Modern education is going through some significant changes. These changes are good, or have the potential for good, but have equal potential to be… less than good.
For instance, the use of technology is good. Technology (particularly Information Technology) makes it easier for educational resources to be delivered, and even delivered in a way which is more engaging (sometimes “fun” but at least engaging), so that students with a variety of learning styles can glean skills and knowledge from them.
However, too much of a focus on technology has drawbacks. The most obvious is how much time is spent focused on screens, which at the very least, is a negative through simple math: the more time is spent on screens, the less time we spend using our hands for other things, moving around, talking to humans, and generally engaging with the world.
Another good thing is a focus on students instead of a focus on teachers. This is a positive in a lot of ways. Young people, for the most part, really do want to learn about the world around them, and when they’re given a little autonomy they can explore the world in ways that will stick with them better, thus learning becomes more effective. Where “student-driven” becomes problematic is where all respect for authority goes by the wayside, and all respect for precedent and experience becomes secondary.
At the university level this has become a problem to the nth degree, where an entrenched ideology, which just so happens to be that which seeks to dismiss centuries of established civilization, in search of … the new and enlightened, results in an inmates-running-the-asylum situation.
Solutions are myriad. But they are often murky, hidden by a lot of double speak about “flipped classrooms” where teachers serve as mentors instead of lecturers, which sounds great, until parents realize that they become the main teachers, in the rare circumstance (wink wink) where a young person’s desire to learn may not be matched by a real motivation to learn (How many of us WANT to be in better shape, but haven’t gathered up the…motivation to. It’s not just kids. It’s humans.).
A previous post asked the question what the role of parents should be in modern education (using the metaphor of education being like making a movie), and we answered the question thusly:
Perhaps, though, the right balance is that the “education movie” is always an adaptation, with their child in the starring role, and parents are the novelists. After all, students are humans first. They are complete beings, and their education is more than just schooling. A novelist is very often QUITE involved in the script (though they aren’t always the writer of their adapted movie script), and the optioning contract can be such that they have to be, or the movie doesn’t get made.
Which brings us to homeschooling. Parents who homeschool are basically asking the question whether they want to be the director, producer, writer, camera operator, set designer, and they feel — logically — overwhelmed.
But remember that we started with technology. More information, more help, more support, and more resources than ever before are available. The help is sometimes more philosophical than anything else. “Unschooling” is a great example. To the other extreme, programs can be bought for a reasonable price which can plan out EVERY DAY to the hour, leaving very little to chance, and offering great quality.
Putting “unschooling” aside (look it up… fun stuff) for the moment, the detailed granular programs are possibly more appropriate for those who wish to homeschool for values-based reasons. For those who seek to homeschool because their son or daughter learns differently, or needs more hands-on learning, or needs a more flexible and tailored education…then a detailed plan, almost by definition, is not going to work for everyone.
Project-based learning, though sort of a buzzword, is useful in a couple ways. If done right, it really does focus on the process of learning and not the technology, and it CAN be used as a way to tailor-make a student’s education from the ground up.
All that to say: homeschooling is about parents calling the shots, and being in charge of their kids’ education, but it is not necessarily about their doing all the work of walking their students through every step of their education. Through project-based learning, and a little bit of patience, students can do a lot of that work themselves. With a little guidance, and support, encouragement and mentoring from different sources, they can make sure the work is headed in a productive direction. Just like parenting, there is only so much than can be done for our kids anyway.
Butch Porter is the owner/operator of “IndED” which is an educational enrichment program for public, private, and homeschooled students. IndED recently launched a science program for homeschooled students, which meets 1 to 3pm on Thursdays at their facility in Downtown Leesburg. The focus is on learning science through the scientists, and through the history of discovery, inquiry, exploration, and experimentation through the centuries.