Tuesday, April 12, 2011

So - Reading, Writing & Arithmetic

Along with the majority of the world, I agree that reading, writing & arithmetic are the building blocks of learning. Once a person has mastered these skills they can essentially learn anything they set their minds too!

But when is the right time to start learning these skills and how long should it take?

Well I was shocked when I came across the following passage in the book
Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto (which I highly recommend by the way)

"Were the colonists geniuses? No, the truth is that reading, writing, and arithmetic only take about 100 hours to transmit as long as the audience is eager and willing to learn. The trick is to wait until someone asks and then move fast while the mood is on. Millions of people teach themselves these things - it really isn't very hard. Pick up a fifth-grade nath or rhetoric textbook from 1850 and you'll see that the texts were pitched then on what would today be considered college level. The continuing cry for 'basic skills' practise is a smoke screen behind which schools preempt the time of children for 12 years and teach the the seven lessons* I've just described to you."

Did I just read that right?
100 hours?
And not 100 on each subject but for all 3?
Surely it can't be right?

But indeed it can - the thing is once you're ready to learn something it actually doesn't take all that long, but if you're not ready it's like banging your head against a wall repeatedly!

So why exactly are we taking our children and insisting they all learn the alphabet by a certain age, or their times tables by another age?

Surely our time, and their time, would be much better spent waiting until the specific child showed a readiness to learn and then forge ahead?

If faced with the choice of spending 12 years learning something as opposed to doing it in a 100 hours, I sure know which I would choose!

So now what?

Unfortunately all this brings me to a bit of a dilemma.
While I love the freedom and idea of unschooling, and just waiting for my children to one day decide to learn these skills, regardless of the age they are at the time, I also still really really feel strongly about them being able to master these skills as soon as possible. So do I forge ahead and go on and on and on about the alphabet now already, or do I bide my time and wait?

Well I'm still working on it but I guess some kind of middle ground is where we'll settle.
For the moment I'm following Bear's lead, as in I introduce something and if he wants to then we continue with it.
He's not a cooperative kind of person at the best time so forcing him to le
arn the ABC song, for instance, is like trying to stick a camel through the eye of a needle.
Incidentally he actually DESPISES the ABC song and won't even let me get the first few letters about before all hell breaks loose, never mind even attempting to repeat it.

On the other hand he LOVES reading his story books, so I spend a lot of time doing that.
He also enjoys some online websites like www.starfall.com which are suppose to help with teaching the different letters and phonics etc,
So in a way I guess that's good enough for the moment, he is only 3 after all, but it's taking everything in me not to go out and buy "How to teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons" right now!

And while I may be holding out on the instructional book right now, it didn't stop me grabbing 2
jars full of magnetic letters for a fridge today, thanks to Woolies & ELC ;)

If there any other homeschoolers reading this post I'd love to hear your approach to the three R's, did you let your child lead the way or did you start working on them as soon as possible?

* This paragraph is taken from the speech he made in 1991 when receiving his New York State Teacher of the Year Award, called "The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher" - so the seven lessons referred to in this paragraph are the ones listed in there. I will be discussing them at a later date, so if you're interested please come visit again!

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