November 18, 2016
Home School Answers: How Much of That Learnin' Is Going to Last?
I am a big fan of home schooling. It can be an overwhelming task to commit to doing, though. I'm not going to try to convince you that you ought to home school your kids, but if you're thinking of doing so and are searching for encouragement or answers to the nay-sayers in your life, my perspective just may provide some answers to questions you face.
For some people, the decision to take a hands-on, primary role in our children's education was the easy part. Answering the many objections of our well meaning parents and busy-bodies who find it a weird choice can be a bit more tricky. It can also be fun, though.
One of the objections some parents hear is that they are not qualified to teach their children what must be taught to them. Since a great many people who are taking the home school plunge are dealing with Kindergartners, it is quite easy to point out that this is not rocket science! The content we need to teach is something we've had mastery of since we graduated from Kindergarten eons ago!
A similar argument can be made for all the grades, really. If a 4th, 8th, 10th or 12th grader can be expected to pass this subject, then I, with my high school diploma, mature brain, access to the Internet and myriad curricula at my disposal, can impart this information to my ignorant charges with a minimum of preparation time.
Another thing I like to point out is how little of what we actually learn in the classroom continues to stick with us as we get older. Learning to read (at whatever rate is best for each child) is imperative, but many of the other "subjects" we learn and then forget. We don't worry about remembering it all throughout our lives - or we'd have to take cumulative exams regularly to ensure that we still remember the rules of grammar, the elements of the periodic table, who said what in that Shakespeare play we knew thoroughly in 11th grade.
When is the last time you fretted over forgetting some information you learned in fifth grade? Even if you did, you can learn it now! I had one of these moments myself, when I wondered why I didn't seem to know all the state capitals like many people seem to. I had no recollection of learning them. I deduced that I had not learned them because state capitals are taught to American students in fifth grade and I had spent fifth grade at the International School in Manila. So, I got out an atlas (this was just before the Internet) and made myself some flashcards. Within a week, I had them under my belt!
Clearly, it is of greater importance to instill a love of learning in children, and to introduce them to the tools for learning that they can employ throughout their lives, than that certain content is imparted to them at certain ages. Whether you are choosing to educate your progeny at home or selecting a school for them to attend, attention to this fact will help ensure they become educated people and not merely schooled.
As an example of how little of what we are taught in our youth really sticks with us, I have composed for you a list of all the things I remember from my career as a student. My unconventional and nomadic formal education was undertaken in a variety of venues, including public, private and catholic schools with a smattering of reluctant (on my mother's part) home schooling, for which she taught us by a correspondence course, while we were living in a very remote Greek village where only one person spoke English!.
What I Learned in School - That I Still Remember
Kindergarten (Public School in CA): When you blow through a straw into your milk carton, bubbles pour out the opening! Dipping colored tissue paper into liquid corn starch to make pretty, "stained glass" mosaic flowers. Playing house. Building with large, wooden blocks. A llama visited.
1st Grade (Catholic School for a few weeks in NY City): Caterpillars climbing up the exterior wall of the several story-building and into the classroom window. The aroma of the cafeteria.
1st. Grade ("home school" before home school was a thing - in rural Greece): Learned so much outside of the classroom, but I don't recall anything that was part of the correspondence course my mother used.
2nd Grade (American Community School, Athens): The Greek word for sugar was similar to the name of the sweetest boy in the class: Zachary. The song, Marching To Pretoria. George Washington was the Father of our country. Coloring turkeys and pilgrims.
3rd Grade (American Community School, Athens): Multiplication tables (I liked the sixes).
4th Grade (Public Schools in CA and NC):North Carolina is the Tar Heel state.
5th Grade (International School, Manila): If your teacher has a Philippine accent, when giving a spelling test, he should not expect any of his students to know what word it is when he says "immediate." We all wrote "a midget." The Muhammed Ali/Joe Frazier fight ("I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee."). The whole school watched it in our classrooms - with great excitement!
6th Grade (International School, Manila): Grease pencils are used for writing on graduated cylinders.
(Public School in CA): It's silly to ask children to write a play without teaching them how to do it.
7th Grade (Public School, CA): The British fought foolishly in the Revolutionary War. They wore red and lined up to be picked off, replacing soldiers shot down in the front row, making it easier for the American Patriots to pick them off. The basics of playing an instrument and reading music. (This may be the most wonderful thing I have learned). How to thread a sewing machine. To count to five in French. Several German words.
8th Grade (Same Public School, CA): Paper burns at 451° F. How to use a jigsaw. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes.
9th - 12th Grades (Catholic School, CA): Some things about the Old and New Testaments. Semper ubi sub ubi. Pangaea. Metamorphic, Sedimentary and Igneous rock. The numbers within the parentheses are multiplied before the numbers outside them. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". Kings Play Checkers On Funny Green Squares. Science fiction is way better than I ever expected. Some Spanish.
So, you see, not much of the content that was presented in my classrooms has really stuck. But that doesn't mean I didn't learn a great deal. It is difficult for me to tease out what I learned because of formal teaching and what I learned from just being awake and alive. I know that learning to read is a key that has opened worlds of information to me! Living overseas has imbued my life with experiences and knowledge not available from books or classroom assignments. Parents who took an interest in me and the world around us has taught me to be curious about and delight in God's amazing creation and the lessons to be found there.
Whatever form of schooling you choose for your child, be confident that much of the material presented to them will be forgotten, but if they discover the wonder of learning, their education will become a lifelong adventure!