October 12, 2009

Paideia Proposal

Paideia schooling was once of great interest to me. In fact, I spent a year working in a Piadeia school when I was in university and found it to be an amazingly wonderful and enriching academic environment. So on my whirlwind review of different educational philosophies, I had to make a stop in at the National Paideia Center's website to refresh my memory on the nitty gritty of this approach to learning. I was a little surprised by what I found.

When I think back to my time in the Paideia school in Tennessee, the thing that sticks out in my mind the most is the idea that every person the child comes in contact with during the course of the day has influence in the child's learning experience. Therefore, the custodian and the cafeteria lady were to be involved in school planning meetings that were strictly focused on learning proposals. This, to me, was awesome! Not only did it give a feeling of respect to the least appreciated and hardest working members of the school staff, but it inspired those individuals to take an active role in the students' schooling. Our custodian knew every child's name and enough about them to ask a relevant questions when he saw them in the hall. "Hey, Lebron! How's that math test turn out?" It was great. Not sure that it relates at all to home schooling, but that feeling that I took away from the experience was enough to draw me back in for a second look.

The second thing that I recall is the concept of "every child gets everything." This means that if the fifth graders get Spanish and computer lab time so, too, do the kindergartners. If any child gets it, every child gets it. I wasn't sure that it was always necessary, but it supported a feeling among the students that the teachers cared about fairness (which, if you've ever been around an elementary school, you know is of the utmost importance). That's a concept that I can definitely use at home.

So, when I popped over on the web to refresh my memory on all of the other fabulous things I was sure to have forgotten about the Paideia Proposal, I was sorely disappointed. It is presented as less of a learning philosophy and more of a teaching manual, outlining rubrics for assessment and "products" to be utilized in the instructional portion of the three column approach. All was very clinical. A far cry from the warm and fuzzy Montessori and Waldorf I have been studying in recent weeks. There was no mention of the two aspects that had been branded in my memory of the fabulous Murfreesboro Paideia school.

I am aware, however, that having a way to quantify improvement and assess a student's progress is of great value. The boring paper work sort of tasks don't make for great schooling memories, but they do help when you're reporting back to the state. So I hung out on the site a little longer than my warm and fuzzy loving heart wanted to. There are some nice, highly quantified, ideas about structuring your teaching time and what styles of delivery should be used for what percentage of teaching time. There is information on which styles of assessment the Paideia Group deems appropriate for which types of content.

Being that I feel quite comfortable and natural in the position of teacher, I find the more cut and dry, "this is the right way to teach children" thing a bit much. There is no "right" way to teach all children. But I meet families all the time who are perhaps new to home schooling or just a little insecure in their roles for whom this type of information may serve as a guide or scaffolding for their home schooling venture. After all, how often is the homeschooling parent faced down with the question of whether or not they have the skills or authority to be able to effectively teach their own children without a teaching license? Uh...weekly? I don't quite fear that question because I can simply answer, "I am a licensed teacher." But as a licensed teacher, I feel quite strongly that almost anyone can teach their children with great success. No license required. And for that brave parent who makes the difficult decision to take the lead in their child's learning with no background in the area of education, this very black and white approach to teaching could help form a foundation from which they may deviate as they feel more confident in their role and parent/educator.

So, perhaps it's worth a look. I pride myself on running a highly academic outfit over here, but the whole child must be considered. My gut says that the Paideia principal would be most effective when coupled with one of the more nurturing schools of education out there. But if you've got the nurture thing down pat and it's the academics that you need help with, this may be for you! If clear cut instructional guidance is what you seek, you're in the right place!

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