structuring an eleven year old (just turned 12 year old’s) academic education

Promise me you’ll always remember:

You’re braver than you believe,

and stronger than you seem,

and smarter than you think“.

Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

It’s a quote I’ve shared with my eleven year old many times. Curiously, she’s adept at whatever she puts her hand (or voice) to, but she doesn’t always believe so.

It’s her twelfth birthday today. Happy Birthday my Madelyn!

Madelyn December 2014 184

Who is she?

1. She’s entertainingShe spends her extra time these days learning card tricks. But she also enjoys her cursive practice joke book. Her mind is filled with good jokes. And though she doesn’t understand every word, she uses big ones in dry humour and uses them correctly.

2. She’s logical. “Bang! I can’t cook something out of nothing!” This is her statement comparing her activity in the kitchen with the Big Bang Theory (not the show, the theory).

3. She’s funny. Out of nowhere, she’s singing, “Eat your cousin”, a rap by a white pre-teen. She’s got a word that puts us in stitches: “joni”. Yeah, I know. What does that mean? I have no idea. But she inserts it at just the right time and it strikes us as funny. She’s that kid. But if you meet her, you wouldn’t think so. You’d think she was the shy kid.

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4. She’s helpful. She’s the first one awake, and usually has her morning routine complete before I wake, which allows for her to be the go-to girl if I’m in need of help each morning.

5. She’s thankful. She uploaded her iPod pics to my computer and I found this:

Dear God, I just want to take a minute not to ask you for anything but to simply thank you for all that I have“.

Yup, she’s that kid. The one that is a role model to her mommy. Thankful, almost always kind, and happy.

Madelyn December 2014 104

6. She’s neat, strives on organization and perfection. Her cursive is pretty, her room is tidy, she grades herself with A+ or A- (I don’t grade) and she wants tests. She likes to please, so she likes to get stuff done correctly the first time.

So you might not be surprised that academically, she could excel in a schooled setting. She performs, not wanting to disappoint. Her only downfall is her penchant for perfection. She’ll eagerly encourage her sister if she’s made a few mistakes, but be frustrated herself that she’s missed that one question. Tripping on her worry, she thinks she might not be able to outperform herself the next time.

If the purpose of learning is to score well on a test,

we’ve lost sight of the real reason for learning“.

Jeannie Fulbright

Then, why you ask, would she not enter the system? I could take off in essay format for a dozen reasons, but I’ll focus on one.

What is a real education?

Is it learning information to regurgitate it in two weeks for an exam that contributes to a letter grade that contributes to a grade level that contributes to an overall GPA, which contributes to an entrance to the best post-secondary institution which contributes to a job deemed by society as important that contributes to a wealthy income, two cars and two kids, which leads to vacations and beautiful home and letters after her name and a retirement fund to snowbird for the winter?

I recall something my uncle asked as we were driving by a cemetery. “How many people are dead in there?” We tried to quickly scan the horizontal and vertical rows to give an approximate answer, and guesstimated. His self-entertaining response: “All of them”.

Since this life doesn’t go on and on, with its bracingly finite end, shouldn’t we strive to live it? Like really live it. Find out why we were placed here, pursue those interests and curiousities, because maybe that is the particular reason we were placed here at this time in the history of the world?

Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist: it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges: it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.” John Taylor Gatto

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

How do you define an education?

Next week, I’ll share the present details of her academic education.

2 thoughts on “structuring an eleven year old (just turned 12 year old’s) academic education

  1. Enjoying reading this. My youngest daughter just turned 12. She too would excel in a school setting, but we also aspire to something that transcends school success, to an education that is as unique as she is. Twelve is such a startling, interesting, wonderful age.

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