Sometimes I wonder what kind of spam sandwich we are making of our culture. On the one hand so many people say “Oh they grow up too fast these days,” while on the other side we are told that childhood – basically gross immaturity – is lasting well into what should be adulthood. So which is it? Or is it some kind of paradoxical cognitive cultural dissonance?
While industry bosses are insisting on immigration to fill their work vacancies saying the home grown young adults are incapable of working hard, there are those who look with horror at the idea of children learning domestic duties and taking on any responsibility.
Dr Ray Guarendi has commented on this a few times. He, quite rightly, points out that historically there were never “tweens” or “teens”. There were children and then there were adults and adulthood began around age 12 when the boys went out to work and the girls learned to budget and work the home industries. In wealthier families where inheritance protection was important the young adults could be married by the time they were 13. (In the film Master and Commander a boy apparently in his early teens who had already lost his arm in battle was put in charge as an officer).
My beloved St. Bridget of Sweden was married around the age of 13 or 14 to Ulf who was 18. It is also recorded that Prince Llewellyn the Great of Wales won his first victory leading and army to battle when he was 14.
While in normal life most people didn’t marry or lead armies until they were in their early twenties, they still worked alongside their parents and other family members and were quite capable of doing so.
One of the massive advantages of home education is that children grow up learning to take part in the family organically. They take part in the housework with everyone chipping in together. They help with the shopping and learn to budget and how to shop sensibly from being around the normal life of the family. They learn to plan meals, to cook properly and to take care of themselves and each other.
Dr. Montessori put practical life skills into her curriculum. She designed objects that were child sized so that children could learn right from the beginning how to dress themselves and take care of their personal hygiene. Now, at home we don’t need the dressing frames as the children learn to dress themselves in the everyday business of getting dressed. They had a step stool for the sink rather than a sink at their height but they learn to wash and clean their teeth just as well with a step as a low sink.
The older children learn the importance of service in love when they help younger siblings and other younger children with activities.
Montessori designed her curriculum for mixed age classes to encourage this care for one another. In just about every home education/homeschool group I have ever seen or heard of there is a great mix of ages. The older children learn to share and be patient with younger ones and the younger ones find role models and support in the older ones – while mums and dads and even the occasional grandma who are home edding can support one another.
In the home children soon learn to prepare food. They learn pouring, cutting, measuring as they go along. I have bought the Montessori pouring jugs because the design is very good and they pour accurately and easily.
Ronan is using the big kitchen knife now. He started with a small sharp knife and has graduated to my 6″ kitchen knife. He is just beginning to learn the rocking motion for quick accurate chopping.
Ronan is nearly 10 and he often gets lunch together for himself and his younger sisters. If he decides to cook something, he is quite capable of doing so well and safely.
My older children that I home educated can both cook very well and without problems for large numbers. My daughter did most of the cooking for the Church’s Christmas party last year, so she was preparing food for nearly 50 people.
My oldest is still struggling with the cooking side of things. But he didn’t get the time to learn at home. He was in school all day and had hours of home work most nights. This eats into family time and actively prevents children and young adults learning life and practical skills. It also, it seems to me, eats into the importance of reading time. Schooled children do not have time to read – which seems to me to be a damaging problem.
Sending adults out into the world with no life skills is not good. The reason so many get into debt, can’t eat properly and can’t get a job done properly, particularly in the service industries is they’ve never had to before. So many complain that their children either can’t get work or can’t keep it when they have it. My son Alex has been working in the service industry since he was 16. He has many a tale to tell about employees (who don’t last long) who don’t know how to sweep a floor or add up well enough to give change to customers.
Trying to convince our children and adults, in the face of the massive evidence, that they don’t need to think of doing anything as menial as sweeping a floor or washing cups, is failing them. Even those who are academically inclined must find some way of funding themselves and if they can’t turn up to work on time or work hard then what kind of academic work will they be suitable for?