Friday, July 20, 2012

Spontaneous Learning vs. Prescribed Learning

I want to thank you for joining me as I describe this wonderful journey I've been on.  You have been an encouragement to me in comments, messages, and emails.  Thank you!!  I'm nearly done (or at least nearly out of ideas for new posts for this series).  Today I want to give you some questions to think about, things that I think about when my mind wanders toward education.    

Babies, toddlers, preschoolers love to learn...it is astounding how much a baby learns in the first year of life!
BUT
Have you ever given a child an "educational" toy to find that the only people who play with it as it is designed are the older children and adults?

School-age children will readily learn "fun" things their peers are doing...even academic things.
BUT
Why do {many} children groan when summer ends and school begins?

Adults voluntarily pursue new hobbies, skills, information to learn about things related to play, work, church, or family...
BUT
If a boss (or spouse) requires (asks) an employee (spouse) to attend a training, read a book, or take a class, why does it suddenly sap their motivation to learn?


Why is there a disconnect between spontaneous learning (for which we seem naturally motivated) and prescribed learning?  It would be great if all learning could be spontaneous, but doesn't some learning have to be prescribed?

I hope you're not going to be disappointed, but I don't have the answers to these questions.  I suspect I would need a psychology degree to do that.  ::grin::  I think about this a lot, however, and I've been thinking about it more as I've been on this journey.  Some of the webinars I listened to, especially from CollegePlus, caused me to really get thinking about it.  Something clicked when I started reading Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax. Dr. Sax identifies 5 factors that are causing a lack of motivation in boys.  Out of all five, the one that has most captivated me is educational methods.

The challenge presented here by Dr. Sax is that we get off on the wrong foot right away in Kindergarten.  Kindergarten today in America is equivalent to what First Grade was 30 years ago.  We expect little boys to begin reading and writing long before they are able to.  A good portion of the boys will do fine.  The others (too high of a percentage, if you ask me) will end up on ADHD medication or in a remedial group.  These boys who struggle to learn (the way the school says they must) will now begin their educational career already feeling like failures, a dogma that will follow them for years.  The acceleration of Kindergarten is not the only issue.  There is also the shift from Kenntnis (experiential knowledge) to Wissenschaft (book knowledge), a lack of real competition for boys, and a disregard for the genuine differences between boys and girls.

As the children progress through school, we apply a factory assembly-line approach to learning and require that every student learn exactly the same set of skills and principles.  This "standardization" of education ensures that all are equal and have equal opportunities.  Cathy Duffy challenges us in her book, 100 Top Picks for Homeschoolers, to consider a contrarian view.  There are other leaders who are stepping forward to say the same thing.  Why do we require what we require?  What is the purpose of this particular educational path?  The answer is so my child can go to college.  Why?  So he/she can get a good paying job.  Why?  So he will be happy and successful...  Why?  And so the questions progress.  One consequence of this assembly-line, conformist approach to learning is that we are not raising students who are able to think for themselves.  Andrew Pudewa loves to ask, especially young people, "How do you think?"  Usually they can't answer.  If they can't think for themselves, well, they won't cause problems...for the people who are in control.  I'm NOT trying to be an alarmist, not at all.  But I am stirring the pot a bit.  It's something to think about.

No matter where your child goes to school, you need to be asking "Why is my child learning this?"  And you need to have a good answer.  If you come up with a good answer, then ask, "Is it the best way my child can learn this?  Is there some way I can give him/her a boost or challenge them to push harder?"  Actually take time to observe your child's natural talents and abilities.  What could it be that God has created this unique person for?  What does he want to be when he grows up?  Why?  Even though these are hard questions, and you probably won't find any definite answers, it's a good exercise in thinking.  It's time we shake off the dust left behind by our own educations and think philosophically.

This is a great lead-in to high school, and you'll see why.  It's up next.  :)

5 comments:

  1. I have loved everything you've written this week! All of this is exactly why I want to home school my kids. Especially my son. He has potential just oozing out of him and I feel like it's being stifled in public school. I hate to see him lose his drive for learning.

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    1. I love that you are asking questions and thinking about what is the best for your kids! I love that we live in countries where we have that option. I'll be praying for you guys as you talk and decide a plan.

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  2. Do you mind if I pin all of your posts in this series? I did the first one already, but I can remove it if you don't want it pinned.

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    1. Absolutely! That's wonderful! Thank you. :)

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