Home homeschooling Rethinking Education: “School” vs. “Education:” How to Kindle a Love of Learning (The Philosophy) Part 4

Rethinking Education: “School” vs. “Education:” How to Kindle a Love of Learning (The Philosophy) Part 4

by Kelly Crawford

How to Kindle a Love of Learning

“We need to scream and argue about this school thing until it is fixed or broken beyond repair — one or the other.” John Taylor Gatto, Why Schools Don’t Educate

If you’ve landed here before reading Part 1, 2 or 3 of the “Rethinking Education” series, I highly recommend reading those first. Tomorrow’s post will address the “nuts and bolts” of today’s topic.

Education and School are not the same.

If you have agreed with the authors I’ve featured in this series, and there is something unsettling to you about the “assembly line” method of education we are convinced is “the only way”, perhaps you will enjoy thinking through some of these practical thoughts on education.

Understand that I’m writing about something “different” because I believe the current method is grotesquely flawed. And I’m not the only one:

John Taylor Gatto, who spent thirty years teaching in an American classroom said, “Education and school can never be the same thing.” And yet, very few of us believe that. “School” is probably the most protected, embraced and trusted entity in America. The majority see it as the ONLY possible means to “success” for their children.

But when we consider that the literacy rate has never been higher than it was before compulsory education, any thinking person should understand that “schooling” is not the superior form of educating. Your aim will determine your methods.

“Government schools were not a response to the lack of private education but rather a direct assault on it. Public education was the brainchild of the “Progressive” mindset, which sees only disorder and chance in liberty. Public education would, in the Progressives’ view, homogenize America’s ethnically, Culturally, and religiously diverse population and create a national culture.”  Sheldon Richman, Freeing the Education Market

Philosophy of  “Educating” vs. “Schooling”

So what does educating look like if not like “school”?

The good news is, it can look like a whole bunch of things, depending on the family, the child and/or the goals and opportunities of each. The thing that is precisely wrong with “schooling” is the attempt to conform every child into one learning mold. So the first thing to remember is: there are endless ways to learn and endless things about which to learn.

“It’s high time we looked backward to regain an educational philosophy that works. One I like particularly well has been a favorite of the ruling classes of Europe for thousands of years. I think it works just as well for poor children as for rich ones. I use as much of it as I can manage in my own teaching — as much, that is, as I can get away with, given the present institution of compulsory schooling. At the core of this elite system of education is the belief that self-knowledge is the only basis of true knowledge.” John Taylor Gatto, Why Schools Don’t Educate

Educating looks a lot more like life, and a lot less like worksheets.

“In centuries past, the time of a child or adolescent would be occupied in real work, real charity, real adventure, and the real search for mentors who might teach what he or she really wanted to learn. A great deal of time was spent in community pursuits, practicing affection, meeting and studying every level of the community, learning how to make a home, and dozens of other tasks necessary to becoming a whole man or woman.” John Taylor Gatto, Why Schools Don’t Educate

As we’ll discuss more in the next post, life provides richer and far more relative opportunities to learn about the things one most needs for a productive life. Worksheets were invented as a control measure for corralling and confining large numbers of children, not because they are a superior way to learn.

In a nutshell, DOING is real learning.

Don’t miss this–“The act of knowing”

An over-arching principle we’ve tried to embrace was first articulated by British educator, Charlotte Mason. Simple but profoundly accuracte…”performing the act of knowing”. More commonly called “narration”, it is the retelling, in one’s own words, of a thing. (Narration can be dictated or written, but both need to be mastered.)

Karen Andreola said,

“Narration is important for the young learner because it challenges and strengthens all the powers of mind. Charlotte Mason categorized some of the mental powers this way: attending, remembering, visualizing, comprehending, synthesizing (seeing the whole from the parts), and articulating.” Narration: Tapping into the Talking Resource

Children largely lose what they’ve read or heard if they don’t “own the information”. Asking them to tell/teach what they are reading is one of the most important ways to make sure their time isn’t wasted.

Remembering the important things

In the last post, I linked to an article where employers were lamenting that the most desired trait in an employee was the one most lacking in many college graduates. What did they consider the most important quality? The ability to communicate well, verbally and in written form. Coincidentally, narration, as I just mentioned, is an excellent training tool for communication.

Conversation in general, an increasingly uncommon activity, is invaluable, all by itself in promoting good communication skills. But the attentive parent can take it up a notch: deliberately asking, listening and answering with educational intention. I cannot emphasize enough, how important this is.

This year, we have added narration, three times a week, on video. This adds the element of “public speaking” (the video will ultimately be part of a film they will enter in a local film festival). We have had them do “unit study summaries” for grandparents for this purpose as well.

Parent as facilitator

Fostering a love of learning and creating a learning environment and projects that will stimulate your children is a LOT more work than handing them textbooks. But it’s worth it!

