Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More musings...

Further to my post last night, I've been contemplating what Billy actually needs to learn in the next few years - let's say by the end of Yr 6. (He's "officially" in Yr 2 atm but he works at all different levels.) It seems hard to believe that not that long ago, many kids had left school by the end of primary school and were out working and learning a trade. In fact neither of my parents have much more than a primary school education.

I have no idea at this stage what job Billy will want to do. In fact, based on his love of technology, the job he ends up doing probably hasn't even been invented yet. So how do I know what he should learn? The Australian states can't even agree on what should be in the curriculum, let alone the rest of the world.

So after some contemplation, this is what I consider the "Must haves" in his education:

  • "Consumer level" maths - budgeting, measuring / weighing, basic maths skills
  • Understanding of the maths processes, not just rote learning
  • Ability to read
  • Ability to comprehend what is read
  • Legible handwriting
  • Computer skills - typing, word processing, email, web surfing, web searches - how to find & interpret information
  • Life skills - looking after himself, household skills like washing, cooking, etc
  • Understanding of significant events & people in Australian history
  • Tolerance & appreciation of other cultures, religions & people
The following things would also be desirable but he'd still get by without them.

  • Ability to speak in public
  • Love of reading
  • Not afraid of maths
  • Understanding of significant events & people in World history
To me, everything above & beyond that is just 'icing on the cake' - just expanding his mind and exposing him to new ideas.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. What skills or knowledge do you consider as vital?

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'm left wondering what the point of high school is (other than to keep kids out of the workforce and stop them competing with adults for jobs!). It's not really to specialise - when I went through school, you couldn't choose subjects until about Yr 11 - and that was if you were lucky enough that the subject you wanted was offered and fitted in with your timetable. That's why you go to uni - 6 years later! How much of what you learn at high school is actually used later on in life? I'm struggling to think of anything I learnt that is critical to my life now. Writing an essay on Shakespeare? Nope. Trigonometry? Nope. Pretty much everything I needed to do my job, I learnt on the job. High School seems a very broad brush approach - let's make everyone learn how to dissect a poem to cover the 1% that will actually use it! (And turn the other 99% off anything to do with poetry for the rest of their lives!)

Would we be better off going back to the days of early leaving and apprenticeships? Its not like today's youth appear to be any happier than previous generations!

Just some ramblings - what do you think?


jugglingpaynes said...

First, I think you need to stop comparing yourself to other homeschoolers. ;o) If we wanted our children to learn like anyone else, we would put them in school, wouldn't we?

I also think that whatever you expose your kids to, they will enjoy it as long as you do. Take it one day at a time and simply enjoy learning with them.

Apprenticeships might be an answer for some children, but others may go through college without really knowing what direction they want to take. I see my time with my children as giving them a chance to explore what they love to do!

Peace and Laughter,

Risa said...

Great questions! I agree about not comparing yourself to others, but asking questions like these is what makes us human, IMO. I for one am not convinced high school / uni is right for all kids--but it undoubtedly is for some. Keeping choices open is a big deal when our kids are as young as yours and mine.

Our focus here in terms of 'essential things to learn' is similar to yours. My main focus is on reading (for info and for fun), writing (for a bajillion and one purposes) and math (understanding, NOT rote memory). I want my kids to have these base skills in place so they can teach themselves anything in future they may want to know.

I am also a big fan of teaching logic / critical thinking skills: how do you know what you know? Are you (or others) making assumptions that might not be true? How can you figure out what you need to know / want to know next? Once you access this info, how do you judge its accuracy? I've drilled into my kids from day 1 not to believe something simply because it is in print, or someone said it (including me!). There has to be other reasons.

There's a great short essay Richard Dawkins wrote to his then 10-year-old daughter Juliet, on good and bad reasons to believe something. It's something I plan to share with my boys when they are a bit older.

3anklebiters said...

i am not a homeschooler in the sense that you are, however i believe most of what ALL children learn they learn at home.

for us, the most important things we teach our children at home is an appreciation for learning, respect, independence, responsibility, social activism and the difference between right and wrong. there are so many things that the public schools (here in the states) have tried to make part of the curriculum, that just isn't able to be taught in a classroom.

part of the beauty of homeschooling is the ability to personalize the learning experience. there is no way to do that with a classroom full of 25-40 children. i believe that is one of the greatest failings of modern public education - the belief that one size fits all.

Michelle said...

