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How Will They Learn Calculus?

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One of the most pernicious arguments against homeschooling is that parents are incapable of teaching their children certain subjects, such as calculus or chemistry, and only those with certifications and relevant college degrees can be trusted to educate our children (or more appropriately, your children). This position not only arms the thoughtless masses with yet another vapid refrain, but it directly attacks the parents who dedicate themselves to their children’s education as opposed to taking advantage of  public school babysitting services.

The idea that the over-schooled and institutionally-trained are the only ones who are able to effectively teach runs counter to the history of humankind.  Long before there were established schools, humans were innovating and improving their quality of life.  They were developing knowledge which was being passed on from one generation to the next, without paid teachers.  To suggest that the human condition has suddenly changed, and that the advent of compulsory schooling was necessary and timely, is to suggest that we’ve hit a point in human development where our own curiosity and motivation has regressed, and we need to turn to smarter (or more schooled) people than ourselves in order to learn.

Children are naturally curious and eager to learn about the world around them.  Most parents get this.  It typically isn’t until we put them in schools and tell them to ‘sit down, shut up and color’ that they lose their love of learning.  When they get yelled at for asking a question, they stop asking questions.  When they get reprimanded for wanting to learn about dinosaurs when they should be learning about Christopher Columbus, they stop wanting to learn.  It is because of children’s natural curiosity that parents do not need to have a degree in calculus in order to help their children learn it.  Homeschool parents instead serve as enablers.  They gauge their child’s readiness and desire to take on certain subjects.  They help find the resources that will help their child learn (or allow them to teach themselves).  Textbooks, online resources, homeschool co-ops and community college classes are ways in which many children can learn material that their parents may not have mastered.  Parents can also find experts and tutors if necessary.  As an aside, many parents also learn the material alongside their child, which is yet another of the many benefits of homeschooling.

But the best way to learn is by doing, by searching out answers to one’s own questions, and not sitting in a classroom waiting to have knowledge bestowed upon oneself.  Throughout history those who wanted to learn to do something typically did so by reading about it, finding someone who would let them develop their skills and interests through an apprenticeship or internship, or by self-experimentation and trial and error.  Some of the most successful homeschool parents are the ones that allow their children’s natural curiosity to flourish and give them the freedom to pursue their interests through volunteering or part-time jobs in ways which are not constrained by a 6.5 hour a day, 5 day a week, 180 day school year.

Parents who prevent schools from destroying the intellectual curiosity of their children, who help provide their children with the resources necessary to learn, and who give their children the freedom to learn by doing will more often than not allow their children to master topics like calculus and chemistry in a way that a detached teacher of 30 can never do.  As importantly, those homeschooled children will be more driven to seek out answers to their questions and to self-educate on topics that matter most to their own lives, and not that of some government worker.  Let’s not be so quick to insult parents who love their kids enough to provide superior learning experiences for them, instead, let’s ask why the public education system with all their certifications and degrees continually fails to teach children the most basic academic skills.

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16 Responses to " How Will They Learn Calculus? "

  1. Shelley says:

    If I remember correctly, my chem teacher in HS was a football coach. I truly believe it set me back and I had to overcome the notion of “I’m not good at chemistry.” It followed me into college where I did get my BS in physiology, but chem always scared me. FYI, I went to a private HS. Makes me wonder about public high schools.

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