. . . or maybe just failure to follow the Golden Rule.
At the same time that I'm homeschooling my kids, I work part-time at a private school. Previously, the majority of my work has been administrative and done from home, but now they have me coming in to teach a math class -- Algebra II -- four days a week (now that think about it, maybe that's a part of the reason that I haven't blogged in two weeks!). JG and BT hang out with my mom while I teach.
Anyway, I was working with this one student, showing him how to factor the sums and differences of cubes. It's pretty straightforward once you know the formula. He finally admitted, "I understand how this works, and I'm sure I would be able to do it, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of thinking and I just don't want to do it."
This is the same student who told me that he has very little time for doing homework because he has auto mechanics classes every night. He said that he knows what he wants to do in life and it doesn't involve knowing how to factor polynomials.
A part of the philosophy of unschooling is that everybody is an individual. We all have different talents, interests and goals, and we should all seek the education that is meaningful to us. From Life Learning Magazine:
So life learning is about trusting kids to learn what they need to know and about helping them to learn and grow in their own ways.
We also provide the time for our children to investigate their own ideas. And – perhaps the biggest challenge for many parents – we are flexible and patient observers of a process that is not particularly sequential or organized, in spite of what the curriculum writers would have us believe.
This is the idea that I follow with my own kids. But at work I'm being paid to keep kids on track. After you finish Algebra I and Geometry, you're going to take Algebra II and that's that. What did I tell this young man who is pursuing his own interests and is learning a valuable skill? I told him to start factoring those polynomials or else. I told him that just doing it anyway would help him to become a person who doesn't shrink back from unpleasant or difficult tasks. That is probably true, but is it really the best use of his time to have him doing pages and pages of equations just to build character? Aren't there more productive ways that he could learn perseverance?
After feeling guilty about this for a while, I reminded myself that the reason he was in school was because his parents had chosen it. They decided that a sequential, organized curriculum would be the best thing for their son. I am there to help in that process, not to tell them how to raise their child. So I guess it's okay.