Thursday, August 5, 2010

Headgates

"We open and close headgates in effort to channel the child’s progression down a path that we know will bring good results."

This is a small ebook by Brian and Keri Tibbets that has been circling the web for a few months on the homeschooling blogs. I first read it in May and let it soak in and I think I'm finally ready to write my thoughts and feelings.
I think I understood headgates better after I became more familiar with TJED (thomas jefferson education), which headgates is based on. So if you're also trying to learn more about this approach, I strongly recommend reading both.

A headgate is gate that opens or closes to divert water onto fields for irrigation. If the wrong headgates are open or closed, the fields will not get water. The basic idea of the Headgates book is steering your children toward good things by keeping distractions and bad things away. For some this may come across as sheltering. But isn't our job as parents to shelter our kids? Do we take them to bars and tell them not to drink? No. We keep them away from bars and any other places that have a negative influence. Even as an adult I need to keep an eye on my own headgates. Which ones do I leave open so I get distracted from the things that truly bring me joy?

There were a few things I read that have really changed the way I look at how I run my household.
The first is having a house of order.

What does this mean?
What I've come to realize is a house of order doesn't just mean it's been cleaned. It means it isn't full of useless items. Nothing is wasted or wasteful. They mention order in relationships, meaning well defined masculine and feminine and child roles. I really liked this (except I'm the one who fixes things and see no problem with that). Now, the feminists are going to get their panties in a bunch reading it and I can't help that. If you need some help with it, read this wonderful article by the New York Times for (hopefully) a better understanding that staying home can be very rewarding. I have always struggled with my feminine roles, but everyone is happier when I embrace it in my own way. Personally, I take "homemaker" literally and tend to be the one wearing the tool belt. I also find way to make my home lovely for me, not for Better Homes and Gardens.
Also, order in appearance (self explanatory) and schedule. The schedule one I like because the idea is basically work the first half of the day and then free time. They then encourage mom to use free time for reading and hobbies and personal growth. I have been trying that and on the days I do it everyone is happy!
We were already practicing the ideas of requiring work and inspiring so the ideas there didn't mean as much to me. But the one that most people are talking about the section entitled: close the headgates

The reason this has become so controversial is because it makes you take a long hard look at your children's free time and toys. "Does the fun or the thrill of the play come from the child’s own brain, muscles, or voice box?" I think of an old buzz light year we had. When you pushed buttons, Buzz would say things. So instead of creating a dialog for Buzz, my kid would just push the buttons. They are much more happy and creative when hey play with basic toys like cars, jump rope and dolls.
"Who was the creative one, the toymaker or the child? In my experience, the more creative the toy, the less creative the child will be for having played with it. The less creative the toy, the more creative the child will be for having played with it—the child will have to be creative in order to get any enjoyment out of it." It's like the Buzz. That thing was so cool. But everything was so scripted!
And this was my favorite question:

"Can you imagine the turn your life would take for the better if you only owned 12-15 toys? I do not mean 15 sets of toys, or 12-15 per child; I mean 15 total toys."

I've narrowed ours down to 10 sets of toys for each child. That still shocks me because we got rid of half and then half again!! But I love blocks. I love seeing the things my children make with blocks. So I chose to go with sets. I also have lots of dress ups for my kids. But it's a lovely thought isn't it?

I think the thing I really need to ask myself is "can you imagine your life if you, personally, only owned 15 total toys?" The games I never play, the crafts I never make (yes, I still have them! ARG!)....

In my perfect world, I would rise an hour before my kids and read my scriptures and do some yoga. We'd eat and do the morning chores until lunch time. My kids would help as much as they can, with breaks for snacks and play. The house would b clean and dinner prep would be done. After lunch, everyone would have free time. They can play with toys, read, or play outside. Mom plays with them, reads, or sews. After dinner, the family works in the garden (kids usually end up on the swing set), reads together, and goes for walks.

These are things that reading headgates made me think about. Does it sound too idealistic? Maybe as an everyday thing, yes. But I've had days like that and they were beautiful!

Now, in the interest of fairness, here are the things I don't like about Headgates:
"You see, when a child knows that their boring “school work” is something they are “supposed” to do, they treat it like work, and they get in “get it done” mode. This way they can complete it quickly and get on with their day." That quote assumes that school work is always boring. Maybe this really shows what nerd I am, but I liked school work. I liked learning.

I also disagree with making a child wait before you teach them to read. When your child comes and says" mom teach me about Jesus" do you make them wait so they'll appreciate it more? NO! I feel the same way about reading. Do you drop everything and do it that instant, probably not. But be prepared for that day your child does ask that wonderful question, mom will you teach me to read?" Because I can tell you from personal experience, there are few things more satisfying.

Some of it seems too controlled. I like letting my kids scribble because it' how they learn to draw. But I don't want to encourage wastefulness so I'm still thinking that one over.

I strongly disagree with the idea that Lego's aren't creative. To be fair, the new specialty sets leave little wiggle room for creativity. Pieces used to be more multifunctional. But my son still manages to make bugs and machines from his. He's often at his most creative while building. I say leave the Lego's but take away the instruction booklets.

I don't think that we need to limit things in our lives based just on one book we read online. But if, while reading it, we find truth then I think it's worth taking a closer look at it and seeing if it's something we'd like to incorporate into our lives. If we truly want to have the best things in our lives then we need to look at everything we allow in and decide if it really does bring out the best in us and our family. It is hard!!! I haven't been able to do it, but I want to get there eventually.

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