While on the internet today I read “How to Learn ALL Subjects through Unschooling” and I was not prepared for the intensity of my response. While setting up homeschooling for my own boys this fall it had become very obvious that there is not a singular correct way to do it: the personal styles, content, schedules and approaches are as varied as there are parent-children combinations. Still, this woman managed to hit a nerve – one I was NOT aware was so raw – with a 20 pound hammer. My reaction to this article has inspired me to write for the first time in a very long time.
- Book Reports – Happen naturally as we talk about what we’ve read. We don’t need to require they are written down. If a child can orally give a report, they can write it out if they choose.
- Letters – Will happen naturally, they can see examples online or from recent mail.
- Penmanship – Not needed in today’s world. The ability to express oneself vocally will translate to paper if ever needed.
- Cursive – “School cursive, called in my day Palmer penmanship, had evolved from an elaborate decorative script invented for engraving in copper, a very slow and painstaking form of writing that had nothing to do with speed. Someone, somewhere, decided that it would be nice if children learned to write like copperplate engraving, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
- Children will learn cursive & calligraphy if they want.
- The only real math are word problems.
Even copying and pasting that has made me go put on a pot of tea to catch my breath. Please go read her whole write up while I finish adding my sweetener.
There are three points in the above quote that I will restrict myself to discussing at this point: 1) “If a child can orally give a report, they can write it out if they choose”; 2) Penmanship and Cursive “Not needed in today’s world”; 3) “The only real math are word problems”.
I am greatly concerned that the next generations are unable to WRITE. I do not mean ROFLMAO or the many other slang / abbreviations that focus on speed of communication. Texting, tweeting, and general conversations successfully utilize these time saving choices to convey information quickly. However, this is NOT writing.
I want my children to be able to write fully; I want them to be able to write their thoughts in a way that allows them to be understood by people other than their peers.
Illiteracy is on the rise. This is not an epidemic of the poor. The perception from many educators is that being able to verbally communicate is JUST as good as being able to write out your thoughts on paper or take a test. Until grade 10, most schools will not fail or hold back a student. Grade 10. That is 10 years of building blocks each stacked onto the previous layer riddled with holes. Grade 4 materials taught to an individual that only understood 40% of Grade 1, 32% of Grade 2… by the time grade 10 hits you are now looking at a language skills equivalent to “English as a second language” or worse. I feel safe to say… way worse.
So, being able to put a pen to a piece of paper, and convey your knowledge through the written word, is important. It is NOT a waste of time and NO, it does not ‘ just come naturally’. Book after book floods the market trying to drive home this very point.
“Eats shoot and leaves.” is not the same as Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.
“We had Grandma for supper.” is another very important example.
Second point ties in with the first. Cursive writing is more than swirly loops and fancy ink. It is an art form that allows the student to be able to read and interpret symbols OTHER than block text. While I will NOT be expecting them to create illuminated pages from The Book of Kells, being able to properly form and shape the letters of the English language in a traditional Cursive font will be required. Just like reading an analog clock, all knowledge is useful and a tool they have at their ready.
Finally, Math. Taking math from a jumble of letters and symbols to applicable understanding takes memorization of what to do, how to do it, and then when to do it. Compare it to learning to drive a car: You hit the steets for hands on practice AFTER you have studied the laws and signs.
In my opinion, there is no singular “real” math. It is a language and being well versed in word problems and written equations gives a more well rounded skill set.
So while the boys and I explore what style of learning, software, textbooks, field trips and environment will work for us there are going to be a core beliefs. Reading, writing and arithmetic are going to be core subjects. What we read, what we write about and what we count and calculate is going to be open for ever evolving passions and interests but I refuse to lower my standards because it’s ‘easier’!