This morning as I was scanning facebook, email, and blogs, I came across a blog post that I thought was excellent. I instantly wanted to share some...if not all...of it with you. First, my thoughts. As I have started the process of homeschooling, honestly there have been times that I've thought about what my motivation was. I've had to search my heart and make sure that I'm doing this for the right reasons, not to bring glory to myself or my family, but to bring glory to God. I also want my children to get the best education possible. That doesn't mean that I want them to be the smartest kids in the county, it means that I want them to have a love of learning and a good Biblical foundation in what they're learning. After reading the blog post I mentioned before, I also want to add that I want to develop in my children the ability to learn on their own, apart from things that I could teach them. I want to encourage their creativity and help develop outside-the-box thinking. The thought of being able to encourage that in my children is extremely exciting!
When I look back on my own education, I think I believe I have experienced a small piece of that. Overall, I have very fond memories of school and learning. I always enjoyed creative assignments in school and it inspired me to do things like that in my own teaching. On the other hand, I also depended on my teachers to spoon feed me a lot. I expected them to provide me with the information I needed to know and when they didn't, I know I've been critical of them.
The title of Cathlyn's Zwemke's blog is "A Little Kernal" and can be found at http://http://alittlekernel.blogspot.com/
. She has posted several helpful and interesting blog posts that I think some of you would enjoy. I met Cathlyn at Berry College several years ago and we have crossed paths a few times over the years. Reading her blog has challenged and encouraged me as a wife and mother. So, because I honestly loved the whole post she entitled "Spoonfed Education", I'm going to paste it all in! : ) God bless, Stacey
Ever wonder why our public education system in America has been on a steady decline since the 60's? What is it that seems to undermine every new idea and innovative policy passed down from Congress to stimulate the scores of our students? Well, there are several cracks in the foundation of our public education system, but it is my opinion that nothing will change until we take strides to transform our views about who is responsible to educate our future generations. No, I am NOT going to make a plug for homeschooling...this time. But, until we can pass the responsibility to learn from the teachers to the students, we will not see much in the way of educational reform.
I have watched the past ten years as the government passed down frantic new programs in hopes of stimulating learning through teacher incentives and consequences. Perhaps I missed it, but I haven't seen any successful progress. Instead, I see a bunch of pressured teachers who are so frightened of losing their jobs in this market that they are willing to lose their character and cheat on the scores for their students' standardized testing, like we have seen in our Atlanta city schools.
Until we make it clear that the responsibility to learn lies with the student and not the teacher, we will not see things change in our education system. We do a great disservice to our future generations by allowing them to think they did poorly in a subject because they had a lousy teacher. No doubt, a good teacher goes a long way to making learning fun and exciting, and even easy, but learning is not solely in the hands of those who teach. If a student believes she is in charge of her own education, then she in empowered to rise above the less-than-average teacher. She will seek outside help and information. She will become what our society sorely needs and almost always heralds, in the adult phase of life. She will become an INDEPENDENT LEARNER, a SELF-STARTER.
I'll never forget what a shock it was for me to go to England during my high school years. I was there for about two years, starting in the middle of my Freshmen year. Education is run differently in the U.K. than in the States. I had just come from Texas, where things were moving along just fine. I had straight A's my first semester. There was a rhythm to the six week sessions run in the Texas system. I had learned how to make that system work for me, but true learning and effort had not really been asked of me yet. No, that was not required of me until I left the States.
In England, I had entered in a trimester late in a two year learning situation. In those two years we kept the same teachers, classes, and subjects. At the end of the two years, we were to take written exams, two of them per course, and some exams lasting three to four hours in length. Right before the exams, we were given some time...I can hardly remember now, but I think it was six weeks, without classes to simply study for the exams...no teachers, just study time. Whatever we got on our exams, plus a portion of our yearly work would be our grades for the past two years. I was handed a syllabus at the beginning of class and I was expected to remember when things were due, without reminders. (Quite shocking for me, I can tell you.) I had to keep track of when our mock exams were coming, and I had to learn on my own, beyond the material handed to me, if I was going to pass and get credit for two years worth of learning. I had to get books, on my own, that would help me prepare for the exams. I had to organize my time, and hold down a part-time job at the same time. I say all this to show that we do not require enough from our students at an early enough age. It is not the teachers who gave me an education, although they guided me and helped me along the way, but ultimately they communicated that I was the responsible party to educate myself and prepare for my future independence.
Now, in this country, we do not ask that level commitment from our students until college. Perhaps we think they are too immature to take on that responsibility. But, often times, we create unprepared students who cannot handle the university situation. What do we create for our society when we allow students to believe that the teachers are responsible for our learning? What does a parent do for her child when she puts the blame on the teacher for her child's poor grades? (Certainly there are circumstances where a teacher was unfair, or graded with partiality, but even that teacher cannot prevent a child who is self-motivated from learning in spite of her grade.) We produce a generation who believes they are owed something. That their performance is in the hands of someone else. Later on if they don't perform well at work, well it transfers that they have a lousy boss, and the blame can be passed to him.
But we can do something for our next generation, despite the newest congressional push for reform in testing. We as parents and adults can encourage and show the way to our students. We can give our kids the tools to rise above their circumstances and take control of their education. Getting involved early-on can make all the difference. Don't let the school day be the end of learning. Find supplemental materials to play with and experiment with at home. Without a love and interest for learning, you will always be applying outside pressure to get a result, but when the student becomes infected with the love of learning, you won't be able to stop her. Go to museums, watch interesting educational shows...but most importantly, find out what interests your child and run with it.
Recently I sat down with my 7th grader and 5th grader, and I asked them to make a list of things they are interested in learning more about. The 7th grader's list was: "Drawing, Modern History, Animals and Bugs, Computer Programming, Legends of Varying Cultures, and Herbs. The 10 yr old's list was: "Ballet, How to Make a Computer, Computer Programing, The Way Stuff is Made, Books, Animals, and Research." America's kids want to learn more than movies, and video games, and pop music....if we let them.
My 7th grader loves the idea of survival living. She loves to research and find out what plants are edible, and she experiments with it. She has asked for an herbalist class/book/dvd set to help her in her study of Botany (call it what it is, and suddenly it is more than a kid just getting grubby in the mud). My 5th grader is fascinated with computers. I found a free program from M.I.T. that helps kids get the basic ideas down for computer programming. She, and her "botany" sister, have begun to invent and create their own video games, complete with original graphics and story line. Our children's play is their business, and their learning is never ceasing unless we tell them that they can only learn when being spoonfed.