by Tammy Drennan
I’d like to share a few random thoughts drawn from my 23 years of homeschooling, tutoring, teaching classes and workshops, teaching adult literacy, helping thousands of parents start homeschooling and working for freedom in education.
1. First there’s the obvious. Motivated people learn best.
2. People who do most of their study on their own learn better than those who depend on teachers. By study on their own, I mean seeking out the best sources of knowledge regarding the topic at hand and finding the best way to make it their own; for some that could be a classroom situation only, but not for many.
3. Testing may be a motivating factor for getting a good grade but it’s a truly lousy motivator for learning to understand – and learning to understand is what results in education.
4. People don’t learn very well unless they interact with what they’re studying. Children usually interact by talking and/or by acting out things they’re learning. Talking and play-acting are not only discouraged in most schools – they’re practically outlawed. Adults also interact by talking but also by underlining, jotting notes and lingering over ideas for as long as it takes to grasp them.
5. People don’t tend to retain things they’re not interested in or things they don’t need to know. When the same person who couldn’t grasp a concept at age 16 finds he needs that concept at age 18, his ability to grasp it rises to the occasion.
6. Government schooling has defined education down to the point of having handicapped generations of adults, including many of the ones leading the charge for independence today. Our hope is in reversing the process – educating our children in better ways than we were educated, then hoping they will find better ways yet, and so on, until we have repaired the damage and are moving forward again.
7. Educators have a lot of trouble distinguishing between trivia and knowledge. Facts devoid of substantial context are fairly pointless. Nearly everyone knows George Washington was our first president, and nearly no one knows the impact he had on the political shape our country took and how it still informs the presidency to this day – and has the potential to inform it even more.
8. Way, way too many subjects are drawn out over years of schooling when it would be far better to introduce them incidentally or by way of stories in younger “grades” and teach them in earnest in one fell swoop when a student gains the maturity and need to actually grasp them. The finer points of grammar, for instance – kindergarteners are being bombarded with definitions of nouns, verbs and adjectives, yet seniors cannot write coherent letters.
I could go on – I could lament the dumbing down of phonics programs, the vapidity of most language arts programs, the lack of a mature approach to history once students reach their teenage years, but my point is not to be morose – it’s to be honest and to challenge myself and others to find better definitions of education and better ways to do it.
It is not enough to simply break free of public school authority. We must break free of all its definitions. It has defined education and thus has defined us. It has defined education and thus has defined liberty. It has defined education and thus has defined nearly everything we do and everything we are – usually in ways so subtle we don’t even know it. It has even defined our religion, no matter how much we may deny it.
We can pretend all we like that by trying to reform the schools we are helping the poorest the most, but it’s a lie. We’re helping them the least. We are condemning them to an eternal slave mentality, to forever having their entire lives defined by the state.
But maybe we need to find ourselves before we can help others break free. Maybe we condemn them to state schools because we’ve learned to fear freedom and to trust government. That was the plan, of course – not free people but compliant people. Even our rebellion is compliant.
We can do better. But I believe we must become more determined and more wise. The freedom movement is good, but to a large degree, the horse is running before the cart.
It’s time for committed people to begin gathering – two, three, ten, a hundred at a time – to hash out the meaning and means of education. Then it’s time for like-minded souls to join ranks and create opportunities based on their best, most informed, most carefully and honestly considered understanding, so their will be true choices for all children.
Why not call a friend or two today and invite them to begin a serious investigation into the meaning of education? Feel free to print and use anything from this blog that might prove useful to you.
And please, any time you find a valuable resource or idea that contributes to a better understanding of what is meant by education and how it can happen, let me know.