who did just fine and a 7th grader who is doing great and will also be able to academically do whatever she needs to.  But sometimes I see a father learning with his second or third grader and I start to worry--  should I be doing more now?

It's an odd worry, because I have NO concern that my child/ren will be "behind."  I have full confidence that they will be functioning adults (at least academically; emotionally, we have a lot of work and struggles and issues ahead of us and, like my Rabbi, Rabbi Mann, once told me, that's like white water rafting: put on a life vest, hold on for the ride, and hope nobody falls off).

So why, if I think they will easily catch up on whatever work they need to, do I get so nervous when I see a 3rd grader zipping through his Chumash translation when my child is barely reading?

Part of it is social.  Part of it is insecurity.

One of the things I do when I start to feel this way is clarify my understanding of what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

I thought some more about citations and bibliographies.  Let's say my unschooled child becomes either college age and has to write a paper, or an adult and part of his or her job is to cite correctly.  Let's say that up until that point, the child (now an adult) has never, ever dealt with citing according to standards.  How would they handle that?  Will they feel embarrassed?  Upset that they don't know it?

Or will they cheerfully dive in to figuring out how to do it?

I think a fundamental tenet of unschooling is that a human will happily and cheerfully learn what is useful or interesting.

There is no shame in not knowing something.  Because until now, they have been busy learning other things that were interesting and useful.  And now that this comes across their path, they will apply themselves to learn how to do it.

This is the nature of unschooling.  The child views learning as natural, pleasant and organic.  If they want to know something, they find it out.  They look it up or ask or learn it or find someone to teach it, and practice it until they are satisfied.

Why would they ever be upset or embarrassed that they don't know something?  Life has hopefully been a series of situations where they didn't know something, and they figured it out or asked or learned or practiced, and then they did know it.

And I hope their experiences will give them confidence.  The "learning schedule" on which the glory of the universe unfolds varies from individual to individual, and is a life-long process.

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