Another thing that must be realized when comparing home schooling with home educating is the fact that when a program is prescribed, children have to be ready when the program says they should be. This makes no sense when considering the uniqueness of each child.
When home educating, the teaching of skills happens when the child is ready. In fact, if you provide constant opportunity and encouragement, when they are ready you will be where you should be, at the right time.
To make children do what they are not ready to do is a form of academic child abuse! Let me tell you an interesting story about child readiness.
Years ago there was a little fellow whose mother had adopted two children later in her life. She didn’t know us at all, just basically ended up with Education Unlimited because she had heard of us through a friend.
During my initial facilitation meeting, as I was sitting there talking to the mom, this little fellow ran by. Realizing that this youngster was the student I was facilitating, I asked the mother if she thought the child was ready.
She replied with, “Oh, no, but he’s 6 years old, so he has to start… doesn’t he?” To which I responded, “Says who?”
“Says the school board!” she replied. So I told her, “I’ve got news for you. I represent the school board, and I’m telling you not to do anything formal, for now. You can seriously damage this child if you start him now, when he is obviously not ready.”
Keep in mind that if a person has only ever experienced school, and school begins formal training at six years of age, then that is what she naturally expects and the example she follows.
So I told her to “Trust me!” and she decided not to start formal teaching at that time. Returning in the spring, I asked what she had done, and when she replied with “nothing,” I was pleased!
I came back the next fall and it was obvious that he was still not ready. By then mom had a bit more confidence with waiting.
Returning the following spring, no formal work had been done. This is not to say that the child had not learned anything in the past two years, but that no formal teaching had occurred.
The next fall also found that the child was not yet ready for anything formal.
When I visited the following spring, I noticed something completely unexpected with this nearly 10 year old boy. There he was, lying on the sofa, reading a book. Not just any book, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
In light of the fact that mom had warned me beforehand that he hadn’t done any school work of any kind that year, I asked for an explanation.
The mother said, “It was the most amazing thing. He came up to me and said, ‘Mom, what’s that word?’ and when I asked if he wanted to learn how to read, he replied ‘Yeah.’” The mother said that in a very short time he was reading novels.
A few years later we had him do a skills assessment test (which we no longer do because they are useless) and he scored in the 99th percentile. Basically, that meant there was hardly a child his age in Canada smarter than he. Quite a thing considering that he only started to read when he was ten.
The rest of the story is just as interesting. By the time he was approaching 14, it looked like he would be ready for college. The family then moved out of country and we lost touch, but I would venture to guess that this student did just fine in life.
Does this story teach us anything? Yes, it does. In this particular case, the boy was a late blooming academic learner. Sometimes children are just more mechanical or artistic or just not ready for some things that others are. We should avoid doing things that do not fit the child.
Ever notice that God gave children to parents and not to institutions? Perhaps this is why children can do so much more outside the institution and in much less time.
Not only do schools not take individual readiness into account, but they make a very long journey of a short path.
Does it really take 12 years to complete a formal education? In school maybe, but considering that the 3 years of junior high school is a waste of time, and if we exaggerate by assuming that the students are actually productive and learning within the classroom for 50% of the time, it is not hard to comprehend how a child could start at 10 and be ready for the post-secondary stage by age 16.
Start the children at 10 and graduate them at 16? We’ve seen it done time and time again, as long as we stay away from playing school.
Seriously, we discourage parents from starting before the children are ready because nothing is accomplished other than tears and frustration, not to mention the potential development of bad attitudes. Furthermore, boring them with busy work does not accomplish anything positive either.
At Education Unlimited we encourage the development of the individual child in keeping with his or her gifting, strengths, interests, failings, short-comings and, of course, readiness and abilities.
The unique characteristics of each child demand that we do not push or hold back or compare, for there is no other child like “that” child. We enable, equip and encourage parents to have faith in God and to work with Him, at the right time and in the right way, to develop what is, rather than what isn’t “that” child.