We as parents are often express concern about our children by asking if they are 'behind'. 'Behind' other kids their age, 'behind' nationally standardized expectations, 'behind' some mysterious out-there-somewhere goal that we can't even verbalize.
Tell me, Concerned Reader, are you worried about being 'behind'?
Do you get together with other parents your age and compare yourself to them? Their intelligence, their math skills, their vocabulary, their knowledge of historical events, and understanding of scientific principles? Do you then change your behavior based on those comparisons?
While you might be mentally comparing educational backgrounds, financial status, material possessions, physical appearance and lifestyle, you aren't the least bit worried if they can say their multiplication tables faster than you can, or if they know details about the Hundred Years' War.
What's most important is that you recognize envy as an undesirable and destructive emotion.
Somewhere along the line, probably in the midst of college or early in our careers, we move past concerns of being 'behind' other people our age academically. We recognize and explore our individuality, and are usually engaged in striving to meet specific education and career goals of our own making. We have begun to mature past peer approval as a measure of our progress.
Why, then, do we do we set up our kids for such an unhealthy view of themselves? Why is it acceptable to view middle graders as clones, and then magically a twenty-something is an individual with unique goals, interests, and perspectives?
Education is as much about forming character as it is teaching skills and passing on information. When we create this environment of competition, comparison, and covetousness, what do we think the outcome is going to be? Keeping up with the Kardashians, maybe?
If we truly believe in individuality, diversity, and encouraging our children to fulfill their potential, we will stop propagating this harmful thought process and not only begin to view young people as unique with immeasurable qualities of being, but treat them as such.
Of course, this would require our education system to be turned inside out and upside down, because the foundational principles and organizational methods of traditional schooling are to compartmentalize children by age and hold them to broad, arbitrary standards. This dynamic has programmed generations to think of comparing children to each other based on chronological age as normal and even healthy.
You can break that mold by homeschooling, but more important, by deschooling.
- A school schedule should acknowledge the physical needs of your child.
- A balanced approach to education melds the curiosity of the child with planned instruction.
- Knowledge creates a tapestry of our world - let them follow the threads and find the connections.
- Guide your child to healthy habits of mind, body, and spirit.
- Character traits such as courage and generosity are more admirable than 'book smarts'.
- The path to a joyful and successful life begins when a child is born, not when they graduate high school.
- Your child is a unique individual, so help them fulfill their singular potential.