Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Vocational Approach to Home Schooling

[Author's Note: Not my illustration. The grammar in it fits the topic perfectly, though]

My two sons call themselves Unorganized Hancock. 

They're a testament to what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. Unorganized Hancock is the most organized band in Maine. They're able to play a real job -- an adult person job -- and do it with aplomb. They are/were homeschooled. The big one graduated from high school last year. He's continuing his education in the same manner post-high school. The little one is eleven.

I don't like the word homeschooled. No one asked me, so my opinion on the term doesn't count, along with my opinion on everything else. Homeschooling denotes some alternate version of an education. What we do is an alternative approach to education. That is not the same thing. If you ask me, public school is where you get an alternate version of an education. If you're interested in a real one, you better look elsewhere.

Our children's music education is entirely vocational. It's not that there are no artistic elements to learning music, but these elements are secondary to our efforts. The kids are as well-versed in music history and the creative artistic elements of music as any five regular students, each, but honestly, creativity can't be taught. Anyone that says they can teach creativity is claiming the equivalent of teaching you to be taller. You might get taller, and they might take credit for it, but that's about it.

A vocational approach to education was always considered inferior when I was younger, and past stupid now. It was where you were banished if you were cursed forever to be useful to other humans, instead of the entre to the world of lording it over other people that college represented. It's kind of funny, but if you go to medical school at an Ivy League college you have more in common with someone that attends a stripmall card-table welding school on nights and weekends than with other college students. Neither of you have much to do with anyone that goes to college to "learn to be creative."

My wife teaches our young son every day. I have little or nothing to do with it. I have little to do with their music education, too, because they are a watch that needs winding, not a watch that needs building. But I will claim one thing: I told them they had to be useful to other humans -- first, last, and always.

Almost all students who learn music in regular school have no desire to entertain anyone but themselves. The audience is an abstraction; or more likely, it is assembled from people who can't get out of it. The audience is there in order to amuse the people on the stage -- or more to the point, to amuse and enrich the teachers. All musicians produced by the puppy mills they call public schools assume that an audience will be provided for them, not that they're supposed to attract and then entertain one. The only other type of approach I see confines itself to contests. A music contest is too weird for words. That's going from not bothering to entertain an audience to not inviting them in the first place. It's a closed museum full of half-finished paintings.

If I taught my sons anything, I taught them this:

Organize. Prepare. Be Punctual. Be helpful. Know your role. Remember why you're on stage. Remember that you face the other way now, and embrace the difference.

It's not that strange that our boys are able to perform in front of a live audience, for a full three hours if necessary, and entertain the people in front of them. That's what a vocational approach to education produces. But don't get me wrong; we don't reserve the vocational approach to learning to this one subject. My wife teaches them everything the same way. They are taught to write in order to produce useful text. We haven't mistaken handing our children an Apple anything for "technology." Our children can fix a computer and write computer programs, not just stare blankly at one. It is our desire that they will be useful to others at everything. History class is to know history, not opinions. Spelling class is, well, it's the only spelling class left on planet Earth, so I can assure you it's the finest approach to spelling there is.

Our vocational approach to learning everything does present one problem for which which I have not yet figured out a suitable answer. The world doesn't seem to require useful people for anything I can observe anymore. I'm the most useful person in the world, so I oughta know.


Leslie said...

We are big on spelling and other useful skills. My "school" also requires the kids to find an art and a sport, and get good at it. Out of 4, not one has excelled at the same thing. The extra curricular has done as much for their usefulness, as the rest. I never stop marveling at how real my children are, in such a fake, plastic world. I think the word is civilized. Your boys are a treasure.

Thud said...

It's a brave course you embarked upon,I am more than impressed with the results and a little overwhelmed by my failings .

leelu said...

I got some of that back in Catholic School in the 50s and 60s. Somehow, my daughter picked it up, too. I teach computer skills, she's a attorney building her practice from the ground up.

Beware, though. With your attitude, you will be one of the first "invited" to the new Fun Camps.

Sam L. said...

You don't need to worry about "nobody asked my opinion"; it's your blog and we willingly come here to see what you have to say. Else'n we'd go away, never to trip your site meter, assuming you care enough to have one, and I 'spect you don't.

"I have little to do with their music education, too, because they are a watch that needs winding,..."
Other than having taught them to be self-winding, which is an excellent lesson to have learned. Some day, you'll be even more proud of them than you don't admit today. Though you'll give all the credit to Mrs. Sippi.