Rethinking the Chopping Block

Once upon a time there was a young girl.  She was hanging out with her dad in the kitchen as he prepared a Sunday ham.  She watched as her dad took the ham out of its packaging, chopped off each end of the ham, prepared and seasoned it, laid it in the roasting pan, and put it into the oven. 

“Dad?  Why do you cut off the ends of the ham?” the girl questioned.

“Well, that’s the way grandma taught me to do it.”

“But why?”

The dad wasn’t sure, so they called up grandma.  Grandma said she cut off the ends of the ham because that’s what her mother taught her.  So, they called great grandma, who finally had the explanation.

“Well, the pan I had growing up was too small and most of our large family hams wouldn’t fit inside, so I had to chop off the ends to make it fit.”

How often do we mindlessly repeat patterns, behaviors, choices simply because it’s what we’ve known?  The worst consequence of the above story is a few lost dollars and food wasted from all that ham that was being cut off and thrown away for no reason.  But, when we’re talking about human choices that we repeat simply for the sake of repeating, the consequences are much bigger.

I love the title of this month’s bloghop for Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page.  It is simply titled:  Educational Options.  And frankly, that says it all.  We have choices in regard to education.  Simply following the mainstream path of education because “it’s what we’ve always done” is unhelpful and the consequences can be great.  We may not be physically chopping off the ends of a ham for no reason, but we may be metaphorically cutting down our children to fit them into the educational pot.  And when we’ve got square-peg kids, fitting them into the round holes of any educational system can have severe consequences.

I don’t know your child.  I don’t know your family.  I have no idea what the right educational option is for you.  But, I do know that there are options.  There are always options.  And I do know that the option which fits one child is not necessarily going to fit a second child, even if they share genetic material.

About 8 years ago we decided to homeschool.  Our oldest child was 3 and, while he would have most likely done fine in a traditional school setting, his curious mind would not have thrived and his perfectionist, people-pleasing would have excelled.  Not quite what we had in mind for him.  This has been the absolute best decision we’ve made.  We love having the homeschool lifestyle.  It fits our oldest son perfectly.  He can explore topics he’s interested in, be creative, be thoughtful, follow the rabbit holes of his curious questions, all without worrying about a grade or a test.  He gets to learn for learning’s sake.

About 2 years ago we were also homeschooling our daughter.  She has twice exceptionality (well, more like quadruple exceptionality), and so we thought the freedom to go at her pace in all different areas would be a good fit for her, as well.  We were so wrong!  She needs strict structure.  She thrives on knowing exactly what is coming next.  She would easily get frustrated as her disabilities would interfere with her learning and, with mom as the teacher, she let the frustration fly.  Days were filled with explosions and frustrations and tears and very little learning.  So, we decided to enroll her in our neighborhood school.  Could not have been a better choice.  She gets to be challenged in her learning by people who care about her, but with whom she won’t show all of her true messy colors.  She gets very clear structure without interruptions from her younger brother.  She is learning.

Time will tell what the best option for our youngest will be.  We’re starting with homeschooling, but we’ll see.  And time will tell if our other 2 children stay in their current education plan.  Maybe things will change.  Maybe there will be a better fit for one or both of them.  The idea isn’t that we have all the answers or that there’s one right choice.  The idea is that there is choice.

I encourage you to consider all the options.  Truthfully, our differently wired kiddos rarely thrive on the typical path.  They necessarily require a more thoughtful, unique approach to life in general, let alone education in specific.  Sometimes that looks like a public school with accommodations.  Sometimes that’s homeschooling.  Sometimes it’s a charter school or a private school.  Sometimes it’s college courses.  Sometimes it’s a library card or an internship or a computer with decent internet connection. 

Be willing to think outside of the box.  Be willing to try new conceptualizations of education.  Be willing to see solutions instead of obstacles to get your child the type of education they most need.  Be willing to advocate, research, discern, and act.  Be willing to question the status quo.  Be willing to reflect on why we’re rounding the edges of our children to make them fit into round holes and be willing to stop chopping off the ends of the ham for no reason whatsoever.

This post is a part of Hoagies' Gifted BlogHop.  Check out the other great articles about Educational Options here.