Thursday, July 17, 2008

Movies and Education

This isn't movie review time. Actually, I'd like to write about some things I've seen recently in movies that have made me think about education and our approach to it. So, here goes:

1. "Kung Fu Panda" If you haven't seen this yet, go see it!! It is really funny and well worth your time. And, it's not enough of a kid movie to require that an adult take an obligatory child with them. You can just go as an adult. Very few people will laugh - promise.

So, how does this silly, animated movie relate to education? The Kung Fu master in the movie is trying to decide how he is going to train this panda to be a Kung Fu practitioner. In the early training, the panda can't do a split or any of the other things he's supposed to do. But, the master comes into the kitchen one day to find that the panda has managed to get himself into a split about ten feet off the ground, all to reach some almond cookies. So, the master uses this information to devise a training program. All of the training exercises use food as an incentive. Watch the movie to see how effective it is!

What we, as home educators, can learn from this is that each person needs a different approach to education. My daughter is getting older and needs more freedom to choose what she wants to learn and how she wants to learn it. Wild Man needs more structure from me for his "education", but lots and lots of playtime (which is educational in itself).

2. "Nim's Island" Another excellent movie that you don't have to have a kid with you to see. Nim is a 10 year old girl who has been "island schooled" by her dad. They live alone on an island while he does research. She has contact with the outside world through books and the internet.

What is so striking about this character is that she is a pretty normal kid. Homeschoolers are so often told that our kids must be in a classroom with their age-mates for 8 hours a day in order to be functional, but Nim's Island is telling us just the opposite. In fact, Nim is quite self-sufficient, something many other kids would have a hard time with. The main point, though, is that she's not a complete social misfit. She can talk to people and is a normal kid.

3. "The Order of the Phoenix" There is a wealth of information about education within the Harry Potter series (particularly the books), but one thing stands out from this movie. Fred and George Weasley decide to quit school, largely because of Professor Umbridge, but also because they want to open a joke shop and don't think more school will help prepare them.

The lesson to be learned here is that there is a limit to the usefulness of formal education. The Weasley boys didn't quit learning just because they left school. In fact, they probably had a lot more learning to do, given the complications of starting a business. The point is that they took what they needed from formal education then moved on and continued learning in their own way.

As my kids get older, I'm realizing that there are more options for them than the traditional 4-year college with bachelor degree. In fact, that route may not be the best option for lots of people. We will always need people in the trades (we started having water coming through our breaker box yesterday - I promise you we need electricians in this world!). If Ga'hoole Girl chooses a food career, she can choose tech school and become a cook/chef or she can go to a college for a more broad education. Some people do well with getting a tech school degree and working for a while before they decide if they need more education. Then, there are some people who need education that you don't get in a formal setting. Setting up a retail business can be done without having a degree, although it will require lots of work and learning. My goal right now is to give my kids a broad education and the tools they need to continue to learning for the rest of their lives so they'll be successful, whatever their career.

(P.S. This last bit was partly (but not completely) inspired by this article. Read it - it's good stuff!)

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