Only Child Mom Blog

In the End, Are We Schooling or Educating?

We often recall the story of Thomas Edison, who, despite his struggles in a traditional school setting, went on to become one of the world's greatest inventors. Similarly, Malala Yousafzai's passion for education led her to advocate for girls' rights to learn, even in the face of adversity. These stories remind us that 'schooling' and 'educating' are not always one and the same. While they may seem synonymous, they encompass distinct histories, philosophies, and practices that shape our children's learning experiences. As we strive to provide the best possible learning environment for our children, understanding the unique characteristics and implications of both schooling and educating becomes paramount. Schooling, with its structured curriculum and classroom setting, offers a systematic approach to learning. In contrast, educating transcends the boundaries of the classroom, embracing a holistic, lifelong exploration of the world around us. By being conscious, open-minded parents, we recognize that our children's growth is not confined to textbooks and test scores. Instead, it flourishes through curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, and empathy. By delving into the rich histories and implications of schooling and educating, we empower ourselves to craft a more enriching and individualized learning experience; one that resonates with our children's unique needs, interests, and potential.

Origin of the terms schooling and education

Originating in ancient Greece, the term schooling derives from the Greek word “scholē” and the Old English word “scol”, meaning 'leisure'. The idea was to afford time for the freeborn males to engage in intellectual conversations about philosophy, politics, and the sciences. It had a narrower focus on academic instruction and training. In contrast, education has its roots in the Latin word “educare”, meaning “to lead forth” or 'to bring out'. The idea was to nurture innate capabilities and foster the growth of the individual. It was considered a holistic process that encompasses various aspects of life and aims to develop the whole person, not just their cognitive abilities.

In the modern era, we find that schooling often overshadows educating. As the Industrial Revolution took hold, the need for a standardized workforce increased, and the schooling system became more structured. It was designed to teach pupils how to be compliant and obedient workers who could follow instructions and meet deadlines. This trend has continued to the present day, with many schools focusing on test scores and college readiness rather than fostering individual interests and passions.

Throughout history, schooling and educating have developed in specific ways

  • Schooling refers to formal instruction under the guidance of teachers in an institutional setting, typically encompassing a standardized curriculum. Educating, however, is a broader concept that incorporates all the diverse ways in which we learn and grow, both formally and informally.

  • Schooling primarily aims at imparting knowledge and skills based on a predetermined curriculum. Educating, on the other hand, focuses on overall intellectual, ethical, and social development.

  • Assessment in schooling is typically based on tests and grades, while educating cannot be quantified in such ways. It's an ongoing process, evaluated by an individual's wisdom and personal growth.

  • Schooling happens during specific hours of the day and specific years of life. Educating is a lifelong process, happening at any time and every single day of our lives.

  • The ultimate goal of schooling often ties into societal expectations: achieving good grades, getting into a prestigious college, and securing a well-paying job. Educating's ultimate goal is personal fulfillment and developing skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and social-emotional skills through real-world experiences and relationships with experts in different fields, including apprenticeships, mentorship, and community-based learning.

Based on these differences between schooling and educating, why does the belief that schooling is the primary, and often the only, form of learning for children still prevail? The answer is rooted in several factors.

  • Tradition and societal norms: The traditional model of learning is one of structured schooling, which has been the dominant approach for centuries. It is deeply ingrained in our societal norms and expectations that children should attend school to receive a formal education.

  • Expertise and resources: Schools are equipped with trained educators who are viewed as experts in knowledge delivery. Moreover, schools provide a variety of resources such as libraries, laboratories, and physical education facilities, which most households cannot afford individually.

  • Curriculum and structure: Schools follow a structured curriculum, which is systematically designed to cover a wide range of subjects. This curriculum is often backed by educational research and designed to cater to different age groups. Many parents trust this systematic approach.

  • Socialization: Schools provide a community environment where children learn to interact with their peers and understand societal norms. Many parents value this aspect of schooling as crucial to their child's social development.

  • Credentialing: Schools offer recognized credentials such as diplomas and degrees that are often necessary for higher education and employment.

  • Ease and convenience for parents: In families where both parents work, schools provide a safe and supervised environment for their children during work hours.

Does this mean that schooling is the most essential systematic process for equipping young people with the fundamental skills they need in life such as reading, writing, mathematics, and basic scientific concepts?

Schooling is indeed a systematic process that plays a vital role in equipping children and adolescents with fundamental skills such as reading, writing, mathematics, and basic scientific concepts. It provides a structured environment where children are taught these essential skills following a standardized curriculum. This formal learning system is often seen as the primary means of imparting these foundational abilities. However, it's essential to recognize that schooling is not the only pathway to acquiring these skills. While it is a significant and widely accepted method, especially in many modern societies, alternative educational approaches can also effectively teach these fundamental skills. Homeschooling, unschooling, or other individualized learning paths can provide children with the same foundational knowledge, often with the flexibility to tailor the learning experience to a child's unique needs and interests.

