Educating Our Children to Full Personhood

I picked up another book at our local library book sale (for $.50 I might add) called Personhood: The Art of Being Fully Human, by Leo Buscaglia (Ph.D. of course).

It was written in 1978, but as I was reading it, I kept thinking to myself, “This is why I love homeschooling. This is the true goal of education and parenting.”

At one point, he quotes Abraham Maslow:

“Man is ultimately not molded or shaped into humanness or taught to be human. The role of the environment is ultimately to permit him or help him to actualize his own potentialities, not its potentialities. The environment does not give him potentialities and capabilities; he has them in inchoate or embryonic form, just exactly as he has embryonic arms and legs.”

What he’s saying here, is that education cannot make a person into something, it can only provide space for a person to discover who they are. We can conclude from this that being fully human is not derived from doing things the way that someone or something has told us to be, but to be who we are, the person we were born to be. And that is our homeschooling goal.

Here’s another quote I found interesting, when Buscaglia talks about the different phases of functionality. He says, “The human infant and child are more helpless and dependent for a much longer period of time than any other living thing. Children and infants are, out of necessity, ‘natural slaves’. Their identity in the world is being created by outside forces. They have no choice and because of their dependent state, receive all input from those people and things in their immediate life space.”

Schools, and our culture, take advantage of this “natural slavery” by attempting to “train” children to be a certain way, and have certain strengths. Then, when children grow out of this natural slavery, we are surprised when they rebel and try to exhibit their true selves. And we blame the children for not continuing to abide by the wills of authority, expecting them to stay in the “natural slave” mindset for as long as they are under the authority of a teacher or other adult.

After adolescence (or the time when we are figuring out who the heck we are and what our lives are about), Buscuglia describes a level of maturity where people have, “a sincere desire to be productive and to give of that production to others. They desire to create and share their creations. They accept their lives and work with satisfaction and joy…They put their talents into each endeavor and their imagination into recreating their lives each day. The mature artists of life are spontaneous, accepting, flexible, receptive to new experience, suspicious of reality. They are harmonious with external forces, but autonomous, busy with the processes of inventing their own lives. They see existence as a series of choices, the selection of which they must determine, and for which they are singularly responsible. They care about, respect and appreciate the world and society in which they live and the others who cohabit it, even thought they may not wholly agree with them. They believe in their own personal needs and potentialities and realize that these may often conflict with those of others, but they recognize that conflict can be a positive force for growth and change.”

I don’t know about you, but my kids, who are 8 and 6 (and even to some degree my 3 year old), already exhibit quite a lot of these traits. The homeschoolers I meet, in general , exhibit many of these traits. And of those who don’t yet exhibit them, are obviously on the road to getting there. While, at the same time that they show all these signs of “maturity”, they also show the signs of innocence, and of confusion of who they are and the world around them, which leads to a natural curiosity.

A child who reaches these milestones of maturity while going to school, does not achieve these things due to being told where to be, what to study, and how to succeed. They achieve the essence of maturity despite these forces. What allows a person to be capable of knowing who they are is experience in trying their own hand at life, and living in their own way. And, of course, a certain amount of neurological development that comes with age.

Buscaglia describes the fully actualized human as one who appreciates the value of time, and of the now. He describes how our view of time effects our ability to live full and successful lives. “It is often said that there are those who can experience more in a moment than some can experience in a lifetime. Time is relative. It is ours, given freely to spend wisely or to squander idly, but never to be hoarded. Time past is gone and all the moaning will never bring it back. Perhaps the most irresponsible phrase in the language is ‘I should have.’ The main import of the past is simply as a source of learning through experience. But even then our learning can at best be general. Since each experience has new and different significance, it can only be used in a vague and general sense when applied to the future. But the future, too, is illusion, a type of dream which in most cases never comes to pass as dreamed. So much of our pain is based upon the disappointment of the reality not living up to the dream.”

Basically, being fully alive means to live in the moment and make the moment the best we can. Depending on the future to make us happy will never work. And saying that in order to be happy we have to know XYZ, or learn XYZ, won’t work either. Bing happy does not come from education or even experience, but our perspective of that experience, and our perspective of what’s happening right now. And by extension, how much expectation we place on the future.

The last thing I’d like to quote (if you’re still with me), is a wonderful expression of what makes us who we are: “Each act makes us manifest. It is what we do, rather than what we feel, or say we do, that reflects who and what we truly are. Each of our acts makes a statement as to our purpose.”

We are who we are, and what we do shows who we are. To look at our kids and see who they are, look at what they do. To see ourselves and where our priorities lie, look at what we do as parents. When what we do and what we believe are in unison, then what we have is a successful individual. And that’s what’s important to me in homeschooling – each of us being successful by being authentic, and being allowed to express that authenticity on a daily basis, and on a moment to moment basis.


2 Responses to “Educating Our Children to Full Personhood”

  1. Mother Crone's Homeschool Says:

    This is a wonderful thought-provoking post. This really resonates with me, especially now that I am having these conversations with my high schooler. He has not yet matured to the point of understanding the the process, and how he approaches it, is more important than all the lofty goals and ideas. We are working on his getting his actions to align with his goals, so that he can have the success of which he aspires. I hope you don’t mind if I print this out for him to read. I may actually consider adding this book to his reading list for next term as part of our psychology study!

  2. Robin Says:

    Love this post. Off to find my Buscaglia books…

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