How we started homeschooling Pt 3
Posted by DAVID BC TAN under: Homeschool on 24 Mar 2014.
Continuing the story of our homeschooling journey and what we learned along the way. If you missed the previous installments, Part 1 looks back at how we arrived at our decision. Part 2 tells about early days when we started out. Here’s Part 3.
Learn, unlearn, relearn
SOMEONE SAID THAT TEACHING HAS A LEARNING CURVE that’s steeper than most other professions. Now, you only have to take responsibility for your own children’s education to know how true that is. This is probably the reason homeschooling in our first years was very much about getting into stride, or as they say, “finding your groove.”
It’s not hard to understand why. We had barely begun – not unlike first-time travellers, hearts thumping with a mix of excitement and apprehension as they arrive in a place they have never been before.
To top it all, we had to deconstruct a deeply flawed mindset that mistook schooling for education, teacher-directed instruction for learning, and examination grades for intelligence. That’s the sticky part. But if we wanted to homeschool and facilitate our children’s education, we too would have to take care to learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Lessons from a misstep
Shortly after we began homeschooling, Sook Ching bought into a pricey home-based accelerated learning programme. There were flash cards of the human body, musical instruments, vegetables, and math problems. Pretty soon our sons were effortlessly impressing friends and family with their “encyclopedic knowledge.”
It didn’t take long to discover that (a) kids really have a natural appetite for learning, and (b) I could make my own flash cards cheaply – which I eventually did.
While I have no doubt that thousands of parents are grateful for these expensive learning kits, I found out that words quickly learnt were just as easily forgotten in a matter of weeks. Our infatuation with that big box of flash cards and stuff lasted less than 6 months. Were we half-hearted about “bringing out the genius” in our boys, perhaps?
Nevertheless, having a lot of information in one’s head is obviously not the same as having knowledge. Knowledge is understanding concepts, not spewing out random data. It’s the ability to connect bits of information in a meaningful way, and then apply them effectively. Like so many parents we too mistook precociousness in a child for advanced intelligence.
Deciding on things that matter
Yep, we fell for the “multiplying baby’s intelligence” sales pitch. Are you anxious for your kids to have “encyclopedic knowledge” or “Mozart music to enhance spatial reasoning”? Do they really need all those enrichment classes to make them brilliant before they turn 7? Think twice before you dig into your pocket. Don’t buy tickets for guilt trips your kids can do without.
Better to use a natural or more organic approach to teaching and learning instead of over-engineering for quick results. Besides, what’s all the acceleration for – the child, or her parents?
What did this episode teach us about what really matters? Get knowledge, not information; nurture wisdom, not just intelligence. Enlarge the heart, not the head. These are values you need to work on day by day, one day at a time. It’s not how fast you’re going, but where you’re heading. It’s setting ablaze the intrinsic desire in all children to learn, and helping them to keep the fires burning. Then, you get out of their way.
Next: What we did in our homeschool
Founders of HOMEFRONTIER David and Sook Ching Tan have two adult sons who were homeschooled all the way until college. Ethan (24) recently graduated and got married to a wonderful girl Katie. Elliot (22) is thinking through his options and will be down under to do creative writing before the year is up.