Friday, September 13, 2013

Mind the Gap

I read a blog post (linked below) this past week that really spoke to me. It was an analogy for the differences between school, school-at-home, and what some people call "un-schooling". 

I admit the first thing that attracted me to this blog post was the title. For those who are not familiar with it when you take a train or subway in the U.K. you see signs like this:
(please excuse the grainy iPod photo)
This is a doorway upstairs in our house. The poster at the top is like the signs you see in the Tube stations. The map on the right is a London Tube Map. 

It refers to the gap that exists between the train and the platform edge. In fact, when you are in the tube stations of London there is a repeated recorded voice that says: "Mind the Gap between the train and the platform edge." I have very fond memories of D, with his sweet little three year old voice and his very slight British accent, repeating these words over and over again. 

This blogger has used the phrase and the idea of riding a train, as opposed to a car or bike, to explain the different approaches to education. 

It's like someone hands you a train schedule when you are five years old, and it details the plan for every day of the next thirteen to seventeen years of your life. The stops are laid out, the timetable is set. There is only one set of tracks for your school train.They are the same for everyone. They tell you this is the only way to get between stops, where you are tested to make sure the train is on schedule.

I find that in spite of having been a "train conductor" (school teacher) in the past, my inclination for my own children is the bicycle approach. 

Her image of the family riding bikes together, exploring the world around them at a more leisurely place, with older kids having some freedom to explore--to steer their bike, to pedal at their own pace-- is exactly how we like to see ourselves. 
You learn from all things you do, but the learning does not need to be measured. Your parents don't keep track of how fast or how far you go each day...You don't have to keep up with anyone else.
Development--growing up--is not a race. Yet we spend so much time, as a society, worrying about our kids keeping up. 

I am not just talking about the world of "you have to get into the right pre-school if you are going to get into that great college" or "if you haven't started competitive football by the age of five you may as well give up". 

I am also talking about reading fluently by kindergarten (or even first or second grade) about doing algebra in third grade. 

So much of what we think of as academic is really developmental. If we had a more relaxed approach to when a child reads fluently, we may see a decrease in learning disability labels, or at least a decrease in kids wearing glasses. If we had a more relaxed approach to math instruction, we might have fewer grown-ups who "hate math" or think they are "bad at math".

Opting out of the race, getting off the train, so to speak can be very difficult. The world around you assumes that your objective is to make sure your kid is "on schedule" and that there are "no gaps". Our objective is to raise children who love God first, know how to love others as well as themselves, and love to learn. 

Love does not keep a schedule, arrive at certain stops at certain times, or stick to one set of tracks. Love is free.

Go. Read. She explains the analogy really well. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Carol. Ha! And now when I read your posts, I can put your voice to them. :)