Hmmm...I start by identifying my goals. My goals are holistic: I want to nurture his body, soul, heart, and mind. I do hope for academic excellence, but not at the expense of other areas. This makes it tough to set down a definitive list of what needs to be covered. often it ends up being fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants homeschooling. :) I don't really like having a bare minimum list; I prefer to set high goals. We may not reach them, but we'll probably reach higher than we would have had we set lower goals. I may be wrong about this. Maybe I'll end up feeling like a failure. What I really try to stay away from is comparing myself to others. I get ideas, but I refuse to feel guilt that we're not doing this or that. For a while, we were one of those over-achieving families, and we hated it. Now that I think about it, our main goal is to be happy. what's the point of meeting this or that criteria if you're miserable?

Sorry for the ramblings, just food for thought.

Kez said...

Hi Cristina. Actually in this post I was just musing out loud and redefining my own goals for homeschooling! I guess you're right re apprenticeships - I wasn't really thinking of kids that don't know what they want to do. My hope is that with homeschooling, B will have had enough time & freedom to really explore things that interest him and hopefully something with catch his interest!

Risa - great reminder about teaching logic / critical thinking. I had actually thought of that but forgot to add it in. I actually read an article the other day in the paper that Edward de Bono is saying schools should teach kids to think!

Do you have a link for that Richard Dawkins letter? It sounds interesting.

3anklebiters - its amazing what has been put into the school curriculum here in Australia that really belongs in the home, so I can imagine how it is in the US too. Great list of values - respect, responsibility, independence.

Michelle - thanks for posting. I'm working on not comparing myself to others :) This was more of a musing for myself and to open up discussion on what other people thought was important. I'd really love for Billy to excel academically, but that's a reflection on me and my values, so I'm trying not to project that onto him. Like you, happiness is the main goal!

Camilla said...

Great lists. Can I borrow them for Tuesday? The only possible thing I can think of that I'd add, apart from a sound understanding of our faith (which is obviously a personal thing), is perhaps some understanding of science and geography. I'm not exactly sure what I'd deem essential by the end of year 6 though. Probably plants (how they grow, what they need etc), life cycles (plants and animals), a simple understanding of matter and its different states. Plus a reasonable knowledge of where countries are in the world and roughly how world politics works. Other stuff like HSIE eg what is in our local area just happens with homeschooling- seems silly to make it a subject.
Just my ramblings added to yours!

Lightening said...

I learnt some social skills and how to touch type. About the only 2 things I can think of that I still use from my high school days. Oh, and the music I learnt.

You make some interesting points - not sure about other states but here they keep raising the age kids have to stay at school until. Not sure what they're trying to achieve with that (lower the unemployment rate cos they don't count as unemployed while they are at school?).

Kez said...

Camilla - good luck for Tuesday! Yes I agree they need some understanding of how things work in a science type way, but I couldn't really put my finger on actually *what* they should know! Which is probably why the science outcomes are so vague too :) An understanding of the world, other countries & current affairs is a good idea.

Jodi - they didn't even have computers at my school until just as I was leaving, so I didn't learn any of my computer skills at school! I taught myself to program on a Commodore 64 at home lol. Yeah I was a geek from a young age! And yes, my cynical side says that about the unemployment figures too :)

sheila said...

Hi Kez!

Your musings are laudable. Sure, school is different from it was long ago, but then there was the pressure to learn everything before one died. We don't have that today - things are more elongated.

If you really want your child to be a certain way, I think one of the best things you can do is to imagine what the best person you could run into would be like, then try to impart those things to your kid. But the spanner in the wheel might be this: what kind of person is your kid? Does he also want to be the kind of person you want him to be? You have to factor Free Will into the equation too, don't forget. That can really bung up the equation, IME.

Anonymous said...

I think you should compare yourself to ME. It would make you feel better! You're doing more math than we are and my son is 10! LOL

M.J. said...

The hubby and I were just discussing this last night. I think this warrants a whole post but in answer to your question here are our priorities over the next few years (for Alex):

1. Physics, Chemistry and Biology. These are his passions which he shares with his father. Started RSO curriculum to work through so we don't miss anything along the way. He is keen to pick up facts and it seems like as good a time as any to load him up.

2. Writing skills - penmanship, reasoning, story layout, spelling, etc.

3. Music. He is doing well with piano but he needs to learn that you usually get out as much as you put in. He wants to give up when it isn't perfect :-(

4. Math. Rob and I have decided to slow down on this and not push. Math is very important here but the more we talk about it the more we think that this is something that can wait until he has a higher understanding of math as a whole.

We have an idea of where we would like to see things go but get more relaxed about it as we go on.