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