Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What If I'm Wrong?

How many among us suffer personal criticism without plugging our ears, closing our eyes, putting our hands up, or taking other *defensive* measures - that is if we don't flee the scene altogether?

My guru Will Durant touched upon this when he posited, "Nothing is more unpopular to say than the truth."

Yet in much of the homeschooling literature I have been reading, I've had to bear substantial, direct criticism of some of my methodologies - from people whose opinions I've grown to respect a great deal.

Many in the homeschooling world insist:

  • Not to correct or criticize children.
  • Not to use *incentives* EVER.
  • Not to spank/hit the misbehaving brats.
  • Not to force or EVEN SUGGEST curricula.

I do ALL of the above.

I yell at my kids all day long - for disobedience, for lackluster concentration on *seat-work*, when they fight,....

I dangle dessert, going to the park, and even larger prizes like new Knex sets for completing *their work* (i.e. Kumon books)

My kids get a pointed dose of my right hand probably several times a week.

And yes, there is an aggressive, parentally-chosen curriculum in this household at the moment.

My critics say that yelling and hitting teaches kids nothing except that *force* is a legitimate determinant of right and wrong.

They insist that rewarding educational goals achieved will keep my kids from ever truly valuing learning in and of itself; that it will prevent them from becoming life-long learners, just as testing-obsessed, factory schools did to most of us.

Lucky for me, most of these critics can be neatly categorized as *extreme unschoolers*. We all know how much easier it is to discard a well-wrapped bundle!

But I'll do my best to keep an open-mind; I will remain ever-vigilant of these other theories because....

The last thing I want to do is mess up my dear children.

When I'm wrong, I hope to see the signs quickly, admit it, and change course.


Anonymous said...

One bit of advice I found very helpful was to never use my hands directly to discipline. I've found paint stirers (aka spankers in our house)very effective, and I can keep them EVERYWHERE. They are very cheep at Wal-mart, Lowes,ect.

Taylor Conant said...


Why not use a baton? Or a cattle prod? Maybe you could snipe your kids from the hallway with a paintball gun?

My question to both of you is, where is the line between discipline and abuse? Can you declare that line objectively?


This is a nice thought in this post (that you'll be open-minded enough to change your tactics when you see you're wrong) but I doubt it will be successful for a number of reasons, one of which is psychology and another of which is related to the same thing that prevents economics from being a true "science":

1.) You have a lot of ego wrapped up in what you do and are doing. How likely are you to, after spanking your children for 10 yrs, realize one day it's actually abuse and then find a way to apologize to your children for systematically abusing them for 10 yrs? Furthermore, how likely are you to accept a new trend as it develops and not write it off as some kind of statistical aberation, aka "Well that didn't work this time, but it has in the past and I think it will pay dividends in the future so I'll stick with it for now..."

2.) the sciencey part... you can not have a "control" set of your own children to test your experiment scientifically. Just as there is no way for anyone to see what would happen to an economy if X policy wasn't applied because there is not an exact replica without policy X of economy Y to compare to, you will never be able to objectively assess your child's development amongst competing alternatives. At best you can guesstimate what the other outcome might be, but you can never know absolutely. By this I mean, you can not know through your control group that isn't "persuaded" to do extra reading with promises or candy, learned X% better how to read than did the control group child that wasn't persuaded this way.

You will most likely be quite satisfied with your children no matter what you do... you will never know how much better, or worse, your child would have performed on task A with this style or that style of coaching/teaching because you can't isolate that variable.

What if you went to no discipline now? And your children stopped learning. You might think not disciplining makes the child lazy and unwilling to learn. But you ignore the fact that you've conditioned them up to that point WITH discipline.

I think the best you can do in most cases is examine it in an 'a priori' logical manner. You can logically say, with discipline for instance, "If I do discipline my kids physically, I likely AM teaching them that violence is the way to decide right and wrong" and you could also a priori logically say, "If I don't physically discipline my kids in certain situations I am teaching them that the world has no boundaries and they can behave recklessly"... but I don't think you can scientifically test this on your children (or even each child individually with a dif method) because you can't isolate the variables.

Does that make sense?

And this is not some criticism of you so don't come back at me with your ego or tell me I am not in the real world or whatever you might want to say in defense. I am just offering something else for you to consider, take it or leave it... I'm not saying do or do not do this or that.

CaptiousNut said...


You wrote:

You will most likely be quite satisfied with your children no matter what you do...

Well, right now I am not at all satified with what I'VE DONE personally in my life.

We're all self-delusional in some respects. But I am less so than most.