Get them doing things. It’s really the only way to learn. Just like you can take classes and watch videos about driving, it is not until you do it that you really learn. In the next post, I’ll share an example of how we’re using interests as a springboard for learning. The best way to inspire them to *do*, is to remove mindless entertainment. They won’t stay bored long and that’s when the good stuff begins.

A reminder about the importance of learning life skills:

Let’s follow the simplified, typical educational thought process:

“Go to school, get an ‘education’ so you can get a good job to make enough money to pay for stuff.

But the more skills one possesses, the less money one has to pay. Car repairs, plumbing repairs, house repairs, etc.–skills save money.

Expand this concept to skills that allow product-making and you can save and/or earn money.

Our efforts to equip our children in this capacity should far outweigh our stress about algebra.

“Right now we are taking from our children the time they need to develop self-knowledge. That has to stop. We have to invent school experiences that give a lot of that time back. We need to trust children from a very early age with independent study, perhaps arranged in school, but which takes place away from the institutional setting. We need to invent a curriculum where each kid has a chance to develop uniqueness and self-reliance.” John Taylor Gatto, Why Schools Don’t Educate

Create, make, experience, talk, problem-solve, invent–these are the bedrocks of education.

Think Outside the Classroom

This is why I wrote the book, Think Outside the Classroom, a great start for a practical overview of what I call “relaxed homeschooling”, a more natural approach to learning. (You can grab it here.)

“Nothing gave me more confidence as a homeschool mom than this book. Thank you a thousand times!” -Rosa M.


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Laura September 24, 2012 - 5:28 pm

I have been following your Rethinking Education series.

One thing, you have not mentioned HOW someone gets an apprenticeship or how that would be successful country.

I have see apprenticeships that are competitive to get. One way the applicant makes themselves stand-out is by having college credits. So that defeated the purpose altogether. Another is, that is the apprenticeships aren’t paid positions, then the person might not be able to afford transportation to and from the apprenticeship.And then their attendance will be spotty and decent candidates won’t make it though. Whereas in college you typically live on campus and work on or near-by, allowing you save money for a car.

About 2.5 million people in the US graduate high school annually. If you think is ideal that only a very small portion go on to university/college, then that leaves MILLIONS of apprenticeship positions that need to come open every single year. Not mention that about 25% of people do not finish high school, so they would need apprenticeships as well.

If there a country that you think the US should look to model its higher education after? How did your brother find his apprenticeship? What do you think people who lack transportation should do? How do you feel about online colleges?

Since we have a nursing storage in the US, I think we should go back to the hospital based nursing programs in some of the areas that need them the most. That would solve the storage and the transportation issues. But who pays for it then? Not sure myself.

I don’t think there are any quick fixes or easy answers.

Laura September 24, 2012 - 5:45 pm

nursing storage?? teehee

Renee September 26, 2012 - 12:17 am

Laura, you bring up some valid points….I think you are right about there not being any “quick fixes” or “easy answers”, but I’m not going to let that stop me 🙂 How does that old saying go? Anything worth having is worth fighting for?? I definitely think that applies in this situation!
Also, I think you’re missing the point….the problem with our current education system, is that it’s not “one size fits all”….it’s not even “one size fits most”!!! We’ve been brainwashed to believe that there’s only one way to do it, and if you don’t do it the “right” way you will have a rough time in life. All of your questions about the apprenticeships are implying that everyone who chooses the non-college route only has one other option….an apprenticeship. I think the point Kelly is trying to make (and the point that you’re missing) is that there is not just ONE way to learn or become successful….there are a million different ways to do it!!! That’s what is so exciting about it!!!!
I just read through all four posts in this series so far and I’m so encouraged!!! I feel like I have tons of ammunition now for when I get asked WHY we decided to make the switch to homeschool. Kelly, you are saying all of the things I’ve been feeling, but have a hard time explaining or expressing, so thank you!!!
I have so many things I could/want to say on this topic (perhaps I should start my own blog?? haha), but I’ll just share a quick story…..I read somewhere (I can’t remember where I read this, sorry) that a zoo once did an experiment with some monkeys. The zookeepers placed a bunch of bananas at the top of a ladder. Every time the monkeys would start to climb the ladder to reach the bananas, the zookeepers would spray them with water. Eventually the monkeys learned not to climb the ladder. The zookeepers would then remove a few monkeys and replace them with new monkeys who didn’t know about the water. When the new monkeys would start to climb the ladder for the bananas, the original monkeys would “scold” them and keep them from climbing the ladder! The zookeepers never even had to turn the water on! They kept rotating the monkeys out until none of the original monkeys (the ones who got sprayed with water) were in the pen. Amazingly, when the “newest” new monkeys tried to climb the ladder, they were still chased away and scolded by the other monkeys. The funny part is, those monkeys actually had no idea why they were scolding and chasing away the other monkeys. They had never been sprayed with water and therefore weren’t aware of the consequences for climbing the ladder, BUT because THEY were scolded and chased, that’s all they knew, and they continued the cycle. Do you see where this is going??? The monkeys who were never sprayed with water never stopped to question, WHY NOT??? They just went along with the other monkeys because THAT’S WHAT YOU DO.
Somewhere along the way, our society has lost the ability to think for ourselves. We believe everything everyone tells us, and do things because “that’s just what you do”….it’s been done that way for longer than any of us can remember and no one ever stopped to question, “What if there’s a better way?” I’m sure people asked that question, but without the internet, it was probably a little hard to rally the troops 🙂 We have an amazing opportunity, being that we’re in the information age, to unite with like-minded people and actually say, “There IS a better way….and we’re doing it!!!!”
I just want to encourage everyone out there….take a second to look around…..are there things in your life that you’re doing and you have no idea why you’re doing them? Are you doing them because “that’s just what you do”? Are you actually HAPPY doing these things? If you are, GREAT!!! If not, then FIND A BETTER WAY 🙂 It can be done, I promise…..Love and hugs to everyone who’s trying to find a better way 🙂

