In about a week, my wife and I will begin our third year homeschooling Sawyer. If you had asked me five years ago if I would ever homeschool my children, my answer would have been an emphatic, NO. Though I never loved school as a kid, I viewed homeschooling as a kind of retreat. Traditional school was reality. You can hide in your homeschooling cocoon, but eventually those lovely, vulnerable, innocent children will have to be released into the wild where other people hold opinions different than yours and where they will have to compete and be judged and graded. Reality.
Sawyer did not like that version of reality. He disliked it so much that by the time he was old enough and big enough and loud enough to thoroughly disrupt a classroom we really had no other choice but to bring him home. The day we decided to pull him out, I had two thoughts: I have no idea how to do this; and, I know in about a month it will be clear that this is the best thing we could have possibly done for him.
I was right on both accounts. Part of the reason for my turn around was Sir Ken Robinson. First, I saw his TED talk, and then I twice had the opportunity to interview him for Author. I liked him right away when we met, partly because I agreed with so much of what he had to say, and also because he was so funny. Humor always reminds me that everything is going to be okay. If you listen closely to what Ken has to say you realize he is asking for a complete paradigm shift in how we view education, which is about far more than just schools. Education—learning—is about how we become who we are. Or, to put it another way, he is questioning what we have called reality. When you are getting ready to trade one reality in for another, it is good to know that everything is going to be okay.
The reality of my homeschooling experience is that Sawyer is a most difficult student. He has absolutely no interest in doing something simply because I tell him to. Oh, how easy our lessons would be if he would only obey. Instead, he insists on obeying himself. Unfortunately, when he was done shooting down all my lesson suggestions and I’d ask him, “So what do you want to do?” he’d most often answer, “I don’t know.” Ah, I thought. He’s forgotten that he does know.
This is the paradigm shift Ken is talking about. If you take a person and from a very early age tell him that all the answers to all of life’s important questions are contained in books he wouldn’t choose to read and in the minds of authority figures, you disconnect him from his true intelligence, which is his curiosity. I learn, Sawyer learns, and Sir Ken Robinson learns when we are connected to our authentic curiosity, when we ask ourselves: “Why is this so?” and, “How could I do this better?” and, “What would I like to do right now?”
This paradigm shift asks us to move our attention from the outside to the inside, exactly where so many children on the spectrum already have their attention firmly planted. The outside can only tell us where we are, it cannot possibly tell us where we want to go. To teach, then, is to trust in Sawyer what I must continue to trust in myself—a quiet but steady voice that, whenever I think to ask it, always tells me that everything is going to be okay.
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I am the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, and Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. Learn more here.