differentiating between child development and education - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 04-11-2011, 10:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Do any of you have any resources or thoughts on this?  How much of the learning that happens in schools happens solely because it is a normal  part of development and would happen regardless of whether or not the child were in school, home schooled, or unschooled (as long as said child was not neglected horribly).  I hear from my mom who is a Kindergarten teacher that SO MUCH learning happens in school and her students just learn so much from eachother and her and just so much happens in a day at Kindergarten.  But I'm wondering what is to say these same things aren't happening, albeit differently, at home? 

 

Obviously being an unschooling forum, I'm willing to bet you all mostly believe this, but I'm wondering where the line is drawn.  If all kids were in school and 6 months, we'd say babies learn SO MUCH in school, like how to eat and crawl and and walk and talk and grasp small pieces and stand and balance, etc.  But because school is totally normal starting at 3 or 4, I hear parents claiming that their kid is doing x, y, and z due to school (stuff that my kid who has never been to school a day in her life can do).  So what do you think?

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#2 of 11 Old 04-11-2011, 10:24 PM
 
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I think there's no way to know what normal development would be if no one went to school so you can't compare the two, and what we see as the norm of educational development is very much based on children in school. I also think there's a lot of negative development that happens in school that people who are part of the education system ignore because they have an agenda (yes, I sound a little conspiracy theorist crazy here). I've found that the people in my life who are educators are very sold on the idea that education simply cannot happen without their intervention, which I find to a rather self-important position to take.

Yes, peoples kids learn in school, but it's forced learning and rewards based. On the other hand, my son has never been in a school environment and he has an amazing amount of knowledge in his little head just because he wants to learn about things (he's four). Truthfully, he doesn't know the same things kids who are going to school know, but I've come to realize that's because he is simply not interested in memorizing how to count to 100 or his alphabet, and no one has ever forced him, and it's actually a boring exercise unless your goal in life is to give your parents something to brag about at parties. He's crazy for science and we do all types of age-appropriate experiments and he has a brain full of knowledge that never could be taught in school.

Long way of saying that #1 your mom is invested in seeing learning in the way she believes is the true way, perhaps dogmatic, so of course she'll wax poetic about how much learning and development is going on. If she looked at it another way, she's be out of a job. I'm an RN and of course I think that Western Medicine has its place. If I didn't, I would have to stop practicing. Does this mean I'm right? No. #2. I don't think you can compare unschooled knowledge to school knowledge, a headful of useless facts versus knowledge base on passions and exploration.

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#3 of 11 Old 04-12-2011, 11:32 AM
 
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As an unschooer, I feel like what your mom is saying is probably pretty accurate. My son is lacking a lot of what his peers in school know. But at the same time, he also knows a lot more too! He's just in a totally different place then they are, on a totally different time frame. I don't think it's a bad thing, and I believe that it will all round out in the end, though perhaps minus a lot of the negative stuff kids pick up in school... which is totally fine by me! winky.gif

 

It is a normal part of development for kids to want to learn and have the ability to learn. The difference between kids in school and kids at home, IMO, is what they are learning at any given time, and as time goes by, the interest for learning that sticks around. I think many kids in school will get burned out at some point and lose their passion for learning, which is very sad. IME, kids in school may seem ahead in the early years because they have so much pushed on them so fast, and it's right there off the top of their heads, but later on that knowledge and all the memorized facts they've learned is often forgotten, you know? While kids at home who are going at their own pace, and still soaking it all up because the passion to know new information is still there.


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#4 of 11 Old 04-12-2011, 11:44 AM
 
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I wonder the same. I honestly think kids would learn just as much at home, but they'd learn different things. They'd learn about things that interest them. And their joy of learning wouldn't be supressed like it might in school, being told how to learn. Kids already know how to learn.

 

On a related note, I heard creativity / divergent thinking is supressed as kids get older. Now is that because they've got a more firm grasp of what could be and couldn't be? Or is that becuase creativity is being squashed in schools, by only allowing one or two ways of doing things / limited amounts of time on certain subjects with certain mediums... Is it something that would deminish regardless of where they're learning, is what I'm asking...

Hope I don't hijack.


