Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Funny Thing About Homeschooling

You end up signing your kids up for a lot of different things to make up for what they aren't getting in regular school - well, at least we do. And I know many people get caught up in this even while sending their child to regular school, so, it's not just home schooling that's driving this. But the cool thing about joining different "schools" - the Suzuki school of string instruments, or the Karate school we just joined, etc., is you get a lot of different takes on education.

Today I took my kids to the Suzuki bi-monthly Saturday morning group classes and they had a special class for parents.

Here's a quote from a flier I received on tips about practicing:
  • "Let the child learn at his OWN pace. It allows him to learn each step VERY WELL before going on to a new idea. (Example of rushing a child - is pushing him to memorize a new piece when he is still stumbling over the notes of his last piece.) Definition: Child's own pace -- is speed at which he learns something under optimal conditions.
  • Because of lifestyles we have chosen, too often practice sessions are not at an ideal time, or are rushed.
  • Because of 'other things' we have scheduled, 'careful repetitions' are not done (poor practice timing, interruptions, or distractions.)

Here's another suggestion:
Let a child practice only as long as he is interested and can cooperate. Once his attention is gone, his learning stops. Practice then becomes a measure of endurance and bad attitudes can develop from it. A few minutes, several times a day may work best at first.

This is focused on instrument training. But I see very little difference, really, in learning how to write or learning math and mastering the violin. These kinds of skills take years to learn well. They also take regular, consistent practice to gain proficiency.

The problem I have with public school is that we expect every child to learn a certain amount every single year (do we expect this from a musical instrument? No, most people just give up.)

Another thing about Suzuki is that the parent should be attentive at the lesson - really focused on how its gong so that the practices can be focused accordingly. The music teacher is training the parent right a long with the student.

So, here's a thought about school reform that has probably no chance of getting implemented. Why not set the expectation that parents should be in the classroom at least part of the time learning and getting guidance from teachers? Instead of turning your children over to the school for most for of the day transferring over to the state (or church, or other private institution) for the education and improvement of your child. Why can't we get to more personalized, individualized training by getting many if not most of the children's parents in the classroom. The school becomes more of a partnership with the family. In that scenario we would need less formally trained teachers, these teachers could then be paid more and parents pick up the slack.

For those families with multiple kids, or families where parents just can't get in there, obviously, getting 1:1 adult to child ratio is not practical - but certainly the ratio could be much lower if the expectation of the parent as the primary child's teacher were more pervasive.

Here's why this is probably unrealistic: "a record 41 percent of all live births were to unmarried women, up 22 percentage points since 1980."

"I’m not the type to get nostalgic about the good old days of patriarchy, but the fact of the matter is that from a strictly economic point of view a married couple household is a much more efficient arrangement than the one-adult alternative"

And borrowing from Tyler Cowen's book The Great Stagnation, he spends a chapter talking about how our education system has gotten less efficient over the last 30 years - we spend more and continue to get worse results.

Th reason why our public schools are not efficient is because our family structures are becoming increasingly inefficient, with more and more of them led by a single adult, or with parents working full time jobs. This is not efficient educationally. It's just not practical to hire enough teachers to get the ratio's down to the ideal (very close to 1 teacher to 1 student) without an enormous amount of help from parents. And parents are increasingly concerned with other things. So, instead, we try our best to lure enough talent through the teacher certification process and into the classroom, paying them marginal salaries and filling up the classroom with 30 or 40 kids per one teacher.

This is not true, of course, for the well off, who earn enough money to divert a larger percentage of this constrained education resource their way, leaving less of those resources available for other children.

The answer is getting more people involved in education and parents are a natural resource we are vastly under-utilizing.


H said...

Dare I say that I offered my teaching services to the charter school my daughter attends 2 years running and was never taken up on the offer?

And what was THIS line, Scott?...

"This is not true, of course, for the well off, who earn enough money to divert a larger percentage of this constrained education resource their way, leaving less of those resources available for other children."

A knock on private schools? We scholarshipped into one of those for the best experience so far. If it wasn't so far, I'd have gone back in a heartbeat.

My experience thus far has shown me that it is mostly about the school size, administration, and like you said- parent involvement.

tempe turley said...

Helena, I'm interested. Would the schools your children attend allow you in the classroom?

I'm wondering if teachers on average just don't like dealing with their children's parents?

I can see reasons why, but I guess the point I'm making is that the teacher's job could be more about training the parent than training the child.

Then the parent could take back the job of training the lives they brought on this world (with as much support as society can possibly muster them).

H said...

They are allowed to work with children, in the classroom but not alone with any group or one on one unless they have a fingerprint clearance card. We've all "helped" on special days- doing things like running games and carving pumpkins.

Again, the best utilization of parents was at the private school we attended. Twice a week (or more), the K-2/3 grades were flooded with parents helping the children read in the desert. They would go out for recess and one at a time a parent would call a child over to read with them for about 5 minutes. It was a book the teacher picked for them at their reading level, and the parent would give minimal feedback and instruction. It took planning and trust on the part of the teachers, but they had individual reading with each child happening at least 2 times a week! (They also had 15 min. of reading as the homework assignment... mainly the ONLY homework assignment in K and 1)

It was a SMALL school and the parents knew and respected one another. They trusted that confidence would not be spread about their child's reading abilities in a negative way. They all helped each other. It was a beautiful, rare occurance, I believe.