As the above photo will attest, our 30-something pound Terrier mix is completely at home crossing an 8-inch wide “bridge“ over a creek. Would the three-foot drop bother him were he to lose his footing? We will never know. Langley walks across those boards like he was born there. He is also completely comfortable on the six-foot steep drop through the mud on either side of the makeshift crossing, scampering and bounding. He is in his element on the wooded path, running back-and-forth to ensure that his two-legged companions don’t fall too far behind. He is aware of every aspect of our surroundings—evil squirrels, where to walk, what every noise represents.
Whereas were I to take Langley to my lifetime-fitness-through-circus-acrobatics course, he would not enjoy the trampoline, would be at a significant disadvantage learning to juggle. And don’t even ask about his ability to learn to ride a unicycle. Indeed, there is a significant likelihood that he would misbehave, act out, develop concomitant behavioral issues. My gentle canine companion might even bark out of turn or snarl. My dog could easily be classified as learning disabled, maybe even labeled oppositional and defiant. “Langley chooses not to give his best effort” his acrobatics teacher might write on the progress report. Langley would do much better if he would do his homework. Sometimes it seems like he just doesn’t care about the curriculum at all.
Langley has mad skills—sit, stay, come, heel. Langley can help me find my way out of the woods at night when I get turned around. His knowledge of all thing outdoors is prodigious. Rope climbing not so much.
I suggest there is a four-legged analogy here for some children in some school settings. Some kids don’t perform—some kids just don’t learn in traditional classrooms. Maybe these kids could do better in another venue.
We’re not halfway through this essay and already a significant imperfection in my argument is apparent: your child is not a dog. Homo sapiens and Canis familiaris split lineages from a common ancestor tens of millions of years ago Thursday last. Your child can bounce on a trampoline, learn to read. Your child would not necessarily be better off romping in the mud by the creek. Your child has to be in school.
But I keep hearing the same pandemic-infused story from parents of elementary school students: Sitting still was a nightmare for our son. Worksheets, class work, standardized testing were all problems. Now that our son has been home every day, he is progressing three times as fast. He suffered with arithmetic, reading, spelling. Now that he’s out of the classroom, all of a sudden, he loves learning. It’s a joy. He runs around the house carrying his book with him reading hour after hour. He has learned more in the three months we’ve been quarantined than he did in the previous two years in the classroom.
Traditional sit down, shut up, learn this how I say, when I say, instruction is a recent paradigm. Generations of people learned everything they needed to survive by hanging out with their parents. The right environment was necessary and available. Langley does better in the woods than on a trapeze. If your kids are learning more by being home, let’s embrace the opportunity for them to thrive. In the proper setting. Surrounded by loving supportive parents. Where they belong.