Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Friday, November 07, 2008

Homeschool activist

I was homeschooled as a child. And now I've had the experience of homeschooling for first grade, second, third, and sixth grade. I've homeschooled two kids and I've homeschooled with three and four. I've done several awesome structured curriculums and I've learned to love unschooling- which is child led learning. I have turned into a homeschool activist.

I have formed some strong opinions on education. I am frustrated at how brainwashed the public is. We have allowed ourselves to completely buy into the public school model. It's not a horrible thing. But it is not ideal. Often times it is glorified babysitting.

Time spent in school
One statistic that, I think, confuses public school teachers is that the higher the number of absences, the poorer the child does in school. Naturally, one would think that if you extend this analogy to homeschool, then being out of public school permanently will be detrimental to a child, unless the homeschool mom is preparing substantial lessons to replace said public schooling. What homeschoolers have proven, though, is just the opposite! That, not only do homeschoolers fare much better than public schoolers but unschoolers do even better because their learning is self motivated! You know how much you learn when you're really excited about something! So how do you explain the discrepancy between the P.S. students with high absences and the successful unschoolers? My theory is that that statistic isn't really about time spent in school. It's about parental involvement! P.S. students with high absences generally have very low parental involvement in their education. The opposite is true for unschoolers. (Also, absences often cooralate with family problems that would naturally interfere with learning).

One little secret that public school teachers are taught is "educationeze". When they get their education degree, a good amount of time is spent learning how to frame the learning that children naturally do into technical terms. For example:
  • A trip to the library = silent sustained reading
  • Playing with legos = building critical thinking, small motor skills, design
  • Arts and Crafts = manipulative construction
  • Chores = time on task development
This "Edspeak" feeds into the myth that children get something at public school that they can't get at home.

"Socialization" in the school model is destructive. Grouping together twenty five children of the same age group and allowing them to learn from each other is not a good way for them to learn. Nor is it good preparation for "the real world". When, in "the real world" are you ever grouped together with twenty five people of your exact age all day? It just doesn't happen. A better model would be for children to be in a small group with a wide range of ages from baby to elderly, with a low ratio of adults to children to mentor them in social behavior ie. a family.

A minimum standard
As I explained in a previous post, standardized testing is done all wrong!!! It should be very short and completely pass/fail. It should be the standard below which no child should fall. Instead it is complex and long and children can perform in a "range" of abilities on the exam, which then reflects negatively or positively on the schools- but with no real ramifications for the failing child. This is one thing the Public schools can and should change immediately.

Another public school fallacy is that if a child doesn't follow a certain, laid out, framework, then he or she will "miss something". This theory is somewhat amusing because it greatly underestimates the amount of knowledge there is to study. The public schools have state guidelines to follow that will, if implemented well, result in a well-rounded elementary and high school education. This, in itself is not a bad thing. But is it even 1% of all knowledge known to mankind? No! Homeschool children have an advantage in that they can pursue areas of interest. Clearly, this wouldn't work well in a classroom with dozens of kids and only one or two teachers to assist in teachable moments. So the framework is an acceptable replacement for child led learning. But it is not superior!! We have been lead to believe that if a child does not learn, say, the life cycle of the butterfly- he or she will be missing something. I disagree! (With the exception of the minimum standard discussed above). If you never learn the life-cycle of the butterfly you would do the same thing that the person who was sick the day that they taught that lesson in school would do: When that knowledge becomes necessary: Read a book! Google it! Or ask someone! On the other hand, a homeschooled child can focus his energy on his interests and talents. For one child that will be football. For another child that will be computers. When they grow up, they will be far better prepared to dive into their destined careers as NFL players or computer programers. And interest is fluid. Even if that football playing boy discovers he is not good enough for the NFL, he will still have the passion for learning that will enable him to pursue his new found interest in car mechanics. Many bright children will naturally pursue an even wider education than would have been provided in school. Some will pursue a narrower path of interest. But those children will gain a much deeper understanding. It takes both types to make this world go round.

Multiple Intelligence
A "well rounded" education is better achieved through homeschool, in which all the areas of intelligence can be pursued:
bulletLinguistic intelligence ("word smart"):
bulletLogical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart")
bulletSpatial intelligence ("picture smart")
bulletBodily-Kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart")
bulletMusical intelligence ("music smart")
bulletInterpersonal intelligence ("people smart")
bulletIntrapersonal intelligence ("self smart")
bulletNaturalist intelligence ("nature smart")
Public school narrowly focuses on linguistic and logical-mathmatical.

So that's my rant for the day. I would not feel so strongly about it, if I didn't feel slightly threatened by our current system. The American Public School system has brainwashed the public into thinking that it is better for children then their own parents are. :(

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