From a conscious parenting perspective, the choice between schooling and other educational approaches should be based on a thoughtful consideration of a child's individual needs, the family's values, and the available options. Schooling is undoubtedly a crucial part of the educational landscape, but it's not the only path to achieving the essential skills needed in life. The goal is to find the approach that best supports a particular child's growth and development, whether that includes traditional schooling, alternative education, or a combination of both.

Regardless of whether our child attends traditional school or learns through an alternative means, we, the parents, find ourselves tasked with the beautiful responsibility of nurturing our child's mind and character. We can foster essential life skills and values that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Here's how we can incorporate these principles into daily routines

Foster a Love of Learning:

  • Model Curiosity: Show your children that learning is a lifelong journey by engaging in hobbies, reading, or taking up new skills.

Example: Read a book together every night, discussing what you've learned.

Example: Share your hobby, such as playing an instrument or gardening, with your child, exploring the joy of creativity.

  • Expose your children to new ideas: Introduce your children to various subjects, cultures, and perspectives through books, documentaries, and conversations.

Example: Watch a documentary about a different culture and discuss it over dinner.

Example: Visit a museum or cultural festival to explore new ideas and traditions.

  • Explore Together: Ask your children what they're curious about and explore those interests together, whether it's stargazing, gaming, stop motion, foraging for wild food and herbs, wood carving, or building - something with recycled materials.

Example: Cook a meal from a different country, learning about its history and traditions.

Example: Explore nature together by foraging for mushrooms, herbs, or berries, or create a family garden.

Example: Take regular nature walks and observe the flora and fauna. This can be a wonderful way to teach children about ecology and environmental stewardship.
Foster Independence and Self-Direction:

  • Allow Choices: Let your children choose their projects, books, or activities, guiding them to make informed decisions.

Example: Allow them to choose a weekend family activity, discussing the options and benefits.

Example: Encourage them to select a book or project for a personal assignment, guiding their decision-making process, discussing the stories, and asking open-ended questions to stimulate critical thinking.

  • Encourage Responsibility: Assign age-appropriate responsibilities that allow them to take ownership of their learning journey.

Example: Assign household chores, discussing the importance of responsibility and teamwork.

Example: Encourage them to manage their learning schedule, providing guidance and support.
Celebrate the Process of Effort and Progress

  • Value Effort: Praise your children's hard work, persistence, and creativity, not just the final product or grade.

Example: Celebrate the effort put into a personal project, regardless of the outcome.

Example: Acknowledge the persistence in learning a new skill, such as riding a bike, learning a language, a sport, or how to play an instrument.

  • Create a Positive Environment: Build a supportive atmosphere where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities.

Example: Discuss how mistakes can be opportunities to learn and grow, sharing your personal experiences with them.

Example: Create a family motto that emphasizes growth and learning, reinforcing it regularly.
Encourage Self-Reflection and Growth:

  • Provide Opportunities for Reflection: Encourage your children to assess their learning, recognize their growth, and set new goals.

Example: Have regular one-on-one conversations to discuss their goals, challenges, and achievements.

Example: Encourage them to keep a journal where they can reflect on their learning experiences and personal growth.

  • Foster a Growth Mindset: Teach them that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work.

Example: Share stories of people who succeeded through perseverance and effort, discussing the growth mindset.

Example: Encourage them to take on new challenges, providing support and celebrating their growth.
In our shared quest to nurture our children's growth and development, my husband and I have explored the multifaceted landscape of schooling and educating. We've uncovered the rich histories, meanings, and implications of these terms, recognizing that they are not merely interchangeable but represent distinct approaches to learning. As conscious parents, we understand that our child's learning journey is not confined to the classroom walls, but is a vibrant, lifelong exploration that can be enriched through various paths. Whether through traditional schooling or alternative educational approaches, our role as parents is to nurture our children’s innate potential, spark their curiosity, and guide them to become thoughtful, compassionate, and engaged members of our global community. We must remain open-minded, recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a dynamic interplay of methods that can be tailored to our children's unique needs and interests. By fostering a love of learning, independence, critical thinking, appreciation for the process, and self-reflection, we are not merely preparing them for tests and grades; we are equipping them with the tools to become balanced, integrated individuals in a community, critical thinkers, problem solvers, empathetic, and insightful people.
Our journey as parents is filled with opportunities, challenges, and joys, and it's a path we should embrace with determination, and the profound belief that educating is not simply about filling a vessel, but, rather, igniting a flame.