Friday, January 25, 2013

How Starbucks is Teaching My Children

I have a twelve-year-old child, nearly thirteen.  She's recently been diagnosed with ADD and her attention deficit (or rather attention overload if you want to term it properly) is the cause of much angst.  She's smart as a whip but rarely does her homework.  As such her grades are not reflective of her intelligence.

Now I could stand over her, tap my foot and demand that she complete her projects.  I could cross my arms and huff and puff.  But, truly, that's not the person I want to be.  

I could do the work for her.  But that's not the person I want her to be.  

I could medicate her and shove a square peg into a round hole.  Somehow this doesn't seem right.    

Or I could try something different; unschooling.  And I'm seriously considering it.  You see I want my children to find, and maintain, a life-long love of learning.  And I'm worried Middle's current circumstances may be doing just the opposite.  

This is not to say the schools are failing.  In fact my other two children are thriving.  But they are natural pleasers who are ready and willing to conform to the classroom.  Middle not so much.*  

Last week my kids were out sick with the flu.  I decided to try an unschooling experiment.  We went to Starbucks.  

Middle pointed out that the Starbucks logo was a mermaid with two tails.  How many times have I stared at that sign and never, ever, noticed what it was?  We googled it.  Turns out the logo is a siren from Greek mythology. Interestingly sirens are not benign creatures. Sirens sing sweet songs to sailors until the sailors crash into the rocks and die.  Hmmm.  

Today, again, Little was out sick (there are some nasty bugs going around).  Once more we went to Starbucks (clearly lured by the sirens).  We began discussing the origin of "venti", which is Italian for twenty, thus a 20 ounce drink.  And we discussed Italy in general and how Italians love their coffees (especially espressos and cappuccinos).  

"So," Little says, "Starbucks is an Italian place with a Greek symbol."  Little is nine.  She remembered last week's conversation. And, like her sister, she clearly has a brain.  

Little ordered a frappuccino (her tummy hurt -- how could I deny her?).  Then she asked the origin of the word frappuccino.  Good question.  I did not know the answer but thought that frappe had something to do with being whipped.  Once again we googled it. 

Frappe means chilled or partly frozen.  It is derived from the French "fraper" which means to strike.  

Therefore Starbucks is an American company started with Greek, Italian and French influences.  

While getting our coffee we also did a bit of math to figure out a tip.  My nine-year-old was able to tell me that 50 cents was fifty percent of a dollar and 10 cents was ten percent.  Nice job sister.  Nice job.  

So from a trip to Starbucks one can learn about Greek mythology, French word origins, the Italian language and percentages.  Not bad for a quick jaunt for coffee.  

Unschooling may be the road less traveled but, based on my observations, a road worth taking.  

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* The questions arises -- what of the real world?  What happens when Middle must go out and get a job?  Does she need to conform then?  By pulling her out of school are we simply compounding an issue (her inability to complete tasks not pleasing to her)?

I do not have the answers.  By the time she has a job she will be older and therefore, hopefully, more mature.  And who is to say she'll work for somebody else?  Perhaps she'll be her own boss and therefore mold the workplace to suit her needs.  

*And will she learn all that she needs to learn to be successful in life?  Yes, I think she will.  In fact she might learn more than while in school.  She taught herself to read at four.  She taught herself to use a computer and video production.  She has a crazy memory and retains what she learns.  

*What about college?  See here.  If she wants to learn, if she loves learning, she can definitely go to college. 

* Might I go crazy having her home all the time?  Yes.  Yes indeed.  

*** *** ***

Oh and PS -- I am pleased to report that after six long weeks my sore throat finally went away. And on to nurturing ... 



rsthall said...

Very cool. And VERY similar to my story. I have one of those Middles, too. And I only have one!
Here's to Middles, they may take some figuring out, but I think it's really worth it.

piper said...

Thanks for sharing ! I have one daughter who I'm trying to get through high school and it's been a struggle. And she's one who I'm thinking is one who won't take the college route. She, too, is quite smart and has an excellent work ethic, but school is not on her priority list. She's been the one I've had to struggle with to get schoolwork done and seems to have the ADD thing going on. I've been through the head butting thing with her and I'm having to step back and let her experience life and learn her lessons. Life yet has told me what's in store for her. The unschooling article is interesting reading.

Amy said...

I'm a public school teacher, but even I realize that some children learn better outside the confines of a classroom. In our school, we are actually doing something called "flipping" the classroom, which is almost like unschooling within a school, and we are finding that more kids are finding success with this model of education. I think you are right to question whether a traditional classroom is the right place for her, and I applaud your ability, as a parent, to realize that one size does not, in fact, fit all! I'll look forward to seeing where you take this journey!

Deeapaulitan said...

Only my youngest would have done well in a traditional setting. Our oldest is smart, but it takes her days, months sometimes, to grasp concepts and really understand them (which is the most important thing to her. She would have been left behind in a traditional setting and labeled dumb, but she flourished in a setting where she could practically apply abstract concepts, see them at work in the world, and take her time. My in-laws are career public school educators so we got flack, but I wouldn't change our decision for all the approval in the world. Our middle was kinesthetic and probably would have been labeled ADD as well. In reality it was just that his learning had to be coupled with doing. He needed to move. To get his hands and body into the process. Traditional school just wouldn't have worked.
I love that you love her so much you are willing to look at alternatives. I hope she knows how blessed she is to have you.

Deeapaulitan said...

I should also tell you that all 3 of our kids hold down good jobs, all three have gone on to higher education of some form and not one of them has difficulty staying on task - - because they know the purpose and find adventure in it all ... something they learned at home, from their parents. :)

Anonymous said...

I was a public school teacher for forty years, and you are right to question whether the "traditional" school would be the most beneficial learning environment for Middle. Schools as they now usually exist are not the result of well-thought strategies for learning but rather a perpetuation of a system which best served the needs of the greater society in which it existed.

I applaud your thoughtful analysis of the problem. I admire the way you write about your Starbucks experience (which, in effect, is the kind of real-life tribal learning that has existed throughout history). And I think that Middle will do just fine because of her clear potential and your nurturing nature.