"A classical education (in the early years) assumes that knowledge of the world past and present takes priority over self expression. Intensive study of facts equips the student for fluent and articulate self expression later on. Too close a focus on self-expression at an early age can actually cripple a child later on; a student who has always been encouraged to look inside himself may not develop a frame of reference, a sense of how his ideas measure up against the thoughts and beliefs of others."
I came across this portion of The Well Trained Mind by Jessi and Susan Wise Bauer. As soon as I read the words, particularly those at the end of the quote, I thought of all the bad American Idol auditions I've seen. The one question I can't help but ask the TV screen out loud when I watch any of the episodes: "How can so many grown people still believe they are good singers?" I am even more amazed when the worst singers walk away without a ticket to Hollywood cursing the judges as idiots... or worse. If you listen closely to their rants, you'll notice some of them honestly think that if they just believe in themselves enough, everyone else will be convinced of their talent, however gradually. Obviously, their education and experiences have not equipped them with a reliable "frame of reference."
When I was young, I had aspirations of being a music phenom like every other twelve year old girl who sings into a hair brush with her best friends at sleep overs. But, eventually, I had to come to grips with my talent or lack thereof. Luckily, I was somehow equipped along the way with a combination of good sense and humility enough to know that other people's opinions really do count, sometimes. Maybe this is because incorrect answers on my failing tests in school were actually marked wrong... and with red ink. Gasp! I guess I also had genuine, loving friends or teachers who told me the truth (or gently hinted at it along the way), so when I didn't make the choir my junior year of public high school, I didn't walk away from the tryouts mumbling "What an idiot" the director was. I took that rejection as a sign that I should pour myself into other endeavors.
I want my daughter to have the grit to pursue her dreams and develop potential, even in the face of opposition, but I also want her to live well-grounded in reality. My husband and I believe homeschooling can give her the education and experiences that will best prepare her for the real world. Being taught outside the system and growing up apart from the masses of also-ignorant peers allows students to develop unique points of view and when necessary, hold opinions other than those in the majority. But, at the same time, I've seen that the opposite can be true.
Homeschooling families, secular and religious alike, can simply dismiss any outside opinion, no matter how widely held or how valid. Parents can so censure the influences and information they present to their children that they virtually reinvent the world. These habits aren't limited to home educators alone, even our professional counterparts are tempted, encouraged or even threatened at times to avoid certain subjects and strategies in their classrooms. But, I don't want Norah to grow up in a fantastic reality that she creates for herself or worse yet, a false reality that exists only in our home, one that I have simply manufactured for her. In teaching our kids at home, we are free to use every worthy resource, every valid opinion, any method that works to help our children create the most balanced, sturdy "frame of reference" with which they will reach their fullest potential. So, let's do that.