THE HOME SCHOOLING REVOLUTION
By Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© August 2016, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
“We are living through a revolution that is changing the way we live, communicate, and think...this revolution will determine how, and if, we and our children will work, prosper and enjoy life to the fullest." – from The Learning Revolution by Gordon Dryden and Dr. Jeannette Vos (1994).
THE BIG PICTURE
Traditional education systems, particularly in the USA and Europe, are failing, and for good reason. They are not up to date, and, in fact, they make little sense today. Among the trends in the world that are forcing parents to adopt new educational methods are instant communication, especially with the internet, and merging of interactive video, computers, and other electronic devices.
The information revolution has greatly extended the brain power of each individual. Buckminster Fuller called this "humanity developing a central nervous system". Today, most information can be accessed, almost instantly, in many forms, almost anywhere on earth. This enhances problem-solving and is creating for the first time a world of plenty.
The information revolution requires change in all our institutions. The slowness of change is one cause for school dropouts, delinquency, 'attention deficit', teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol addiction.
THE CURRENT SITUATION IN EDUCATION
1. Failing the children. The current system does not teach many children well. This is proven over and over using test scores and other statistics.
The schools are also unsafe, especially for girls. They are exposed to drugs in many schools, bullying and worse.
2. Outrageous costs. In America, the taxpayers spend a average of over $12,000.00 per year on each child’s education. This has doubled in the past 20 years, with little or perhaps nothing to show for it.
3. A highly authoritarian system that forces children to learn at a pace, a place, a time, a manner and in an order determined by the teacher's convenience. This may have been necessary 100 years ago. However, modern technology and communication have changed the situation.
Even without modern technology, over 100 years ago Maria Montessori found that children could have a different type of relationship with a properly trained teacher a non-adversarial relationship. Children can be trusted to learn at their own pace, in their own order, in a properly designed environment. However, her innovations have hardly filtered into the public schools.
In the present system, one style of learning dominates, generally sitting in a group for hours in a classroom. Classrooms may be good for some children, but not for others. At one time it was the only way to do things. But this is no longer true. Perhaps, as John Dewey suggested, learning should be more active. Maybe apprenticeship would be best for some children. Perhaps some children should have a 'home learning center' consisting of a computer and certain hook-ups. Children could learn at home any time, and get help by dialing up a central 'teacher' any time they need it.
4. A system focused on memorizing and repeating back information. Some of this is needed, of course. However, today, learning how to learn, life skills, and confidence or self-esteem, are very important, in part because actual data or facts are very easy to access online, for the first time in history.
5. School subjects are usually taught in an isolated, fragmented way. Subject matter is often irrelevant to students, because parents and students are rarely consulted and curricula are handed down to teachers in a rigid, hierarchical fashion. The child who gets the best grade is generally the one who can repeat like a parrot what the teacher says. Those who think independently and creatively are often punished for their independence. Yet creative, independent thinking is critical for success in the information society.
6. A horrible negative reinforcement system. Present grading systems label children as "C" students, or even failures. In fact, there is no failure. Some children learn faster than others. Some learn differently than others. Negative reinforcement through grading may be fine for some, but is harmful for many. It also sets up a reward system for learning that does not help students to be self-motivated.
I once taught a health class to high-school dropouts, using a positive reinforcement grading system. The students were told they would all receive an A in the course. If they did not obtain a perfect score on each daily quiz, they would repeat each test until they did obtain a perfect score. Students were skeptical. But the following year ten of the twelve students decided to go back to high school. Their self-esteem improved by receiving good grades, and not because my standards were lower.
In other words, a basic problem is that most schools allow and even demand failure. Some students are expected to get Ds or Fs. This is how we track and separate students. In the past, this may have been acceptable. Those who did poorly took manual labor jobs. These were plentiful, paid well, and besides, it was impossible for everyone to go to college. Today, there are fewer manual labor jobs available, and many pay poorly because one must compete with unskilled laborers from other nations. Also, today, everyone can continue their education at college level and beyond. Computers and video make possible home study and long-distance study. Planned failure no longer makes any sense at all.
7. An inflexible structure. I submit that the most critical problem in education is its structure. The public school system is a unionized, government monopoly. This is the least flexible structure imaginable: The teachers unions work tirelessly to preserve jobs and often to preserve the status quo. A monopoly means there is little if any competition to encourage change. A government-financed system means that the money flows in, no matter how poor the school performance.
The results are:
1. Change is very slow, no matter what is promised. There is simply little incentive to change.
2. Schools are not primarily accountable to their clients - the pupils and their families. Too often, vocal minorities, distant boards or unions control policies and funding.