Word Warrior September 26, 2012 - 7:14 am

Renee–love the monkey story 😉 Perfect example of what we so often do. The issue of education is SO big to me precisely for that reason. I can see “the better way” and I want to tell everyone about it…”save” them, if you will, from the status quo. However, historically, anyone who questions the status quo is considered crazy for a long time. (Do you know about the first doctor to hypothesized there were microscopic germs on your hands and tried to get doctors to wash their hands between patients to raise the mortality rate? He went mad because not only did they not believe him, they banned him and anyone who washed their hands, from practicing medicine. They thought he was spreading a myth of “spooks”.)

6 arrows September 26, 2012 - 8:53 am

Renee, the monkey story reminds me of a poster I once saw that pictured three monkeys and the following text (paraphrased):

There are those who make things happen.
There are those who watch things happen.
And there are those who ask, “What happened?”

Seems we’re going farther down that list in the schools these days. Real life is passing most of these kids by, and do they even know what they’re missing?

Word Warrior September 28, 2012 - 1:32 pm


Sorry I’m a little late here…

Several thoughts on some of your comments….first, here is a great place to peruse the direction of apprenticeships…http://www.ameprogram.com/

We just started an apprenticeship program here in our area (though it spans several states), of which my husband is one of the “mentors”, and we’re really excited about it. It is patterned much like the one in the website. AFTER you asked about affordability, we actually had a man in NY volunteer to sponsor interns who wanted to go through the program. He offers them fabulous opportunities and anyone could afford it. In addition, we have some investment opportunities for start-up costs, once the apprentice is ready to be on his own.

I think online degrees can be wonderful. My daughter is saving money for some programs next year and we know quite a few students who have pursued them.

Laura September 24, 2012 - 6:55 pm

Sorry fellow Laura! I was trying to rush to get out the door before scouts!

Keri September 25, 2012 - 7:54 am

When my daughter went to college..she called me one day and said “Mom,you wouldn’t believe how some of these girls(in the dorms)don’t know how to do common sense stuff”. She has shared some funny stories..Teaching them about everyday life is so important! I’m looking forward to your next post..

Charity September 25, 2012 - 2:49 pm

Ahh, yes. I saw the same thing while living in the dorms during my college years, so I took it as an opportunity to make money (I was paying for my own tuition and desperately needed the money). I put up signs saying what things I could do and the charge for them and earned money by washing laundry, trimming hair, mending clothing, typing papers etc, … and the number one thing I made money from was ironing! I went to a Christian college where the dress code for the guys was dress shirts, ties and sport coats/suit jackets. I ironed lots and lots and lots of guys shirts (50cents for no starch, 75cents starched). I made between $15-$20 a week from these little efforts, plus I worked a part time job and took the maximum credit load allowed;I didn’t sleep much 😉

Kim September 26, 2012 - 7:25 am

Great series! I’m a Christian and I believe we should learn to rely upon the Holy Spirit to teach us how we should homeschool our children. Most of us have learned the babylonian system which is an anti-God way. I am very encouraged and will pray more on the lines of Lord help me to do your will with my(HIS) children everyday. We must take one day at a time and live as if there might not be a tomorrow. Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth.(Col. 3:2) Thess. 12:1-2 -let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

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Tony Valle September 27, 2012 - 6:36 am

It is so true. Education and schools are not the same. My absolute favorite John Gatto quote: “In centuries past, the time of a child or adolescent would be occupied in real work, real charity, real adventure, and the real search for mentors who might teach what he or she really wanted to learn.”

I’ve been striving to find opportunities to be a mentor to children in the way that Gatto suggests – teaching them real professional skills. I think any of us with a “real” job can teach something of value to a child.

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noyon November 2, 2013 - 2:39 pm

Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this
post and the rest of the website is really good.

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