Something I wrote in response to someone on Facebook today that I’m especially proud of:
I think spending 6 hours a day around 100s (or maybe just the same 30) of humans of the same age is unnatural, institutionalized thinking. Of course, its not just 6 hours a day at school– it often stretches to much more than just 6 hours, if only it was only 6 hours per day. I think any working parent would say that evenings and weekends aren’t enough in terms of quality time with their families.
The practice of sending children to school in classes of the same age is actually a relatively new practice and while most doing it for some 60-80 odd years may normalize it, it doesn’t make it any more natural. A very strong argument could be made towards the adverse affects of being influenced only by those of a given age bracket as those influences are limited by the scope of the maturity and comprehensive ability of that given age bracket. I believe my children flourish by knowing a great deal many people of different ages and by having the opportunity to learn and play with children younger and older than them. The insights they achieve with such interaction, I believe, has more depth and dimension to the whole of social interaction than being limited to those born in the same calendar year, which in the whole of human interaction is merely arbitrary. I believe a child’s world view is broadened by directly participating in that world, not in a simulation limited by a school’s resources.
A random mom or dad may do just fine educating their children as its likely that mom or dad has achieved some level of education themselves and have even gotten through the hard parts of teaching their children by the time the child reaches compulsory age. Take… walking, for example. Talking. Potty training. The latter especially is not for the faint of heart! No one questions a parent’s ability to mold this little bundle who has no experience of the world what so ever and bring that little person to communicate its own thoughts and observations. And if there is question, the vast majority of parents seek out the resources they need to help their child achieve speaking. If its something that the parent hasn’t recognized– if the child has missed milestones, there are usually health professionals who catch it and remedy it. I don’t have the exact numbers handy, but I don’t think there are many children who slip through the cracks insofar as learning to communicate by the time that they are compulsory age. There are certainly exceptions, but there will always be exceptions in every policy of every civilization ever invented. At any rate, I wanted to offer the example – of parents teaching their children how to communicate – as one that still exists today outside of formalized schooling, that aptly demonstrates the random mom or dad’s ability to teach their child something very fundamental to their learning and livelihood.
Parents lay that foundation and parents are very capable of building on that… and its never been easier for parents to do that than now, what with the internet and our ability to phone friends and family to network and find and travel to tutors, coaches, mentors and programs for our children to get involved in. Think of how much more exposure to the world that children get today by comparison of 20-30 years ago!
I can fully understand and speak to fears about gaps in education and disproportionate time being spent on one subject versus another, but in reality… the exact same thing happens in schools. Testing in schools are used more as a tool for judging the school’s performance rather than evaluating gaps in an individual child’s learning. Secondary school teachers, college instructors, and university professors always have to go back to revise old material before starting on new material as there are always gaps in their student’s learning.
The way that subjects are broken up– math versus literacy versus science– that is all arbitrary and likely should never be broken up anyways (imnsho) if one is reaching for a continuous and connected full education. There can’t be science without maths and literacy; mathematical concepts are easier to grasp if one is literate enough to read someone’s explanation or can look to science for demonstrations; learning that symbols on paper means something, and must go in a certain order if someone else is suppose to glean understanding from it, requires science and math to reinforce, if not introduce it. These subjects go all hand in hand with one another, support one another, and are continuous in life experience. And that’s without getting into an individual’s need to spend more time in a given subject area in order to learn it– for some, maths come quick and they might struggle with language arts, for example. Then there are more and more specialities in learning developed as our understanding of a certain subject grows– how long to spend in the fundamentals– or do the goal posts for the fundamentals change when more specialities are introduced? There is in fact a great risk that a disproportionate amount of time may be spent in one learning area than another, and that may not be a bad thing especially with consideration that subjects are arbitrary, every individual learns differently and at their own pace, and the goal posts for what’s considered the fundamentals is always moving.
Anyhow, hope that offers some food for thought regarding home education and some of the issues brought up.