Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Wood Between the Worlds

In Dumbing Us Down, John Taylor Gatto writes:
One thing I do know though: most of us who've had a taste of loving families, even a little taste, want our kids to be part of one. One other thing I know, is that eventually you have to come to be a part of a place, part of its hills and streets and waters and people -- or you will live a very, very sorry life as an exile forever. Discovering meaning for yourself, as well as discovering satisfying purpose for yourself, is a big part of education is. How this can be done by locking children away from the world is beyond me.
Some people think homeschoolers are depriving their children by locking them away from the "real world." They would probably agree with Gatto's statement if they didn't know its context. Homeschool families find this a very strange and incomprehensible point of view. In fact, we tend to think exactly the opposite -- as Gatto is actually asserting, that it is institutional schooling which locks children away from the world.

What is really at odds is not so much the definition of schooling, but the definition of home. Home in our modern society has been deconstructed into little more than a way-station, a place to sleep and eat (and not always even to eat!) and watch TV and store your stuff before you go out into the real world and live your real life. Home is a Wood between the Worlds:

"No, I don't believe this Wood is a world at all. I think it's just sort of an in-between place."
Polly looked puzzled
"Don't you see?" said Digory. "No, do listen. Think of our tunnel under the slates at home. It isn't a room in any of the houses. In a way it isn't part of any of the houses. But once you're in the tunnel, you can go along it and come out in any of the houses along the row. Mightn't this wood be the same? -- a place that isn't in any of the worlds, but once you've found that place you can get into them all. "
"Well, even if you can --" began Polly, but Digory went on as if he hadn't heard her.
"And of course that explains everything,' he said. "That is why it is so quiet and sleepy here. Nothing ever happens here."
---C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew

Nothing ever happens at home.
How can children grow up if they are trapped in such a nowhere place all day every day?

One of the essential elements of homeschooling, as a movement, as a philosophy, is the reconstruction of home and family life, of home as the hub, home as the place where the most significant interactions take place, home as the place around which the activities of life revolve. I have yet to meet a homeschooler, fundamentalist, atheist, or other, who doesn't seem to have at heart a profound concern for the restoration of genuine family and community life.

It isn't in any of the worlds, but once you've found that place, you can get into them all. After all, isn't a Wood-between-the-Worlds exactly the right place for children with magic rings?


Dana said...

Excellent post! I like the quote from Gatto...it reminds me of the book I'm reading. It really has nothing to do with homeschooling (Last Child in the Woods), but it is evident that the increasing demands of public school are detrimental to children. And often in exactly the areas that these demands are meant to help.

Heather_in_WI said...

Great post! I love Gatto and like how you fleshed it out.

Lori said...

This is wonderful!! Now I have a response for my best friend when she tells me my kids aren't in the "real world." Lovely job!

Sherry said...

What a wonderful analogy, bringing in the Lewis quote like that.

Amy Grant said...

I love this post! WoW! Thank you so much for sharing it!

Marcy Muser said...

Rebecca, what a great post! I think you have excellent insight into some of the reason why so many around us have difficulty understanding homeschooling. That might also explain why the socialization issue is such a big deal to those around us who don't homeschool. After all, if home is just a stopping-off point, how can our kids ever learn to get along with the outside world?

I've linked to your post on my blog:


Thanks again for the thoughts.

Rebecca said...

Thanks everyone for your comments!
Doing the wrong thing harder and longer doesn't make it work better, does it?
Yes, that is the point I was hoping to make exactly!