Book Review Part II: Agnes Leistico’s Books

In my last post, I reviewed two books by Agnes Leistico, I Learn Better By Teaching Myself and Still Teaching Ourselves. I would like to share with you some of my favorite passages from these books.

On education:

“I fight a losing battle when I try to force my children to learn something that has no immediacy or meaning to their lives. I am still having to struggle with this, as the “teacher” and “mother” in me says that I know what is best for them. Yet every time I allow them to choose their own course of learning I am amazed at how well they have chosen for themselves. I do not necessarily know what or how my children should learn something unless I make the time and effort to listen to what they are saying by word and action.” (ILBBTM p. 49)

“The teacher-student relationship is vital to the educational experience. The active and responsible agents in education must be the students…. nothing worth learning can be taught. “Students must themselves come to grips with major texts and with the difficult tasks of thinking and composing and articulating ideas into language.”” (ILBBTM p. 50)

“I came to view education as a life experience that cannot be confined by time or textbook.” (ILBBTM p. 23)

And this: “My youngsters want me to be a facilitator, not a dictator.” (ILBBTM p. 129)

On trust:

“I personally fought the idea of homeschooling because I could not imagine children learning any other way than within public or private schools. But my youngsters taught me a marvelous lesson. This is my story about my struggle to learn to trust my youngsters to make wise educational choices. I learned that it is possible to educate children without following strict schedules or guidelines. As a parent I am in the ideal position to fit the learning experience to each child as an individual student.” (STO p. 11)

“Trusting our children to lead the way depends greatly upon recognition of two basic principles. The first one is that the amount a person can learn at a given moment depends on how she feels about her ability to do the work. The second one is that interest initiated learning allows the student to utilize her abilities in the optimal manner. The old saying, ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink,’ expresses the futility of forcing a student to learn something when she does not think she can succeed and / or she is just not interested in the topic.” (ILBBTM p. 77))

“When we are relaxed, learning abounds; but when I am anxious about progress very little is accomplished. The biggest lesson has been to accept each child for who she is and myself as I am. Trust is not static. It changes with circumstances so I must also change and allow my students to change. What worked yesterday will not necessarily work today.” (p. 89 ILBBTM)

On grades:

“Seeing no educational value in giving grades on work accomplished, I do not grade my youngsters. They and I know without any doubt how they are performing. When they experience a problem we work it out… I am not placed in the position of a judge and they are not being judged by anyone other than themselves.” (ILBBTM p. 91)

On relationships:

“The first truth about homeschooling is that it’s based on relationship. Relationship is the curriculum upon which everything else is based. Relationship is a day-to-day awareness, an honest looking at oneself and others and an honest dealing with oneself and others.
Successful education, including home education, is based on reason, not absurdity. That sounds obvious, but much conventional school is unreasonable. Random facts are taught to cover state mandated curriculum requirements.
The mind needs a reason to learn. When it doesn’t have one, learning becomes divorced from life and thought and is therefore absurd. The parent who wants a child to learn something may have some very good reasons for thinking the child should learn it, but the child needs to be infected with those reasons – and reason needs to be expected if learning is to occur.
Education that empowers children, gives them a life long skill or strengthens the mind has its own reasons for compelling a child to learn. Interest-initiated learning is particularly successful because the reasons are built into the process by the child.
Another principle of education is that it starts and ends with the child. It’s individual. Every child has his or her own particular time table and special qualities. The mind of a child, or anyone else, cannot be controlled. The mind can’t even be taught, really. Not in any significant way. But it can learn. That’s where relationship and reasoning play their part.
These all – relationship, reason, individuality – require an atmosphere of freedom to thrive. Freedom is a necessary requirement for the development of an active, intelligent mind. This isn’t the freedom to do whatever you want, to pursue any whim, but freedom based on reason, good relationships, and individuality.
Education isn’t so much about the superficial things we remember from our school days, math problems or text books, as it is about these essentials. Focus on the essentials and find the peripherals that align with them. This focus might lead to some of the traditional things of school, a good text book or math problems. But it will be in a way that works for you and your child, and for reasons that fit.” (STO pp. 48-49)

Wow.  Imagine – relationship, reason, and individuality, all thriving in an atmosphere of freedom.  What more could any homeschooled kid ask for???  Why can’t all children be raised and educated with such thoughtfulness, dignity and respect?

5 thoughts on “Book Review Part II: Agnes Leistico’s Books

  1. Love this one, Kim. Helps me to be a bit more relaxed, especially in my relationship with my son, when hearing about trust.
    What more could a child AND parent ask for?…I don’t think anything.
    Thanks for sharing. I will be reading this one.

  2. Kim this is so timely for me. I am learning that when I try to force my kids to do something we end up yelling at each other. Today I wanted them to each write a story relating to our visit to Delphi. I thought they could each write a short story about someone visiting the Oracle. No. Not happening. It kind of just naturally snowballed into us researching more about the Oracle and all of us ended up contributing to a Narrative. It was fun because all of their voices are in that story. Once I let go of the idea that each would do one, and I basically just threw it out, they were actually relieved and more excited to work together.
    I also had a sit down with them. Here we are in Greece, a place filled with history, so what do you want to learn? We have all agreed on Graffiti as our next topic of research. We see it everywhere here and Graffiti is very important to the Greeks. Social movements and the voice of the people. I can’t wait to see where this leads us.

  3. In my above comment I was reacting particularly to this quote, which was exactly how I was feeling: “When we are relaxed, learning abounds; but when I am anxious about progress very little is accomplished. The biggest lesson has been to accept each child for who she is and myself as I am. Trust is not static. It changes with circumstances so I must also change and allow my students to change. What worked yesterday will not necessarily work today.” (p. 89 ILBBTM)
    This author really validates a lot of my feelings.

    • I love that word – ‘validate’. Isn’t it wonderful to feel that way sometimes? We can see that someone has gone through this before us and, through their words and sharing, we can get a boost for our own parenting and homeschooling and feel so good about something we have done. Thanks so much for writing and giving us a real life example of how you listened to your kids’ feedback, made an adjustment and took the time to learn with them. I like how you still maintained high expectations for your idea and didn’t just force it or give up but instead made it so positive. I can’t wait to hear about your Graffiti research. I looked up ‘graffiti’ and was surprised to see the word is of Italian origin, because graph, of course, comes from Greek and means ‘writing’. When in Greece….! Thanks Angie!

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