Beyond us and them

Lately I’ve been recommending Lisa Rivero’s Gifted Education Comes Home to lots of people.  Not just people who think of their kids as gifted, and not just people whose children are not in school or are considering that as an option.  In the course of making her case for self-directed education for her child and others who share some characteristics, Rivero offers insights that turn out to be useful for parents of any child.

Hers is of course not the only publication of its kind to manage such a feat!  The other thing that sets the book apart, though, is that she manages to make her case without vilifying school or romanticizing homeschooling.  She’s simply observing that removing her own child from a traditional schooling situation and curricular track seems to have made it possible for him to fully realize his capacity as a thinker and learner, and that the same seems to have been true for the other children she met in the course of her research.  For Rivero’s case to be strong, she didn’t need to issue any proclamations about inherent problems with school or the damage it might do.

So what’s the big deal about that?  Everyone knows there are problems with school, from the people who work there to the people who decide not to send their children.  But there’s lots of horn-locking between those who have decided that the problems are too big to rectify (or at least too big to make it worth sending a particular child) and those who believe that it’s still worth it and important to send every child.  It’s a polarization that doesn’t serve anyone.  For centuries and in many facets of life humans have opted to take sides about things, to decide what the sides are and then choose one.  It’s one way of creating community and the perception of security.  It gives us the experience of togetherness and helps us decide what to think and feel about things.  We embrace and celebrate it, as illustrated here on a local newspaper dispenser:

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But it may not offer us the fullest experience of life we aspire to, and it can also actually inhibit progress.  That’s what it’s done and continues to do when it comes to school and learning.  If we could find a way to relax into the possibility that everyone’s commitment is fundamentally the same – to give kids what they need – we might really, finally, get to work on finding the components of what we’ve done historically and what is available now that can inform the choices we make as we move forward.  We could find community there, and let go of the need for polarization.

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