“The purpose of education should be to create the love of learning and over time, create a self-learner.”
by Martin Forte, www.excellenceineducation.com
Prior to the early 1800’s, education in the United States was a mixed bag, depending on region — suburban vs. urban; gender, race and other diverse factors. Educational options included private schools, church-based schools in smaller communities, tuition-based schools and other options. What was lacking was a sense of organization and standardization. In the 1830’s Horace Mann, a Massachusetts legislator and director of the state’s Department of Education, directed his energy to the creation of a public-school model. He advocated for a free education for all children, under the premise of creating “good citizens” and a “compliant work force”, hence the need for a common approach and result. This became the genesis of our modern-day chaos known as public school.
Part of the methodology of the public school system is to maintain age segregation as much as possible. Here in California, this process is initiated through “compulsory attendance” standards starting at age six. Ready or not, your student will be in first grade at age six with other children of the same age. You must ask yourself, “What if my child is not ready to manage the curriculum established by the state or be socially confident?” The answer from the authorities is that “It is too bad, s/he will just have to adjust.” How does this qualify for creating the love of learning?
This first requirement does not consider the normal maturation process of children. If you are a parent of multiple children, you have observed that every child develops at his/her own unique schedule. Obviously, we cannot assume that all the children in a first-grade classroom will be on equal developmental footing. At the very get go, we are creating a negative experience for a significant number of children, resulting in many experiencing a life of failure. How does this qualify for developing a love of learning or creating a self-taught individual?
Education in the United States has evolved into a program requiring every child to be learning the same subject matter at the same time across the nation. How does this benefit the children as a whole or the nation? First, this prevents the individual family from participating in the creation of a curriculum that will prepare the child to be self-sufficient at age 25! Why would a child wanting to follow his father in his plumbing business have to take Calculus or Biology with a lab? Again, we are setting the child up for failure. What about the child who has a sincere love of a subject but is restrained from pursuing it to a deeper level. Again, we see the Common Core age-equals-grade model just not delivering on the promise of enjoying learning and becoming a self-learner.
One unintended consequence of the age-equals-grade model is the creation of a caste system. Think about it; there will be an immediate separation between the children capable of the rigors of the class and the child who is not ready — for a myriad of reasons. A natural consequence of this is the creation of a “bully” environment, either physically or emotionally — if not both. This can go a long way toward violating the sense of safety in the child, thus violating again the “love of learning” principle we hold so dearly as homeschool families.
We can pontificate on this matter for some time. It is apparent that the system has may flaws that will interfere with the two main objectives mentioned at the beginning of this commentary. The question becomes, “Is there a better way?” While the following suggestions may not be easily applicable to the normal classroom model, we as homeschooling families can easily provide our children with a better educational pathway to developing a love for learning and in time, train them to be life-long, self-taught people.
Every process must have an end goal or purpose. Most students are given the goal of receiving a high school diploma at the age of 18. Unfortunately, this is not enough to maintain a true effort toward success. Have the wisdom to create the “dream” in your child, realizing each child is different. Take an inventory of your child’s talents (things that come easy) and his interests (things that he wants to spend time on) to create a passion. Built into this process is the partnership with your child in the development of a plan for age 25. By the time your child is 25, he should either be in the workforce for several years or finishing up with his academic journey if he attends college and grad school. The very important ingredient here is the ownership of this dream by your child and his active participation in the plan.
The first step is very simple, but hard to do in many cases: Totally disregard the state-established scope and sequence. The reality is that the system is totally based on the failed “age-equals-grade” concept. Also critical to the success of your homeschool journey is that you never enroll your child in any form of pre-school. The disadvantages are much worse than any positive benefit. [PULL QUOTE: In our current environment you want to insulate your children from any information violating your family value system. End of quote] The sad reality is that the information being disseminated by the state as early as pre-school is not worth the risk. Children enrolled in pre-school programs often become more self-centered and exhibit a higher degree of aggression relative to home-centered children. The propaganda forces claim that the benefit of pre-school is the academic readiness of students entering first grade. While this may be true, the benefit is lost by the time a child enters third grade. Why would any family willingly subject their child into a questionable environment for a short one- or two-year advantage. How does this encourage the love of learning?
A courageous but essential step is to wait until your child is ready for the topic at hand. The most obvious example is reading skills! The push, through many academic programs and social pressure, is to have children reading by age four or five. Many children are just not academically and, in some cases, physically ready. Vision maturity and development is just not at a point where proper reading skills can be developed at early ages. Vision is a very complex system not fully developed before age eight.
The study of mathematics is another area of major concern. The introduction of concepts requiring abstract thinking (Algebraic expressions) is presented when the child is in her “concrete” phase of development resulting in major confusion. In a more traditional format, used 100 years ago, the student was taught plain “arithmetic” resulting in total understanding based on the maturity level of the child. An example:
+7 vs. 5 + x = 12
The introduction of the “x”, a variable, usually found in an algebraic formula, is a concept requiring abstract thinking which can be extremely difficult for a young person under the age of 8-10. With the use of inappropriate methods, in relationship to maturity, the system creates a student population disliking math. This also contributes to the “caste system” we discussed earlier. No wonder so many children dislike math! Again, does this support the love of learning?
Children are delightfully curious creatures that need an immense amount of time to explore. The current system, relying on a well-scripted and time-managed protocol, steals a large amount of exploratory time from the child’s day. Provide your child with several hours of “unstructured” time to explore and develop her talents and interests. With this simple protocol your child will develop a skill set combining the love of learning and self-learning, resulting in a successful person at age 25! Unfortunately, the government school (and private schools mimicking the government school model) cannot provide a student with the time freedom to meet our objectives which were set earlier.
In summary, we can logically conclude the proposition that age equals grade is false at best — and harmful at worst. Through the freedoms of private homeschooling, you can provide your child an environment to satisfy our goals of creating a self-taught child who loves learning. Your child will also have the benefit of creating his own pathway toward a goal encompassing his talents and interests resulting in a full and exciting life. Have courage to participate in this life-changing experience that all parties will benefit from. Enjoy the journey! Ω