Thursday, January 9, 2014

Regarding School and Real Life

This was originally posted on my other blog, Notes on Books and Other Things, on June 15, 2013. That blog still exists, but I'm trying to condense all my blogs here because I like this one best and it makes sense to me.
     Growing up, I often struggled between loving to learn and hating to go to school.

     I went to school and often enjoyed it simply because I loved to learn, but hated memorizing things that I thought were essentially useless, or at least not taught in a way that made them engaging and made their use apparent. I was always learning on my own, pursuing extracurricular interests, and reading voraciously--in fact, I spent most of fourth grade reading under my desk with my head on the table as if I had a terrible headache; I even thought I'd been clever enough to get away with it until the last day of school when Mrs. Takashima congratulated all of us on a "year well done, even those of us who spent the whole thing reading under their desks."

     I was embarrassed to have been caught, but looking back I'm really glad that Mrs. Takashima recognized how valuable my love of reading was to my education, and that in the grand scheme of things, as long as I was doing the work and passing the tests (and I always did very well), and as long as I was not being disruptive, that it was alright for me to pursue learning on my own, even in her class. Man, what a great teacher.

    The next year my family moved cities and school districts, and because of the different district requirements my parents seriously considered having me repeat fourth grade over again. Thank god they saw sense and didn't--thirteen years of public school was tedious enough without repeating one of them.

     I often wished I could go to some other school... a private school or a boarding school where they only taught things I was interested in... or some fantasy school in my mind. Or, I wished I had a governess like so many of the characters I read about had in their books, to teach me languages and history and math in a way that was interactive and engaging, and at a pace that moved as quickly as I learned without having to wait for 35 other students to not only understand the material but to settle down and stop talking (the settling down often took much longer than the learning, after all).

     What I'm getting to with all this is that I think I would like to homeschool my children. Obviously, we're talking a good many years from now, because I'm currently 20, unmarried, and unemployed, and you certainly cannot homeschool children you don't have. However, I really think I could offer my children a much fuller, more engaging, more interesting, and more well-rounded experience than the one public school was able to offer me. I managed to get a lot more out of public school than many students do, because I filled waiting time with reading and drawing and writing; I pursued the study of foreign languages independently; I was fortunate enough to have parents who were in a position to put me in piano lessons, voice lessons, girl scouts, drum lessons, art lessons, cotillion, band, choir, opera... you name it; and especially because my parents were very involved in my learning.

     My dad is a chemistry professor at Caltech, and every year of elementary school (and even once in middle school), he would arrange to come in and do fun science demonstrations for the class: the whole class got to see a pickle become a lightbulb; they got to see seven beakers of rainbow liquid poured into each other all become clear and mixed again became the seven colors of the rainbow again; they got to see a marshmallow expand to twenty times its size in a vaccuum and then shrink down to the size of a raisin. They got to see all these things, but I got to go into the lab and learn how it all worked, and help engineer each experiment so it would work on the big day.

     My mom is a doctor, and one of the most multi-talented people I've ever met. Any medical questions I had have always received (long-winded but) detailed explanatory answers. She grew up in Texas going to school with astronauts' children, and fascinated by space and space exploration, and when I was in kindergarten she helped my whole class build a moonscape and a papier mache Apollo 13, she sewed two kindergartener-sized astronaut suits and took pictures of my whole class. She loved to garden, and built an animal garden with my third-grade class (butterfly bush, kangaroo paw, zebra grass, snail vine, etc...). I remember riding in the car while she drove to a not-nearby museum to borrow their giant plastic model of a flower so that she could teach my class about plant sex organs. She taught me to sew and she taught me to cook, and I'm still learning from her all the time. I will never be as good as she is at decorating cakes.

     Both my parents travel often--my dad would always tell me stories about his business travels, and my mom would plan our camping trips and other excursions for weeks. Even vacations I was not always excited about before (I didn't always know how good I had it) have become integral to the way I see the world around me.

     I am absolutely certain that I have learned at least twice as much from my parents as I have from my teachers before college, and I still have much more to learn from them. Beyond that, I am fairly certain that, with the flexibility to work with the pace, interests, talents, strengths, and weaknesses of my own children, I could teach them much better than a public school system could. Mind, I don't say this out of disrespect for teachers: I strongly admire and believe in the public education system and have often considered becoming a teacher myself; my boyfriend is a substitute teacher, and I respect the work that is done in the public school system infinitely, but if a child's parents are passionate about their child's learning, and able to foster and support it, I don't believe that the public school system is able, by nature of its size, to offer the depth that a one-on-one (or at most a few-on-one), individually-tailored, home-based, exploratory education experience can offer.

     That said, I don't understand how anyone can afford to own a home, let alone own a home with children in it on one income. I know there are people who do manage to do this, but as an about-to-be-college-senior hoping to move to Austin after I graduate, I can hardly even imagine renting an apartment on one income. I don't think I'll have to, but it's still a scary prospect. It's for this reason only that I regret my fancy create-your-own-not-science-major; I do believe that I am a more well-rounded and better-educated person for having studied the things I've studied, but they're not about to get me into medical school and I don't want to go to medical school anyway.

     I decided to study English and Japanese and Art because those are the things that interested me, but I've recognized recently that if I'm ever going to be able to manage my own finances, let alone have my own finances to manage, I'm going to have to get good at it now, and I'm going to have to become employable now. There is no time to wait until I am unemployed--that's not something I can afford. So, I've spent the last few days updating my Linkedin and my resume, today I made (and handpainted) business cards (in Japanese and English), and I've been researching jobs for which I am or can become qualified and which hopefully would not bore me to death. Next semester I'm registered to continue my study of Japanese, and I'm taking a class on Entrepreneurship. I'm also finishing up the requirements for my degree program and starting work on my Honors thesis(!).

     Because of my artsy, liberal, non-conformist side, I've always kind of shied away from "corporate" ideas like networking, business cards, linkedin, suits, natural hair colors, and desks... because I held the attitude that "If a company doesn't want to hire someone with blue hair, then I don't want to work for them," but the truth of the matter is it may not be that the company discriminates against alternative taste--if you are looking for a serious job with blue hair, it says that you are not willing to compromise to be a part of their company, which is something that you absolutely have to do. If I'm not willing to make a compromise on something as trivial as my hair, why should they pay me? They shouldn't. So, I'll also be phasing out the blue hair this year. I'm going to miss it, and someday I fully expect to be a member of the rainbow head club again--once I've proved myself in the workforce and have a good enough reputation that my hair will not precede me.

     My current plan/goal/strategy is this: work for and learn from established companies/organizations/etc., to gain experience, real world workforce knowledge, connections, and funding for my own projects; in the meantime, write, do art, and develop my own business plan/s; and start my own business(es) and get them functional enough that I have flexible work hours and/or can work from home. At that point, perhaps I will be able to afford the time and money to have and homeschool children. Those last steps are a long way ahead, and I know it... but the years are going faster than ever, and I want to be able to give my children a childhood of experiences that is as good as or better than what I was blessed to grow up with, and if I can't do that, then I can't afford to have children.

1 comment:

  1. Good plan. And Texas is one of the states that impose very few requirements on parents who homeschool their children, relative to most states. If you ever think of relocating, be sure to check that out first. You wouldn't want to move to New York, for example.