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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A tailored Education

The Lost FilesPrologue
What a Difference A Year Makes Part 1
Chapter 1: What a Difference A Year Makes Part 2
Chapter 2: Background Influences
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 1
Chapter 3: What Am I doing? Part 2
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 1
Chapter 4: Best Laid Plans.... Part 2
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 1
Chapter 5: Socialization? Part 2
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 1
Chapter 6 : I thought I already knew my children! Part 2
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 1
Chapter 7 : Leaving the School System Part 2
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 1
Chapter 8: Choosing Curriculum Part 2
Chapter 9: A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 1
Chapter 9 : A Typical Homeschooling Day? Part 2
Chapter 10 : Homeschool Burn-out
Chapter 11 : At Their Own Pace
Chapter 12 : A tailored Education

In giving your child a customized, individualized education, one must realize that allowing the child to progress at his or her own pace is only half of the process. Equally important is allowing the child to focus on an area he or she is especially talented in, or in which they are extremely interested.

If you look at children involved in Hollywood, Broadway, Amateur Sports, or the music industry, you will find that most of these children have one thing in common. They are homeschooled. Many homeschool by necessity, however, homeschooling allows them to have a career while they are still children. I am by no means suggesting homeschoolers push their children into any of these areas prematurely. What I am suggesting, however, is homeschooling parents allow their children to focus in areas in which they are naturally inclined, or for which they have a great deal of passion. I like to call it majoring, to borrow the college term.

My own children for example, major in Piano. It was my son’s desire, two years ago, to play the piano. After school once a week, I would take him and his sister to piano lessons. I chose to take both children because I thought that every child should have some experience with the instrument, and I had heard that music helps to develop your brain mathematically. They both loved it and had no problem catching on. My son Jackson has added the flute as well, and Jordan has now has picked up the ability to play by ear.

At age 8, before he even started homeschooling Jackson had already declared that music would to be his major. As I was sitting outside of his piano lesson one day, I heard Jackson’s teacher tell him that his new books, which he had just received last week were suddenly too easy for him. He already needed a new set of books. Something had clicked, and he his playing had suddenly advanced in a short period. She will be bringing him classical books next week. After his lesson, and while his sister was playing, I questioned him about his feelings and his progress. He informed me that he likes playing instruments and learning to write music more than anything; even sports. He said, when he starts homeschooling, he wants to add flute lessons and to spend more time on music.

He continues to hold interest in these instruments and at this time is trying to decide what instrument to add to his portfolio next. His desire to major in music has heavily influenced my recent decision to enroll him and his sister Jordan in a school for the arts, which they will attend four or more hours a week. I am enrolling both children because Jordan has repeatedly expressed an interest in singing, dancing, and drama, and this school has all of these elements.

After spending an entire day at the local Masters Academy recently, I am confident that starting next August, I will be able to give my children the opportunity to focus more on what they love. The programs consist of Art, Music, and drama, all based on historical times. Therefore, they get the full picture of history instead of just facts. They can also choose elective classes that will allow them to focus on the instruments or discipline of their choice. The school teaches from a biblical perspective, which is also important to us. In addition, I do not have to drive all over town for different extracurricular lessons.

As a college student might switch majors from year to year, young children may very well switch majors from month to month. This does not mean they have wasted a moment’s time pursuing something they would eventually drop. Instead, it means they receive a crash course, and probably a deeper understanding in a subject than they would have received had they taken the course in a more traditional matter.

This is autodidactic learning. An autodidactic learner is self-educated. These self-
learners have an enthusiasm for knowledge, and instead of waiting for the right time to learn something, they dive right into it as soon as the interest arises, even before any so-called pre-requisites. Because the curiosity is there, the person learns enthusiastically. If they had waited until allowed, to they would have surely lost interest in the subject before they got to it. For example, about a month after I had began homeschooling our children, I went away for a few days and my husband stayed home from work to be with the children. When I returned, he and my daughter informed me that she had learned to multiply. .But" I protested, "She has not mastered subtraction yet"! .How does that stop her from learning to multiply?" my husband asked. .I have no idea", was my answer.

