Sunday, December 20, 2009

let us live with our children

Friedrich Froebel's first emphasis was on preparing young mothers in their roles of providing the foundation of their children's education. When he said "let us live with our children," he was not suggesting that we honor their every whim, but that we bring them into our lives, and that we take time to enter theirs through play. There are special things that a mother does with her children, and there are special things that a father can do as well.

A friend of mine, Frederick Peace tells the story of letting his five year old change the oil in his car. A friend of his was shocked. "How can you let a 5 year old kid do that?" "Why not?" Frederick answered, "he's watched me do it often enough." And there you have an important lesson on education in a nutshell.

One of the attendees of my webinar asked a question about homeschooling that I know I failed to answer adequately. Home is truly the first school and by all reckoning the most important one, regardless of whether a child ever goes to a private or public school at a later time. In the home, the child develops his or her attitudes about learning, and answers important questions about self: "Am I important?" "Am I valued?" "Am I responsible?" "Am I one who contributes to the well-being of others?" "Am I smart?" "Can I be trusted?" These are questions a child has most likely answered for himself long before the first day of school, by being given responsibilities in and around the home.

And so what happens within a child when he or she is trusted and expected to participate in things important to daily life? Cook, clean, plant, harvest, make, fix, build, sew, make music, make noise, get messy, play, have fun. If the use of the hands makes us smart, home is where it begins. Regardless of what happens in schools, what happens in homes through the guiding hands of parents and grandparents is of the greatest importance. Fathers and grandfathers in particular have an important role to play in all this.


  1. I was hanging out with my dad and my uncle in the shop before my earliest memories. I was given a rocket for christmas at the age of 5, which I assembled with minimal help from my dad, because it was mine. And, at seven I built my first jewelry box to give to my older sister for christmas. I have spent my entire life in the shop and it is the most important thing that I do. I can truthfully tell people that I have been a woodworker for 18 years because I was trusted to work with wood when I was 7 years old. I truly appreciate the time you take to write this blog, and the time that you take to give your students the ability to use their hands.
    Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

  2. Nathan, thanks for taking the time to comment. Like you, I was lucky to be encouraged by my dad. And we are very lucky to find pleasure in what we do.

    Does your sister still have the jewelry box you made for her? I would love to see it.


  3. Anonymous12:33 PM

    Today's post really hit home Doug. I too thank you for your insight. You have helped change my focus as well with your thoughtful daily posting. Intelligent discussion of the highest level.

    Scrap Wood

  4. Too often we think that if our kids are busy and occupied that we have done what is necessary for them.

    Also, it takes longer for a child to do what adults do, and it is hard for a child to match adult standards, so it takes a great deal of parental confidence and patience to allow a child to do something herself. This doesn't mean he or she is left alone.

    Doing things with your child is a tremendous pleasure and opportunity. There is a Zen poem that applies.

    Inch, time
    Foot, gem.
    Each moment is a precious flower
    That will not bloom again.

  5. Excellent post and I couldn't agree more about the education of a child should start in the home. Working with at-risk kids I realize what a monumental task that getting kids involved with their parents can be in a modern culture of broken homes and absentee parents.

    This is especially true with black kids where approximately 50 to 70% (depending on source)don't have a father in their lives. That statistic is both disturbing and an American tragedy. Kids living in single parent homes have also reached heights never before seen in history. While kids can survive and thrive in a single parent home, that situation is certainly not "ideal" nor in the best interest of the child.

    Perhaps a place to begin is to start crafting social policy that encourages personal responsibility. Since the 1960's America has been gradually creating a culture of dependency and it's getting worse. Sadly I feel that it will not get better because the solutions to these complex problems are painful. Politicians can't get elected when they are promising "painful" solutions that are based on responsible social policy.

    Meantime we can continue to change the world one child at a time no matter how impossible it seems.

  6. Dave, I was a social worker before I became a woodworker. Social work was very depressing, watching the endless cycle of poverty and knowing that my job wasn't to make change, but to help keep the lid on.

    Working with kids in the wood shop, we all get to make stuff and it is immensely rewarding on all levels. So even if we are only changing one child's life at a time, the effects are profound.

  7. Anonymous7:31 AM

    Well said by Nathan, Scrap Wood and Dave. I tried to be there for my boys when they needed me, but also to let them learn things on their own. And I'll add my thanks to you for doing this blog.