Posted by Abu Abdurahman | 8 Comments
Recently I was trying to write down goals for my two sons for the summer. In the summer I am usually off from school and this summer I have decided to let go of work to focus on personal studies as well as my family. So now that I have a lot of time I would like to try and see if we can use this time to make some real progress and have a lot of fun as well.
While I looked over plans for Arabic, Islam, Geography, and Math, I began thinking of where they should be at the end of the summer, and started to ask myself some questions. How many chapters should he finish? What books should we complete? What subjects should we cover? How can we add some fun activities? And during this process it occurred to me that none of these are realistic goals. Not because they are not feasible, but rather because they are all outside of the context of what this is all about. At that point I realized I was falling into the trap of the public education system of trying to only look at education through a series of academic hurdles instead of analysing the process itself. Let me explain.
One of the reasons the educational system fails in my opinion is that it teaches you how to pass tests, and as we all know, pretty much anyone can past tests, in fact quite unintelligent people can ace tests, and they are a very poor judge of the value of an educational system or approach. The other thing it does for you, save teach you how to read, write, and accomplish enough arithmetic to count your change at the corner store, is you memorize information most of which will be forgotten much like the first four years of your life. It takes a 5 year educational programme and drags it out into 18, if they make it that far.
So if this is not the way, than what do we really want to accomplish?
If I am still teaching my son Algebra, Chemistry, Physics, Literature, or any other subject typically taught in schools when he is16, then I have failed him
I don’t say this because I think that my son has to finish high school before he gets his second set of teeth. As a matter of fact it really does not have anything to do with time. It is more a question of what am I home-schooling for? Most people home school for one of 3 reasons or a combination of them.
1. Religious reasons
2. Avoiding Social Ills
3. Searching for a better education
All of these are important to me but I would like to focus here on the academic aspect. Not all men are created equal and some excel in areas where others fall short or have difficulty. One child may be able to complete a high school education by age 12 where another might need until they are 20. The idea of basing our educational progress on age is foolish. So what do I want from their education? Better yet, what is the whole purpose of getting educated? It sure is not to get a job; as we can clearly see how they are unrelated, and I think most people have realized that except for those of us who are still sleeping.
In the current education system we drag our feet through 12 years of schooling to prepare for college, which kills another 4 years, half of which are useless electives that ensure you stay twice as long and pay twice as much. And if you get to a masters degree, this is where they start to let you think for yourself, a little bit at least, so long as what you think agrees with what the people think at the foundation which provides the money for your research, and only after a miserable 19 year experience. In short, it’s called dumbing down and most people have been had, and lost a lot of money in the process, and are now paying for it, literally.
What should we be doing? (Here’s where my philosophy comes in, again if you’re a hall monitor type and want scientific facts, go to high school, otherwise entertain yourself and keep reading.)
The end goal is this: We want our children to have a love for education, discovery, investigation, expression, and we want them to be able to explore all of the sciences, literature, languages, and anything else they desire on their own without assistance, and use this information to benefit them in their lives.
I believe that education can be broken down into four levels and we want our children to get to level four as soon as his abilities allow him to.
Absolute Beginner Everybody has to start somewhere, and it is here. This is the level where the student needs to get his basic toolbox in order. Teach me my ABC’s, how to count, what the numbers look like, how to read, write, add, and subtract. And for this you need a teacher, the person does not need to be a genius, and for sure you are capable of taking on this role. The child is mainly reliant upon you for direction for what activities they will be doing.
Guided Learning This is the level of the training wheels. It is the stage at which your child is starting to put into practice what they learned in the previous stage. You are providing them with the material, and are guiding them through the exercises, but you are allowing them to read on their own, and complete the equations. You are most likely looking over their shoulder, correcting them shortly after making a mistake, and encouraging them throughout the process. Most people in my opinion don’t get past this stage, (I don’t mean homeschoolers, I mean adults) as most individuals need to be spoon fed their information, or are too lazy to make it to the next stage.
Independent Learning This is the curfew level. You are allowed to go off on your own but you still have some boundaries. This is a level that if you can reach it as a homeschooler I believe you’re going to do really well, if not, it may cause you to give up. Especially as the number of children go up from 1 to 2 to 5. This is where you are able to give your child a book, “Here you go Ahmed, take lives of the prophets, go read the chapter about Ibrahim, I’m going to ask you about it in 30 min.” Ideally the child goes, does what is requested of him/her and then you come back to discuss what was done. In high school we call this homework. Most people didn’t do it. This is critical for homeschoolers because as the family grows, a new baby arrives, mom (sorry dads) can only handle so much. Having a child that can be disciplined to work on their own can free up a lot of time especially for those that haven’t reached this stage. It also shows signs that your child is capable of moving onto the next stage.
Self-Motivated Learning Or, the love for knowledge and this is the goal. This is the stage where the child has not only all the basic tools to study whatever they want, but also the desire to do so. Instead of planning early in the morning your daily lessons, you go to wake your child up, only to find they stayed up all night with their nose in their favourite book, researching various animal types, examining a radio and its parts, and having no care of how much time went by. At this stage they will not only know what they are looking for but how to look for it, and/where to go if they don’t understand anything. You may find at this stage that even if you wanted to teach them, they are past your ability, and in fact you may find that they will be able to teach you.
While trying to assess what goals would be practical, it came to me that what is more important to me than finishing a so called level in a curriculum, is that I can give my child the skills to study and research on his own. To pass on the desire that I have to continue to search, examine, and seek knowledge wherever I feel it may benefit me, and find strength in the fact that if we do not set perceived limitations for ourselves that we can learn and become capable of quite a great deal God willing.