Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


Of Learning and Teaching

I remember one time sitting in class--middle school science, maybe, but the specifics are fuzzy--and thinking to myself, "If our goal is to learn about the world, why do we spend all day sitting inside windowless rooms reading and talking about it instead of outside experiencing it?"

When my family visited Washington D.C. when I was in college, I spent most of an entire day at the Museum of Natural History, wishing I had more time both for it and for the rest of the Smithsonian. I remember having the thought that a family could spend a good week, if not more, using those museums as a curriculum instead of textbooks.

And when I was doing my library media practicum hours and spending my first significant time in an elementary school as an adult, I was struck by just how much of what we teach kids is to wait their turn. Sit quietly until the teacher gets to them. Stand in line until everyone behaves. I would guess the average student spends as much time waiting around as being taught, and then much of that teaching treats the child as a passive recipient instead of an active learner.

So if I were ever to homeschool my kids, my rationale wouldn't be too dissimilar from the parents in this article. I think homeschool children do miss a lot by not having the same socialization and cultural experiences as their peers, but the potential exists for a much better education at home. I wouldn't do it unless I had the time, money, and energy to do it right (which means it probably won't ever happen), but it's a thought.

As the number of children who are home-schooled grows — an estimated 1.1 million nationwide — some parents like Ms. Walter are opting for what is perhaps the most extreme application of the movement’s ideas. They are “unschooling” their children, a philosophy that is broadly defined by its rejection of the basic foundations of conventional education, including not only the schoolhouse but also classes, curriculums and textbooks. . . .

Adherents say the rigidity of school-type settings and teacher-led instruction tend to stifle children’s natural curiosity, setting them up for life without a true love of learning.

“When you think about it, the way they do things in school is mostly for crowd control,” said Karen Tucker, a mother of three boys who is an unschooler . . .


At 11/29/2006 4:59 PM, Blogger Hadrian said...

Does my vehement disagreement surprise you? Probably not.

At 11/29/2006 7:48 PM, Blogger Gobula said...

Classes, curriculums and textbooks are awful. Just get those kids an Xbox, that'll learn 'em real good!

At 11/29/2006 10:09 PM, Blogger Degolar said...

What, specifically, is the nature of your disagreement? You think science classes should never venture out, families should avoid museums, and students should be made to spend as much of the day as possible waiting unproductively? That's a bit sarcastic, I know, but I do find your "vehement disagreement" surprising and wonder what about it rubs you wrong.

At 11/29/2006 10:24 PM, Blogger Degolar said...

And maybe I should say a bit more about what I agree with from the approach. I believe everyone has a natural inquisitiveness, a desire to know, and actually enjoys learning when they are self-directed and feel it's relevant.

I know I learned more about mythology and world religions from my D&D Deities and Demigods book than any school. And I believe my reading and writing skills are what they are due to my voracious reading of fantasy novels, not what I avoided trying to do in my English classes. This probably isn't typical, but when I wanted to know more about something in middle and high school, I'd go find it in the encyclopedia and read about it. When something interested me, I'd learn about it.

Others might have different areas of interest and different methods of acquiring the information and skills they desire, but I believe children want to learn and will do so if given the opportunity. I also think it's important to have a parent or teacher guide that process, both to instruct and to provide some kid of structure to make sure there aren't holes in what is learned. But the factory approach of most schools suppresses that natural inquisitiveness by forcing students to learn on command, deciding for the students when and what they study regardless of interest. A curriculum of some sort is still necessary, but an individualized one with major student input would be much more motivating.

At 11/29/2006 11:59 PM, Blogger Gobula said...

There are a lot of things that kids don't think they need to know, or that they aren't interested in, that they really should know.

At 11/30/2006 9:48 AM, Blogger Degolar said...

That's where the adult guidance comes in.

At 11/30/2006 1:15 PM, Blogger The Girl in Black said...

degolar said...
That's where the adult guidance comes in.

Which sometimes can be frustrating... when the parent realizes they (the parent) are smarter or more well-adjusted than the adults guiding their children throughout the day.

Middle school has really been a learning experience-- for both my son and myself.

Above all, people are human. Which makes it all the harder to mandate logic, reason, and objective progress toward the goal of effective learning.

I'm not holding my breath, but still hoping high school may be more engaging.

At 12/02/2006 9:40 AM, Blogger Leelu said...

There is a certain merit to being taught patience, though. Wait your turn, let everyone have a chance, you don't always come first. These are good qualities that a lot of kids need to learn. Desperately.


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