Thursday, October 27, 2005

Win-Win Solutions

Most criticisms of home education miss the mark by a long shot. Questions about opportunities for socialisation can be readily answered. Anxieties about issues to do with children learning in different ways and progressing at different rates may be eased with the passage of time, and by listening to the experiences of those who have gone before. Assertions that HE children will not be able to establish their independence from the family look laughable in the light of experience, since when a child's choices in this regard are respected, they can move away from the family, in their own time, with ease and confidence.

The redundancy of most of these criticisms does not mean that there aren't possibly some good criticisms. One possibly good criticism that is superficially easily dealt with, is the implied criticism in the form of "Oh, I could never do it! I would need more time to myself. My children would drive me wild if I didn't have a break from them."

There is a standard, perhaps slightly pious response to this which if not stated to the critic's face, is usually felt by most HEors, to the effect: " Well, if you didn't want to be with your own children, why did you have them in the first place?" Whilst this may serve to protect the HEor from the criticism, it isn't really an honest or complete reply, since the critic is not claiming that she doesn't want to be with her children, just that she doesn't want to be with them all of the time.

And the intensity of spending most of your time with your kids, well, it can be tough. The powerful urge to sit down with a good book all to yourself, whilst all the while your children are pleading you to sort out a computer problem or help them with a puzzle, can be hard to address.

So what should HE parents do in the situation that they are feeling overwhelmed by facilitating the education of their children? It just won't do to offer a model of continuing personal sacrifice for at least the following reasons: we don't want our kids to grow up believing that adulthood should be one long grind of personal duties; and we do not want to make them carry the burden of guilt when they realise that they are responsible for causing someone they love so much pain.

The answer must be that we are best off setting out to achieve win-win solutions. We should be aiming to find things that everyone is happy doing. In the case of really wanting to finish that final gripping chapter in one's book whilst one's kids are calling for a computer repair, well, either one can change one's preference and do something everyone wants to do, such as visiting friends or going to the judo class. Alternatively one can change one's preference, perhaps viewing the fixing of the computer as an interesting and constructive task. That done, you're is freed up to read that chapter. Or perhaps one could try to enlist the help of a third party for the computer repair, or to meet for an afternoon out somewhere to which the child is very happy to go...

So a thought for my days - a sort of humanist prayer, so to speak:

*I will keep optimistic that a solution to these kinds of initial conflicts can be found, for this will be the answer to my experience of a sense of conflict, and at the very least since I do not know that a solution is not out there.

*I will keep on my toes with regards to searching for solutions. I will try to be ingenious, imaginative, creative.

*I will greet every new challenge with pleasure at the chance to use these qualities, rather than with rising irritation and loss of patience.

*I will remember that one of my main tasks in life is to be happy and to help my children to be happy. I also believe that happiness is intricately linked to good learning, which may be easily explained through the converse: unhappiness means experiencing an emotion that the holder would rather not have, which means that any learning that comes with that emotion is less likely to be welcomed and absorbed.

*Finally, whilst recognising that there will be moments when I do fail, rather than giving up altogether as a result of those failures, I will simply set out to try again, for the argument for the superiority of success is so strong. I should not give up too easily.


Clare said...

A better explanation of TCS? Incidentally, I also often find that 'give and take' is also something that children seem to subconcsiously understand and that when parent puts in the effort to play/breastfeed/entertain when the child needs it, usually parent is rewarded with a bit of time later on when child is happy entertaining oneself.

Did you get my email about tomorrow btw?


Carlotta said...

"A better explanation of TCS?"

Lol...well not at all sure about the "better" bit, but otherwise, yes, the win-win idea came from Taking Children Seriously, and some of the other ideas from from people such as William Godwin and Karl Popper...(both of whom would count as two of my heroes, I think), and also not forgetting a particular game theorist whose name completely escapes me, but who worked out a general theory of win-win for entire communities. (Will check this out again).

Also, I do entirely agree about the idea of give and take: children who are treated with respect do enjoy giving, I think. It seems as if the giving is a positive pleasure for them, which looks like a very easy common preference.

Also, have completely missed your mail. We are having terrible problems with our phone lines atm, and comp periodically crashes, so I may have lost it in one of those episodes. So sorry. (Our land lines are working only intermittendly, perils of life of on a wooded hill, I think though BT man due this evening.) But tomorrow is looking busy at our end; we will probably be rather snowed under...but do come over here if you can.