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#5 of 11 Old 04-12-2011, 12:54 PM
 
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bcblondie, are you talking about the video on youtube by Sir Ken Robinson? That was awesome! I totally think it's because creativity is being squashed in school! A perfect example of that- my stepson who doesn't live with us is in public school. He was talking about a project they did in art class, where they made a mold of a hand, and he wasn't even allowed to paint it the way he wanted to!! It had to be how the teacher deemed "right". There is no room in school for a different train of thought... it has to be a certain, very limited way to be "correct". So kind of off topic, but I do think it ties into why schooled kids might seem to be "learning so much" in school and unschooled kids may not seem to be on level at times... It's because they're free to follow their passions which are probably going to be completely different than what kids are learning at school in whatever particular age group.


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#6 of 11 Old 04-12-2011, 12:56 PM
 
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Well to me this is the crux of unschooling: children are natural learners. They are hard-wired to be curious and to learn. In the presence of adults and others who are responsive and supportive they will learn. The connection between teaching and learning is often illusory, and usually unnecessary.

 

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#7 of 11 Old 04-12-2011, 01:02 PM
 
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Vermillion yes! The one with all the drawings? I wish they'd had a control group in that study. Like how much did creativity deminish amongst school children vs unschooled children.... Very good video though.

 

ETA and I never would have thought of a 10 foot paperclip. But is that because school squashed my ability to think of that? Or because logically I know paperclips rarely come that large, thus I must work with my 1 inch paperclip. lol


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#8 of 11 Old 04-12-2011, 02:29 PM
 
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Here's my take on the question:

 

Since humans spent much of their evolutionary history in societies that did not send their children to an institution to learn, I can't imagine how anybody could assume that kids don't have an innate developmental ability to learn.

 

And because the skills valued and needed in each culture differ across geography and time (think Inuit child versus African savannah tribe child) kids have to be able to learn any given set of skills, in other words they are flexible in what they can learn. It must be based on exposure to the lifestyle of the culture, rather than innate information that comes pre-programmed, to have this ability to be specific for the culture in which they are raised. Which is why I have no problem believing that kids can learn to read and write without instruction, even though reading and writing came relatively late in our evolutionary development.

 

It is my conviction that any child who is an active participant in the daily life of their culture is going to be developmentally able to acquire all the skills and information they need to become a productive member of that society. It's a little harder in our modern society since we can't exactly bring our children to work with us and have them learn by doing (think farmers bringing their children out in the field with them each day, like the Amish) but that's where the importance of the unschooling parent comes into play. 

 

I see it as my job to expose my children to all that the world has to offer, let them pick and choose what excites them and in which directions they wish to proceed with their learning. If a parent is doing that, I don't see how learning can NOT happen. Sure school exposes kids to lots of things, but in a condensed fashion that is artificial (i.e. there is usually no context for the information to make it relevant to the children) and in a social environment that is really (IMHO) abnormal (segregated by age, few adults).


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#9 of 11 Old 04-13-2011, 10:47 AM
 
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This reminds me of Peter Gray, who was interviewed in a local parenting web site today.   www.massmoms.com

He's also got a great blog which is mentioned in the article. Very interesting stuff, about how central "play" is to learning.

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#10 of 11 Old 04-13-2011, 11:55 AM
 
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(Can't get my response under the quote...I've figured out how that happens, but I still screw up sometimes.)

 

This is part of the key to all of this, I think. I recently read some anti-homeschooling (unschooling didn't even come into it) response to an article. I can't remember the exact words, but it was something like "what did centuries of homeschooling give us? People who were illiterate and ignorant. How can someone who is ignorant teach anything to anybody?". I remember reading it and thinking the commenter was thinking from within a very narrow cultural context.

 

I'm currently reading "Farmer Boy", from the LIttle House series, to dd1. There's a lot of content about Almanzo helping on the farm...harrowing the fields, cutting ice to store for the summer, sowing seeds, breaking calves - all kinds of things like that. And, about his sisters and mom doing all kinds of cooking, baking, sewing, weaving, spinning, etc. (The limited gender roles make me cringe, probably partly because I'm not naturally gifted at most of the "women's work".) While reading this, it struck me that Almanzo was better educated than many modern children his age (nine), not because of whether or not he could read and write, although he was getting schooling in those skills, but because he already had an impressive knowledge base of the things he needed to know to survive in that particular place and time.

