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Clara's Clearing

Clara's Clearing

Amazing Opposites

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

My son Jack gave the title to this blog. This is how it came about:


I have gotten some interesting feedback on my recent blogs about my experiences with schools and homeschooling. A very good friend of mine wrote this in an email:


I loved going to school… and I went to school when I had high fevers from nasty flus, in spite of my mother’s objections… and once I think I even fainted in the classroom from the fever!... For me school was an opportunity to get to know what was outside of home… and since my parents were not educated people, school maybe was the only opportunity to get to know the outside world, and it turned out to be a golden opportunity for me, given the friends that I made in school…

    Years ago a roommate of mine mentioned that her music teacher and his wife had decided to homeschool their kids. I became so agitated that I called it a criminal act!!!... adding that I knew that the origin of schooling came from religious doctrine but nevertheless no parent should be allowed to keep their kids from going to school!!!... Is knowing the outside world about knowing a 'better' world or is it about knowing a 'different' world?


A reader, Rebecca from Canada, wrote comments from a very different view point in response to this blog. She did not think much of my attempt to get Jack to read books that I consider the basis of a good education.


I'd much rather my kid read the books he enjoys and wants to read than to "make" him read books I think are "good for him". See, if he loves reading, he'll likely find his way to those books on his own time. If you push him toward those books, making them 'compulsory', then chances are you will have a kid who continues to resist reading (and you). I don't think he's finding something to rebel against because he doesn't have school anymore. I think he's tasted freedom and he likes it and wants more of it.

    I do realize what you were saying about what was fun is now work... but I don't buy it. I've been involved in alternate ed and home education for, oh my gosh, 17 years now. I've seen kid after kid "deschool"... and seriously, if your kid had ever really enjoyed those books the way you think he did, I'm not sure he'd be so resistant to them now. A kid just doesn't switch off something he "loves", if you know what I mean. And I also think the books are irrelevant, really. He's likely still deschooling and needs time to make any activity he's previously associated with school or learning to lose that association so he can make it his own. So, yeah. Take a loooong vacation so that he can come to that point on his own, authentically.


I was going to write a blog contrasting these two very different views: one in favor of schools (and formal education) and one very much against it. I was going to write that I really do see the valid points of both sides. In fact I empathize with both of them. I was also going to write that it is very difficult to find your own way when you see the sense in views that are opposite. Taking charge of my son’s education is giving me an ongoing opportunity for self reflection. When you think about what your child should learn or what you should teach your child, you inevitably ask yourself some very intimate, and philosophical, questions: Who am I? What do I value? What should I want for my child? Etc.


As I was sitting behind the computer trying to articulate some of these thoughts, my son came over and started reading over my shoulder. He read the quotes above. He became very interested. He asked to go back to the blog where Rebecca had left her comments and wrote an answer to her. I then asked him what he thought about the contrasting views of my friend and Rebecca. I asked him to give the blog a title. He came up with “Amazing Opposites” and ended up finishing this blog for me. Here are his comments:


I think it’s crazy that two people can have two thoughts that are completely opposite. One being that kids should have complete freedom and the other that they should be strictly in school. But they both sound so friendly and so much the same. The way they write it just seems like they’re twins. Because they sound like each other even though the meanings are the exact opposite, like a two-piece table: there’s one end and there’s the other end, but right in the center is the split. And where that split is is where the two opposites meet and sound alike. 
    Have you ever seen where two major rivers merge to form the Amazon? One of the rivers is completely clean and the other river is filled with mud, so muddy that it looks like tea with half-and-half in it. And they stay apart and split for at least a mile, or five or six miles, and then finally they merge. And during that merging they work together and form a color that works perfectly with nature. And that’s exactly what happens between these two people’s comments. They work perfectly with each other to form one thing. And that thing is not easy to describe and it would take pages and pages to describe and so I’ll say the simplest answer possible. That answer is a match of pairs.


A little muddy maybe, but excellent commentary – isn’t it?! I won’t give you my interpretation of what Jack is trying to say. In fact, I don’t think I could say it any better. Somehow we both felt the validity of two opposing currents and the mysterious way in which they connect to form something “that works perfectly with nature.”


The many rivers of thought that merge into one magnificent river – the Amazon of the intellect – is education.


And for an added bonus (education for some of us!), here are some actual clips of the merging rivers of the great Amazon: 

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