The direction that I would give to all teachers is: Watch the child, watch his attitude of attention. Is it spontaneous? Is the light of pleasure in his eyes? Is interest the motive which controls him?
–Colonel Francis W. Parker
Maggie Doyne’s story shows that self-actualization is not the end game (as I once thought when I studied Abraham Maslow years ago.) Self-actualization is a quality of experience that each of us can have, and we can have it at any age.
At the age of 18, Maggie launched herself off into the world with only what she could carry in her backpack. In the course of the next five years she discovered depths of human suffering and joy she didn’t know existed, built an orphanage and a school for 200 children, and “…got my passion back to live and to learn and to be human on this earth.” Continue reading →
Many years ago, when I was getting ready to put my six-year-old son Peter to bed, I noticed that there was a two-hour TV show that I wanted to watch, which I would miss because of his bedtime. I irresponsibly said, “Peter, would you like to stay up late and watch TV with me? Or would you like me to read you a story and put you to bed?”
He said, “Dad, what would be the smart thing to do?”
Maximizing free and informed choice has always been top of my list of important variables in creating a learning community both at home and at school. But what choices by whom and when? These are dynamic questions; the answers differ from child to child and change with time. Parents and teachers must be vigilant to make good decisions about when a child is ready to make a decision. And now Sheena Iyengar makes us look at this set of issues in a whole new way.
Are you an over-involved parent, or are you a “slow parent?” Do you make yourself known to the teacher on the first day of school or do you think it is better to just watch and wait? How involved are you with your child’s homework? Are you pushing your child too hard or not enough? These days parents are criticized for being “helicopters” or “snow plows” on the one hand, and on the other criticized for being “unengaged” in school–sometimes in the very next breath. These questions all reflect that our eye is on the wrong ball.
The question isn’t: “Is your parenting slow or fast,” but “Whose foot is on the accelerator?”
Last week, a proud mother wanted to show me how beautifully her fifteen-month-old daughter was progressing. “Show Mr. Rick how you can walk,” she said. When the child refused, the mother said, “She doesn’t do it when we want her, too.” That’s right, I thought, and that is something for you to be proud of and nurture. She is on a mission, and it comes from within, but pleasing you is not it.
There is a natural tendency for parents to want to have their children meet or exceed the benchmarks of “normal” whether it is walking, talking, reading or learning algebra. This is often taken too far. In many of our schools it is taken for granted that more, faster, sooner is better. Those who are “below average” are examined for some sort of dysfunction.
As a parent, grandparent and long-time school principal I am happy that many parents are feeling the need to stop pushing their children and are attracted to movements like “slow parenting.” But we are still asking: How slow should we go? How hard should we push? Those aren’t the right questions. What’s this “we?” It’s not about us; it’s about them. Carl Honore‘s titles distract us from the real issue. His son has it right: “Why do grownups have to take over everything?”
Children naturally to want learn? Schoolwork is play for them. Ask most kindergartners what they looking forward to in first grade and they will say: “Homework.” We take their love of homework away from them by owning it. It’s their homework.
Our children’s success is going to be a function of their comfort with and self-discipline in pursuing goals, not how fast or slow they move through the curriculum. Overparenting is forgetting who the chief decision maker is