Educators: When A Child’s Time is Considered Valuable

One may learn from home-schoolers, without doing homeschool. Of course, some folks might first have to admit that homeschooling is actually possible; professional pride prevents many educators from noticing that something really interesting is happening among 4% of the children in America.

One of the first lessons learned from homeschooling practice is that the “standard” 180 days times 6 hours per day times 12 years is based on absolutely nothing related to the education of a child, whatsoever.

The most important lesson, I believe, is this: the critical limiting resource in the education of a child is neither the teacher nor the books, nor the money nor the building nor the equipment.

The limiting resource is the child’s time. Schools as we know them – and I include parental attempts to recreate such schools inside the home – simply squander the time of the child, to an absolutely staggering degree. The child’s time is considered to be of no importance; it is directed and used at the pleasure of the educator. Schools as we know them are like black holes sucking time away from the child.

A 2nd grade teacher once observed that my 5 year old grandson read better than any of her end-of-year second-grade students. A year later, this same grandson was reading Harry Potter with dazzling fluency.

How do I explain this? Well, he is a 2nd generation home schooler. How much time has he spent in “reading class?” Exactly zero. He has never waited a turn to read his two lines from a See Dick Run book. How many quizzes, tests, reading exercises? Zero.

What does he do instead? He reads as much and as often and for as many hours as he wishes. Schools wish their students would read 20 or 30 minutes per day. My grandkids read hours per day, not minutes. It is neither an assignment nor task nor chore nor lesson; they read for fun – just as their parents did, just as I did. They do not measure or report reading time at all.

A child who reads hundreds or a thousand hours per year will become a fluent reader, will absorb an immense vocabulary, and will learn astonishing amounts about matters which are chosen by the child, not by outside instructors.

Since children enjoy conversation, they’ll talk your ears off about these books, developing their conversational skills, clarifying ideas, comparing all manner of things. Their days will be filled with learning, into which you will have some input, but most of which is self-directed. They will pursue a thousand questions, becoming masters of search engines and dictionaries and other research tools – including many which you do not even know about. They will demonstrate reading comprehension and vocabulary every day, without having to waste a minute on formal testing.

If your child isn’t yet reading, do not despair – many a child has spent hours and hours learning simply by watching videos and listening to audiobooks.

Add ordinary games to the experience – dice and cards and so forth – and an amazing number of ideas about math become interesting and accessible to the child, who will again learn enormous numbers of “math facts” and “concepts” and “problem-solving methods” with very little need for formal instruction or exposition.

A recent article reports that children of well-to-do families – who tend to do well, academically – often hear “30 million more words in the first three years.” This sounds almost impossible. But 3 years times 365 days times 24 hours times 60 minutes would be about 1.6 million minutes. Take away about 600,000 minutes spent sleeping, and you only need to speak about 30 more words per minute. These extra words lead to demonstrable improvement in measures of IQ and vocabulary, effects which persist for years.

This is an approach which values the time of a child. A child who is interested and engaged and in control of her time is a child who is learning – faster than you might imagine possible.

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