Homeschool Essentials

Whether unschooled or highly structured, religious or secular, all homeschools encounter the same challenges. All successful homeschools exhibit the same essential qualities. This weblog will help you understand and apply those qualities, minimize frustration, and enjoy more success sooner.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Essential Quality II

If placing the learner at the center of the learning process is commonly overlooked, many at least pay lip service to it. Essential Quality II isn't even ignored-- it's almost not thought to exist.

But, true to its second place ranking, only putting the learner at the center is more important. And that truly is more important. However, that's somewhat like saying the most important component of water is hydrogen. It is, in that it takes twice as many hydrogen atoms to make a single water molecule. Nevertheless, without oxygen as well, you have no water at all.

Quality II is like oxygen in water. It comes second, but without it, success in your homeschool will elude you. Oh, yes, Quality II is-- "An Environment of Trust." Yes, trust.

Textbooks, methods classes, teacher training, the myriad of homeschooling books with the "Best Way" or even "God's Way" to homeschool never mention this simple fact. Learning involves trust. In my free e-book, "25 Essential Homeschool Quotations", I cite historian Will Durant's statement that "Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance."

That's certainly true, but the discovery of our ignorance is seldom comfortable. None of us wants to feel the fool. And this delicate business of learning always sits on a knife's edge between the joy of discovery, and the humiliation of ignorance.

Schools fail miserably on this point. And the more closely we emulate them at home, the worse our situation becomes. Why do schools fail so badly?

First, because of the simple rule of the peer group. The peer group, so treasured by the ignorant as a "socializing" force, is quite the opposite. Not only do they sneer at the ignorant and make fun of any child who gets a conspicuosly wrong answer, they also tear down anyone who does well. If every time you make a mistake, everyone else in the room starts ridiculing you, you'll get quiet in a hurry. And you won't trust anyone to help you learn.

Next, schools, and all too many homeschools, expend much of their energy identifying mistakes, as if that was the chief aim of learning. If we spanked babies for falling down, it would be hard for them to learn to walk. It also breaks the bond of trust.

In addition, schools for the most part simply act as if there is no functioning relationship between the teacher and the child, except for the amorphous one described as "discipline." But a martinet with children sitting rigidly in their seats, terrified of making a mistake, is often seen as a better disciplinarian than the teacher with a "busy-noisy" classroom, filled with the happy sounds of children exploring.

The ability to learn depends much more on the environment of trust than on having up-to-date texts and materials. Indeed, without trust, those texts and materials lose almost every bit of their value. In the next post we'll look more at this crucial quality of successful homeschools

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