 

The man who made the comment I mentioned above was totally ignoring context. While I would love to see everyone learn to read, that's largely because reading offers people an ability to learn things outside of their own situation/context, and is often a/the key skill to move on to something better or less limited. That doesn't mean people who can't read are ignorant. It means they have knowledge of different things. Plunk me down in the rain forest, and my reading and writing skills aren't going to do me any good at all....but knowing which plants/animals are edible, which are poisonous, which are medicinal, and the habits of predators that may want me for lunch would keep me alive. In that context, I'm the one who's ignorant, and the half naked tribal people that man's comment was so disparaging toward are the ones with an extensive, sophisticated knowledge base.

 

I'm kind of rambling, but I think homeschooling has a long, solid history of providing a good education for most people throughout human history (and prehistory). I think formal schooling filled a very real need, as the world (ours, at least) began to shift from one where literacy wasn't all that important, to one where it's essential. Parents and families couldn't very well teach their children to read and write, when the parents and families themselves didn't know how! The comment that made me feel so frustrated just reflected the commenter's ignorance, because he was criticizing homeschooling (of a historical kind) for not teaching the "students" things that they didn't need to know in the first place. Those kids - millions of them - have received extensive educations, in the skills and knowledge that mattered for the time and place they were living in. And, I'd bet they absorbed a huge percentage of that knowledge just by watching and playing.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Piglet68 View Post

Here's my take on the question:

 

Since humans spent much of their evolutionary history in societies that did not send their children to an institution to learn, I can't imagine how anybody could assume that kids don't have an innate developmental ability to learn.

 

And because the skills valued and needed in each culture differ across geography and time (think Inuit child versus African savannah tribe child) kids have to be able to learn any given set of skills, in other words they are flexible in what they can learn. It must be based on exposure to the lifestyle of the culture, rather than innate information that comes pre-programmed, to have this ability to be specific for the culture in which they are raised. Which is why I have no problem believing that kids can learn to read and write without instruction, even though reading and writing came relatively late in our evolutionary development.

 

It is my conviction that any child who is an active participant in the daily life of their culture is going to be developmentally able to acquire all the skills and information they need to become a productive member of that society. It's a little harder in our modern society since we can't exactly bring our children to work with us and have them learn by doing (think farmers bringing their children out in the field with them each day, like the Amish) but that's where the importance of the unschooling parent comes into play. 

 


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#11 of 11 Old 04-13-2011, 01:59 PM
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Storm Bride View Post

I recently read some anti-homeschooling (unschooling didn't even come into it) response to an article. I can't remember the exact words, but it was something like "what did centuries of homeschooling give us? People who were illiterate and ignorant. How can someone who is ignorant teach anything to anybody?". I remember reading it and thinking the commenter was thinking from within a very narrow cultural context.


Agreed, a very narrow cultural context, and a very narrow view even of our own culture. John Taylor Gatto has some pretty amazing statistics in "The Underground History of American Education" that show that the literacy rate was higher prior to the introduction of compulsory schooling than it is now ... and that was including freemen and indentured servants. 

 

Edited to add this link and quote from the above-mentioned book:

 

 

Quote:
Looking back, abundant data exist from states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to show that by 1840 the incidence of complex literacy in the United States was between 93 and 100 percent wherever such a thing mattered. According to the Connecticut census of 1840, only one citizen out of every 579 was illiterate and you probably don’t want to know, not really, what people in those days considered literate; it’s too embarrassing. Popular novels of the period give a clue: Last of the Mohicans, published in 1826, sold so well that a contemporary equivalent would have to move 10 million copies to match it. If you pick up an uncut version you find yourself in a dense thicket of philosophy, history, culture, manners, politics, geography, analysis of human motives and actions, all conveyed in data-rich periodic sentences so formidable only a determined and well-educated reader can handle it nowadays. Yet in 1818 we were a small-farm nation without colleges or universities to speak of. Could those simple folk have had more complex minds than our own?

 

... and this one:

 

 

Quote:
But we've had a society essentially under central control in the United States since just before the Civil War, and such a society requires compulsory schooling, government monopoly schooling, to maintain itself. Before this development schooling wasn't very important anywhere. We had it, but not too much of it, and only as much as an individual wanted. People learned to read, write, and do arithmetic just fine anyway; there are some studies that suggest literacy at the time of the American Revolution, at least for non-slaves on the Eastern seaboard, was close to total. Thomas Paine's Common Sense sold 600,000 copies to a population of 3,000,000, twenty percent of whom were slaves, and fifty percent indentured servants.

 

Gotta love Gatto!

 

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