Thursday, January 15, 2009

Homeschooling - Part I

As I sit here before I lecture for the day, I feel like I should use this time to write some thoughts on different subjects. Let's choose one at random..... hmmmm..... how about homeschooling?

I would imagine that putting all of my thoughts on this subject down is going to take a lot longer than the 25 minutes that I have left before class starts, so this will most likely be a multi-part event. A play in N acts, if you will.

First I should clarify what 'Homeschooling' means to people who reside in the Crab-Mansion. One of the main concepts in the idea is to immerse the kids in a learning environment in which they can freely explore the likes and dislikes. Before you jump and down and scream (you know who you are), let me continue....

I am on a committee in the College of Engineering about the curriculum. We are discussing such interesting topics as whether courses should be 3 or 4 credits and should we have a learn-by-doing type of curriculum - where a masters degree means that you have done a lot of practical hands-on type of work. During the last meeting we got into a discussion on why students learn. Do we just want to shove facts down their throat and have them vomit those facts out on a test, or do we want to teach them the fundamentals of how to learn, so they can find those facts out on their own. Should we teach them how to think or facts? How do you test students if you switch to this new idea? That is one of the fundamental problems with school in general is the assessment - how do assess how well a student is doing? We typically test them on facts, which means that we have to teach them those facts. Coming up with a test to see how they think is extremely difficult. Coming up with one in an environment in which everyone else is testing for facts just confuses them. That was an interesting conversation.

Another thing that came up in this meeting, during this conversation is that homeschool kids tend to do much better in classes than other student, and they exhibit a strong desire to learn, while other students are much more ambivalent towards the whole thing (i.e., school, homework, classes, etc.) Why is this? Simply because many homeschooling children learn to learn and end up loving the experience of understanding. Children who go to typical schools are taught to regurgitate facts and not to appreciate the facts that they are learning. The question of "why?" is almost pointless. It is the fact that this happened on October 4, 1957 (anyone???) and not why did it happen or how did it happen.

I should say that I am incredibly guilty of doing this right now. How do you teach in this way to 204 students (that's how many are signed up for my class right now - only 2 seats left in the auditorium!) It is extremely difficult. I am going to try a little more this semester. How? I have no idea. I really don't.

Now, face to face, or with a small class, it is relatively easy to do. You can lead students towards answers. You can teach them to look at things in certain ways. Do not just look for the answer, but look for why that occurs. This you can do with graduate students or with small classes. Or with homeschooling (the point!!)

Ok, to address some of the points from the 32 year old woman in the back row who has been jumping up and down.

Homeschool kids are freaks. I would say that this is probably true. I would also say that I was, and still am, a freak. I don't drink really. People are sort of weirded out by me. I don't hang out with many people. Even at meetings in which there are lots of social functions, I don't participate very much. I am well known in the field, but I am not well liked socially. I could say that this is because people don't take the time to get to know me, but truthfully, I don't enjoy the same things that many other people tend to like. Sports, drinking, etc. These are the basic backbone of our society. If you don't participate in those, then you are sort of a freak. I am firmly in that catagory. Does it trouble me that my kids don't fit either. Yes. It really does. It really, really does bother me. Do I think that I can change this? Will school change this? If you look at who Crab-Girl hung out with in school, it was other kids who people would consider freaks also. Just like I did in school.

Ok, on that note, I have to motor. Gotta go shove some facts down a bunch of students throats.

1 comment:

Bryan said...

It is quite possible that I am a freak too according to your definition - I'm one of the people you hung out with during those formative freak years. However, I am a firm believer that there is no single road to happiness. Nobody gets to walk every path. You make choices - some good, some bad, but most just arbitrary. Give the crablings love along the way, sprinkle in a few opportunities for them to fail gloriously, and they'll turn out OK.