My K-girl has had a potpourri of educational instruction. She has gone to an alternative school with mixed aged groupings that is child-led, she has been home-schooled, she has gone to a traditional school that is arts based, and this year she is attending an all girls program within the public education system. Through all of these choices, it has been strongly encouraged, by us, to question everything.
I think it is important for children to learn that 1. Adults don’t know everything (and that includes teachers). 2. Sometimes you are expected to learn stuff in schools that you may not actually use in your every day life. 3. It is okay for you to disagree with something a person of authority tells you (including your parents and your teachers).
We have done our best to remind K-girl that adults do make mistakes, and not everybody will have the same thoughts, ideas, opinions, values, beliefs that our family has.
I have watched her in the last year of elementary, where things were taught in quite a different way than they had been before. She would come home believing wholeheartedly in whatever the teacher at school told her. And each time I would remind her of all the previous conversations we’ve had about why that may not be exactly right, why what she was being told was more a matter of opinion (and personal values/beliefs) than truth, and rather than blindly take the teacher’s word, it was her responsibility to come up with her own thoughts and opinions on the matter. I would (and do) of course share my own with her if she wants to hear them, but I always frame them in a way that makes it clear that it is what I believe personally and she may not necessarily agree with me (and she’s not expected to believe what I do).
This year in her traditional school program, she has had the courage to ask her math teacher what she would need a particular concept for in her every day life. And her teacher, to be honest, gave her a lacklustre answer. When she came home and told me of the conversation that unfolded and how the answer wasn’t satisfactory to her, I told her that she probably wasn’t going to use it in everyday life unless she was doing equations for fun in her spare time. However, she may need it for future math courses depending on what field she wanted to get in to. This answer was so much more acceptable to her.
Honesty goes a long way with kids, especially those in the preteen age who are forming some very important opinions about the world they live in.
Today, while K-girl was working on some homework (about the Europeans and Aboriginals), she said to me, “I hate it how teachers always take the side of the Europeans. They say you can’t judge them because they didn’t know any better.” To which we had this wonderful conversation about how yes it was a different time and place and there certainly were different values, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t judge their actions as wrong.
She has questioned the motives of advertising and the way media portrays girls (and yes, I’ll admit that I am constantly bringing up conversations with her about these very things). She has also questioned the decisions some of her friends have made, because she just feels they aren’t right and she’s not the kind of kid to bow to peer pressure (I hope she stays strong in that respect). I think it’s helpful that she sees Sean and I questioning each other. Not as a way to debate or bicker or illicit a strong reaction, but as a way to gain more understanding and perspective before making up our own minds. We exchange ideas and opinions and we ask our children about their thoughts on many many things because we value the input from each other.
And when I hear her question or seeking clarification or understanding… My heart swells because I am proud of this knowledge seeking individual she is. And I know how lucky I am to see this process and be a small part of it.