Teaching (and learning)

Among the useful arts, only three are cooperative arts. All the rest are productive. The three cooperative arts are farming, healing, and teaching – Mortimer Adler.

The wise old Socrates compared his own style of teaching with the work of the midwife: the mother, not the midwife, goes through the pains of childbirth to deliver her child. The midwife only helps with the process – helping the mother in her efforts to make childbirth a little easier. 

I (home)school two teenage boys who are not my own. Therefore, according to Adler I must be a midwife. But often I feel more like the mother: pangs of labour pain the schoolroom. (Does this make grammatical sense?) I understand too well that the principal cause of the learning that occurs in a student is the activity of the student’s own mind.  But how to step in (patiently) as a cooperative midwife – in the form of teaching by questioning and discussion – remains a patience to be learned! Especially if the students follow a paced curriculum. (I have no other choice). Some days I sit for 20-30 minutes: probing, waiting for an answer (I ask Socratic questions in an effort to breathe some substance into the PACE  pace). I wait patiently. I get the answer. Is this the way to go about?

Those of you in the midwife, I mean teaching business – how do you go about teaching? Do you have specific tools and resources to help you? Do you agree with the above-mentioned quote?

According to Adler, only adults can be educated. So there is still hope for me!


One thought on “Teaching (and learning)

  1. Some of my classes include this dance between teacher and student–the Socratic method. Others are more cut-and-dried. High school health is required in Wisconsin, so we simply go through the book and tests and do not discuss a lot (not much to discuss because so much of it is what we live!).

    My children have learned to give answers, but they are always shorter than I’d like. I have to work hard to get the boys to say more than a few words at any one time! Drawing them out into thought can be hard work, indeed. Now that they are older, they go off to their own rooms and do most of their studying on their own. I am just there to make sure they are doing the work and that they are getting as much out of it as they can–very midwifey :). However, there are subjects that I am still learning so that I can teach it better. My youngest wants to do Latin 2 (ugh), and I just purchased Writing about Literature and am reading through that. I’m also reading Canterbury Tales and just finished reading Beowulf–so I guess as a homeschool mom you could say that I go into labor in order to be a more effective mid-wife. LOL! What a word picture!


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