3. Layers of bureaucracy arise that are expensive and insulate schools further from change.
4. The system discriminates against the poor. Wealthy people can send their children to private schools, while the poor have no choice.
In contrast, if there were a free market in education, schools that meet the changing needs of the pupils and their families would succeed. The others would catch up or go out of business. Funding and therefore control would be in the hands of the consumers of education - parents and children. The solution is to return control to parents in the form of school choice. I doubt there will be much constructive change otherwise. An excellent book about deregulation of education, loaded with statistics and excellent reasoning, is Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich.
THE HOME SCHOOLING REVOLUTION
Home-based schooling is the future of education, and it is here right now, according to many education experts. I would say, anyone who sends children to a traditional school is living in the last century, and the child will pay for the oversight.
Warning To Parents: if you can, have only one parent working. Forego the new car or the large home and stay at home and help your child learn at home. If two people absolutely must work, try to have one parent work at home, perhaps on a computer, so your child can learn at home. If both parents must work outside the home, maybe your child can spend his or her days at the home of a friend, assuming that one of the parents is always there to supervise.
Important misconceptions about home schooling are:
1. Your child will not become socialized.
2. Your child will “miss” certain activities.
3. Home schooling is just one option, like public school, only at home.
These are all false, and are discussed in more detail in this article.
Reasons why home schooling is the future. These are fairly simple:
1. The cost. This is one of the most important reasons for home-schooling. It does not require large brick-and-mortar buildings, classrooms, school buses, and all other facilities. It may also require many fewer teachers, since some of the teaching is done with interactive computer programs, video programs and other methods.
A friend just switched her 12-year-old from a brick-and-mortar school to an online classroom school run by an affiliate of Stanford University in California. The cost was half, she saved 3 hours of commuting to school daily with her child, and the child is learning just as much or more in about 1/3 the time spent.
2. Safety. This is a major issue today. Public and some private schools are cesspools of drug use, alcohol use, sexual predation and even rape of young girls, bullying, and more. More and more children hate their school for this reason alone. It also interferes with learning.
All of these horrible hazards to our children go away with home schooling. Other hazards are riding bicycles or walking to and from school buildings. Home schooling is a must just for this reason alone, especially for girls. Please listen, parents, before your daughter is raped or molested, and is never the same again.
3. Individualized. In this information age, education can and must be tailored to the needs of each student. Students learn differently, think differently, and enjoy different activities. Present schools are a one-size-fits-all approach that may have been necessary 200 years ago, but makes absolutely no sense today and indicates total ignorance of how children learn.
Indeed, as described below, many options exist that can enable a parent to test a child’s learning style, intelligence style and abilities, and tailor a program perfectly for that child, so that learning becomes a joy. It goes much faster, with many fewer problems, as well.
4. Much better education. The combination of an individualized education in a safe and fun environment makes home schooling much more effective than brick-and-mortar school-based education. Do not believe the naysayers who warn that your child will not become “socialized” if you home school your child. This is total nonsense. Perhaps what they mean is your child won’t be exposed to the drugs, alcohol, sex, and bullying.
Home schooling is not just one “option”. Within the option of home-schooling are at least four basic educational types or options:
FOUR TYPES OF HOME SCHOOLING OPTIONS:
1. Private tutors. This is okay, but expensive.
2. Online classrooms or virtual classrooms. Some online schools offer this. They provide participation and student interaction, similar to that in brick-and-mortar schools. However, the advantages of doing it online are: no bullies, no rapes, no drugs, no alcohol, choose your friends and ignore the rest, and one can stay at home - in your pajamas if you like. Students must “attend” the classes. However, all classes are recorded, so if a student misses class, simply view it online. Also, if one did not get the lessons completely, one can review the class.
3. Self-paced online learning with no classroom activity. This is the fastest method, but does not appeal to all students as there is no interaction with other students. There can be interaction with a teacher or coach, who would review the student’s progress. To succeed, students must be self-motivated, or parents or someone must help motivate the child.
4. Online education supplemented with some local school classroom activity. This hybrid system is also popular in some cities. It is usually not practical in rural areas.
CONCERNS WITH HOME SCHOOLING
1. It requires that one parent stay home with the children. This is a problem for some families. However, usually this can be solved if a family works together on it.
2. Homeschoolers sometimes do not have access to some facilities available at public schools. These can be music and dance classes, sports teams, or special education, for example. I would say:
1. It is still much better to home school.
2. In some areas, home school networks organize and provide these activities themselves. In other areas, community facilities are used. Therefore, this objection is often not true, to the best of my understanding.
3. Homeschoolers miss out on social activities that occur at the public schools. However, this is rarely the case. Home schooled children may be able to attend some of these events if they choose. Often, there are plenty of other social events to go to. In addition, these activities are usually not safe, especially for girls. Therefore, missing them is not a loss, but rather a benefit.