You cannot teach all subjects out of order, of course, but interest in a subject certainly makes it much easier to learn. Traditional schooling insists that we wait until we are old enough and have a wide enough range of knowledge before we can make decisions about our future careers. So often, by this point we have forgotten or have not had enough time to pursue subjects that once warmed out hearts. By the time we reach college, we have already learned to make life decisions based on the popular profession of the day or based on the amount of money we can make. An autodidactic learner, instead, studies the subject of their hearts desire, and then figures out how to make money doing it.

Another reason self motivated learning is an asset to homeschooling is that it helps to rule out fields that one might decide they dislike, before investing a lot of time and money. One can avoid this by participating in an internship at a young age. Many homeschooled teenagers, instead of learning from a book about a subject that might interest them, may work as an intern in the field, or even take a money-paying job. When you are working in your chosen field, you have a better chance of determining if this is something you want to do with your life. The job helps to confirm whether they want to pursue the career further. It also allows them to feel comfortable spending money on a degree. In addition, it can lead to an ongoing internship that will lead to a job in the end. For those who decide that the career is not for them, they have saved a great deal of money, and possibly even earned some money in the process, and can now explore other possibilities.

For those children who find their calling, or declare a major early in life and stick to it, you can end up with a child prodigy. Stories of child prodigies are much more common within the homeschooling community than in the traditional schooling community. This might be because homeschooling makes sense for a child that is an over achiever and is, in essence a by-product of such achievement. As homeschooling becomes more and more popular, however, these stories seem to become more and more frequent.

There is a true story about a young man who won the MacArthur Fellowship Award, in 2002. His name is Erik Demaine. His father Martin removed him from school at seven years of age. They traveled the country together on a very meager budget if $5000.00 per year while homeschooling. Martin taught his son from borrowed books, at bookstores and at libraries. His father worked from the theory that the child should spend 1 hour a day on his overall education with the rest of the day dedicated to his own interests.

At 12 years old, with no school records, he joined the computer science department of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as an associate professor. By age 22, the MIT professor whose work fuses art, science, work and play was the recipient of a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the "genius" grant. He was the youngest of the 24 recipients that year.

I am not expecting this kind of genius to be a by-product of homeschooling my children. Erik Demaine was obviously born with this potential already within him. What I am expecting however, it that my children will be able to focus on whatever it is that moves their hearts to the point that they will be able to excel in their chosen field.

As for receiving a well-rounded education, homeschoolers do not neglect all other subjects in lie of studying only the major. I assure you that though some people may not study chemistry, or geometry, or Latin, homeschoolers do receive well-rounded educations. Erik Demaine’s father for example, took one hour a day to make sure his son learned subjects outside of his immediate interests. In most cases, the parent uses their "school" time to focus on reading, and math, especially since these are the subjects on required standardized tests. You would be amazed how much reading and math can be learned in 1 hour when there in only one or two children. As for science, social studies, and other subjects, they are all around us. Trips to Zoos museums and even watching the television gives us more knowledge than we even realize.

In my case, we spend two hours a day learning "subjects". We do four or five days a week. We are not in school waiting for the class to quiet, waiting on lines, or dealing with other distractions. Therefore, every learning hour spent at home easily equals two hours spent in school. In addition, our "school" time does not include physical education (Tae Kwon Do), music lessons, Home economics, health, and a host of many other subjects that occur naturally as a part of daily living.

(reminder: this was written several years ago)

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1 comment:

Eowyn said...

One correction; when Erik Demaine went to Dalhousie he was a graduate student, not an associate professor. He then went on to work on his PhD at the University of Waterloo - where I met him - before getting hired by MIT.

He is, however, undeniably brilliant. And so is his father.