Professionals, Teach Thyselves

Some unfortunate homeschooled kids are upset when discovering that they, as specific individuals, must take remedial math when starting college. I get this – but why do these students not realize that this is also true for about half of those who attended government-provided and -managed and -regulated schools? This is not a reason for micromanagement of home education; it’s a reason for parents and students to take more responsibility.

Yes, students. If you are about to enter college, why haven’t you already taken more responsibility for your own education? Why are you asking the government to manage your life? The Internet has been available since about 1992. Kahn Academy has been on Youtube for many years. Libraries have existed for much longer. If you’re clever enough to bootleg stuff you maybe shouldn’t, you can find math videos, science videos, science books, all sorts of ways to improve your own education.

There is no evidence that government regulation improves home education, and many reasons to believe it gets in the way. Professional educators should be in awe of home-schooled students who start college at age 12 or 14. They should be asking how home education works so well, with so many un-trained and un-credentialed parents. They should ask how children are learning so much in an hour or so per day, instead of six hours or more.

My grandson was reading soup can labels in a grocery store. A woman came by, asked his age, learned that he was only 5 years old. “I teach 2nd grade,” she said. “None of my end-of-year students read as well as he.”

How was this possible? Well, he asked for help learning to read early. By four, he was borrowing books from the library and devouring them. Nobody ever told him to sit still and wait for his turn to read two lines from a “Dick and Jane” primer. By age 6, he was reading Harry Potter quite fluently. He is articulate and has a vast vocabulary, and a large store of knowledge.

Another grandson, at age 9, scored at the 18th grade equivalent on Woodcock Johnson math tests. His other scores were also well ahead of curve. Like many other home schoolers, my grandchildren test very well – even though they take exactly one test per year. They are 2nd generation home schoolers. They are never “taught to the test.”

Professionals, instead of throwing up roadblocks, should stop by and ask how we do it – and should listen carefully; should put aside their highly-trained prejudices.

Typical regulations are a terrible fit for home education. They are borne of misconception – that schools are already organized optimally, and should be emulated by home educators. For a profession which graduates so many illiterates, such presumption is odious. For example, what is this “180 days of attendance?” Do children somehow lose their natural curiosity for half the days of the year? Not unless their curiosity has been suppressed. Smart parents don’t do that. How about these lists of curriculum? For instance, “reading instruction.”. When a child masters reading by age 5 or 6 – and I mean masters it, so that 2nd grade professional teachers have to pick their jaws up off the floor – what is the point of demanding 8 years of “reading instruction?”

Why not just give children regular access to a library, lots of time for independent reading, and allow children to naturally converse about what they read, instead of trying to convert a natural, easy, effective, and efficient method into something which looks more like school? Bear in mind, it is the existing schools which consider “teaching every child to read by 4th grade” to be a high hurdle.

When parents and a few smart educators teach math in minutes and hours rather than months and years, professionals need to reevaluate the notion of “math class” five hours per week, for twelve years – especially when half of their graduates require remediation to acquire the most basic levels of proficiency.

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4 thoughts on “Professionals, Teach Thyselves”

  1. I read the first couple paragraphs to my non-schooled sons and my 14 year old told me that anyone that wasn’t prepared to enter college and failed a math placement test, probably wasn’t going to the college by choice but was told he needed to for whatever reason.
    The idea that homeschoolers should emulate the school system in any way is absurd but I see it every day. We leave the system because we believe it isn’t working for our kids but then try to re-create it at home with horrific results.

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    1. Amen.

      Often, the greatest post-homeschool complaints are from those who tried to re-create school. I met a fellow who agreed with the “socialization” complaint; he explained that he had been required to do “school work” from the time he finished breakfast to dinner time. Of course he had no spare time to meet people and make friends. To him, this was the only alternative to spending time in a brick-and-mortar school. This is like like comparing house arrest to a day prison. The second might actually be preferable for some children, if the first is an unduly unpleasant experience. But there are other options.

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  2. We also have to remember that as homeschooling parents, that every child is an individual. Not every child can read soup can labels at 5 yrs of age. My oldest could have but not my next three. They struggled with phonics, age related dyslexia and just getting enough repetition to remember it all. While I understand the authors point there is also a failure of the schools to truly prepare students for the degree they have chosen. I took all sorts of math classes on up through pre-calc. But honestly for what I needed I should have taken more business oriented classes like accounting. So I was ill prepared because I didn’t know I needed those things. Parents need to be involved as well. Even though they are almost adults they can gain a lot of wisdom from parents who have been there.

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    1. Agreed, every child is different – but the professionals should still be humble enough to ask why they never, or almost never, have such excellent results. They ought to ask whether parents are doing something interesting which might be replicated. In the case of reading, my suggestion would be to give children free rein, let the readers pick books and spend lots of time in independent reading, and stop wasting so much of their time with endless quizzes and tests. It’s almost like the actual purpose of schools is to teach the taking of tests. My grandkids take exactly one test per year, at which they excel – but that is not the purpose of their learning. They’re learning about reading, math, computer programming, and myriads of other things – such as history, music, clothing design, archery, cooking, art, and so forth.

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