Have you ever eaten an Italian meal?
I don’t mean Italian food like the kind you get from your favorite eatery; I definitely don’t mean ordering the Tour of Italy from the local Olive Garden (which is so far removed from real Italian food that I hesitate to even mention it in this post). No, no…a proper, sit-down meal made in the old country-style, served to a delighted and adoring crowd. A never-boring occasion. An event.
When we ate on my trip to Italy, we enjoyed multiple courses, a bite from here and a bite from there and drawn out over hours. My friend K came back from her study abroad session in Corciano bearing a hand still recovering from the chocolate frenzy in Perugia, recipes, cooking styles, and a wealth of Umbrian food knowledge. Everything she made was created from simple ingredients, fresh as can be and of highest quality, served artfully and, most importantly, savored.
There is no finer meal on the planet than one served in Italy…and they don’t mind telling you. It’s okay. The confidence is earned.
In deciding to educate at home instead of in a formal institution, we have spent a lot of time studying the current American model and brother, we are totally hosed. In a rather typically American fashion, we are choosing to glut ourselves at the buffet of fact-drilling in order to vomit those facts into the basin of standardized testing. Our kids are educational bulimics; absorbing a bit of nutrient here and then expelling it in a rush in order to pass to the next level of acceptance. “Do well on this exam, this course, get this degree, start that degree, and it will all be okay. You’ll be loved, you’ll succeed. It will all work out.” Except when it doesn’t.
Few calories are retained, the systemic damage compounds every year, and we still don’t have an answer to Bush’s question: “Is our children learning?” (Raise a hand if you still have a bump on your forehead from hitting yourself in the head when you first heard that question.) No, I don’t believe that they are.
Some are; some always will. But the majority are not really learning, and the real crime is that they don’t care as long as they can stuff themselves, get through the next portion, and forget that they ever had to glut themselves at all. There’s no zest and no passion; just as there is no American food culture and we are killing ourselves with meaningless empty calories, so too are our children suffering an early death of the soul from a bankrupt educational climate. In a society where I just read “Get Live Updates About The Royal Wedding!” in a banner above a news article about the political turmoil in Egypt, we can hardly blame the kids for becoming the empty-yet-bloated products of their culture.
So…back to the food. Our goal is to keep Maggie’s curiosity and passion alive and her desire to learn fully intact. By homeschooling, we can prepare her educational feast ourselves. We know what’s going into it; she can help us as we prepare it. Educating a child SHOULD be just like a good Italian meal: hours of sampling delectable courses, created with the finest ingredients, consumed in the company of those invested in your enjoyment and well-being. If something doesn’t work, we’ll find a different way to serve it. If more time is required to acquire a taste for something, she can have it. If we want to make a cheese plate and spend the day comparing regional specialties while the rest of the world goes through yet another drilling of the times tables, we can do that. Oh, she’ll learn the times tables too; but she’ll learn it on her own time and in between courses of whatever else life has to offer.
This is not a proclamation; I don’t want to say “We will NEVER send our kids to school!!! #^(*#(%@^%@~!!!!” It’s just a goal as we start moving in to toddler years and thinking about things like preschools and classes and activities. I know close to a dozen adults who were at least partially homeschooled, and the ones I’ve asked agree that the internet has made it infinitely easier to take on a project like this. It is nothing to find plans, materials, and last but definitely not least: local homeschooling cooperatives and groups with other kids her age doing the same things at home. Most encouraging is the fact that all of those adults are social, happy and normal people and most would do it the same way again if given the choice. If homeschooling stops working for us, we’ll adjust accordingly and send her off with the knowledge we’ve prepared her as best we can, but faced with a row of American buffet tables and a proper Italian feast, what would you pick? We’re thinking she’ll go for the latter.
And now I’m really, really hungry. We better have some mozzarella in the fridge.