Monday, November 8, 2010

The Many Paths We Walk

We had a conference at Carbon's school on Friday, and I've been mulling a bit since then. We are not 100% "pure" Sudbury , because we afterschool in a more "traditional" way at home. And that was obviously uncomfortable to one of the staff at our conference - that we might be sending messages to Carbon, and through him to the other kids, that we don't really trust him and the Sudbury pedagogical method.

It's a real concern, at least for this one staff member, so I really wanted to give it due consideration. On the one hand, I know in my gut we won't stop after-schooling, no matter what anyone were to say. Of all the possible educational methods, programs, and theories, the one-on-one learning coach or tutoring model is still the one I love the most. And yes, it doesn't agree with the Sudbury model, which would not make a child do anything they didn't want to do.

But I don't think there is only one right way to learn. I've always held that different children learn differently, but I also believe that the same person can learn in many different ways. In fact, we are all doing it all the time. Every single day, we all might learn through personal experimentation (trial and error, so to speak), through disciplined practice (like learning a musical instrument), by being told or shown by another person, through reading it somewhere, in quiet moments of reflection, or by pure accident as we meant to do something else.

I know that in my own life, I have learned in many diverse ways and environments, and the people who worked to create those learning environments probably did not agree with the methods of the others. My ballet teachers, with their emphasis on precision, neatness, memory, attention, and effort, probably would have been appalled at my mother's laid-back almost unschooled approach to many years of my education. My vocal teacher, or the directors I worked with in community theater wouldn't have liked the methods employed by the drill sergeants at Army Basic Training.

The learning that I did in all those settings may sometimes have competed with the learning from another environment. But it was up to me, as a person, to integrate those experiences. In fact, how each individual integrates experiences (yet another form of learning!) is a big part of how they become their own, unique, personality and person.

I've never been good at sticking with one pure theory or method. Perhaps an affect of my own eclectic childhood, perhaps a personality trait - definitely a big part of why I'm a Unitarian Universalist - I see too many possibilities and too much virtue to all the possible paths to commit myself to a statement such as "this is the one true path". I prefer to walk this path for a while, then try another, then maybe choose to backtrack, sidetrack, or bushwhack.

So, does it hurt Carbon to have one kind of learning environment for six hours a day, then another kind for about an hour, then another that happens about once a week, and others that come up from time to time? I really can't believe that it would. Does having to do something he doesn't always want to do imply that I am not trusting that he does worthy things with his time when I am not "making" him? Well, does making him eat his green leafy's imply that I don't want him to eat the chicken I also put on his plate?

I want a balance, and in my ideal balance there is a lot of freedom, a lot of choice, a lot of active social learning, and just enough structure and discipline. I trust Sudbury will work, all by itself, for most children (I can't say ALL, just because I don't believe in absolutes). But I don't see why it should work all by itself. Learning is too big, vast, amazing and fun to be put in any one box, even a cool box like Sudbury.

1 comment:

  1. A beautifully written post. :-)
    Your story and thoughts regarding one "right" method brought up many memories of our Waldorf experience.
    I also believe there are many, many possibilities for success in this world and they all start with staying true to yourself.