4. Home schooled children may miss out on the skills of very talented public school teachers. However, they are also spared the boredom and sometimes the horror of having to sit in classes led by mediocre public school teachers. More and more, lessons taught by the best teachers are being put on video and on internet programs so they can be enjoyed by all children, everywhere. This is best, I would contend.
In the excellent book, The Learning Revolution, researchers Dryden and Vos found the following in the successful learning environments:
1. The attitude is that everyone can and will succeed, albeit at their own pace and their own method. Some schools even guarantee satisfaction to their clients (students), just like other businesses.
2. Content is just one component of education. The other components are:
A) Personal development. This may include confidence-building, self-esteem, motivation, communication and relationship skills.
The six aspects of self-esteem are: physical safety, emotional security, identity, affiliation, competence and mission. The authors call self-esteem the secret heart of education. Self-image appears to be the most important single factor influencing how well a person will learn.
B) Life skills. These include the basics of business and law related to one's field, writing and speaking ability, self-management, health and nutrition, creative problem-solving, conflict management and computer skills.
C) Learning-how-to-learn. This includes many techniques described in the book to enhance learning and make it more fun. For example, steps to learning anything are: set the right 'state' and mood, get the big picture first, use the most appropriate learning style and intelligence, use drawing, mind mapping and visualization, think creatively and analytically about the subject, act out, apply, teach, or demonstrate what is learned, review and evaluate.
D) Content is taught in an integrated fashion. The three elements of integrated learning are: out of class projects combine research, exploration and fun; computers analyze and process the information; and subjects are linked together, not taught separately.
E) Learning is made enjoyable, often with music, dance, theatre, etc.
F) New technology is used.
G) The school is seen as a year-round, all-day resource center.
H) Students and parents are regularly consulted, choice abounds, and all students are encouraged to teach, as well as learn. Teachers function more as facilitators. The goal is to empower parents and students.
I) Student's learning and thinking styles are tested and each one offered a personalized curriculum. The individual curriculum utilizes the student's preferred style of learning, preferred style of thinking, and cultivates the students preferred type of intelligence. The three styles of learning are auditory, visual and kinesthetic.
The four thinking styles. This is from Anthony Gregoric, professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Connecticut:
1) Concrete sequential - reality-based, orderly, hands on, good with details, needs a quiet work space.
2) Concrete random - reality-based, experimenters, trial and error, like to make intuitive leaps and learn things their own way.
3) Abstract random - reflective, feeling-emotive, learn by association, need a very structured, people-oriented environment.
4) Abstract sequential - conceptual, analytical, philosophers and scientists, like to read, often like to work alone.
The seven intelligences are:
1) Linguistic - speakers, writers, journalists
2) Logical-mathematical - scientists, engineers, accountants, lawyers, investigators
3) Visual-spacial - architects, navigators, strategists, artists
4) Musical - performers, composers, recording engineers
5) Bodily-kinesthetic - athletes, actors, dancers, outdoor workers, mechanically gifted, surgeons
6) Interpersonal or social - teachers, leaders, sales people, managers, public relations and counselors.
7) Intrapersonal or intuitive - mystics, counselors, philosophers, self-aware people.
Making sure children develop healthful vision habits. This would also be helpful for many children. Healthful vision habits include relaxing when viewing material, and not staring. To assist this, classrooms or home schooling areas should have:
1. A Snellen chart on a wall – a standard eye chart.
2. Plenty of sunlight.
3. Reduce the size of the print the children read. Smaller print is much better to relax the eyes.
More on this subject can be found by reading about the Bates Method Of Vision Improvement on the internet.
COMBINING THE NEW ELEMENTS OF LEARNING
Many of these ideas are not new. Some date back over 100 years to Maria Montessori and other educational pioneers. In 1928, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung divided students into feelers, thinkers, sensors and intuitors. Some years ago, Ken and Rita Dunn at St. Johns University identified about 20 learning styles, and designed a simple questionnaire to assess preferred styles for each child.
When several of the best methods of education are combined, learning and catch-up can be phenomenal. In New Zealand, for example, a group of slow learners increased their learning rate by 600% using the methods described above.
The Learning Revolution documents many amazing results around the world. Graduates of these schools are well prepared for life in our new society.
1. An excellent article about home schooling is:
The first two magazines concern the secular home schooling movement, while the second two are more oriented to the Christian branch of the home schooling movement.
2. Dryden, G. and Vos, J., The Learning Revolution, Jalmar Press, Torrance, Ca. 1994. (contains a long list of educational resources and organizations).