Education: What works

If there’s one thing I like about daylight saving time, it’s the end of it: that night of nights when I can stay up until one o’clock reading, and then put the clock back to midnight and go to bed with a perfectly clear conscience. And get up the next morning at half past seven without some self-righteous clock telling me it’s half past eight.

There’s never enough time to read. And there’s no such thing as enough bookshelves. You are reading, in case you haven’t guessed, the views of a bibliophile and an autodidact. Lovely words! And very useful ones to learn if you don’t know them. Bibliophile – book-lover; autodidact – self-educator.

I’m no pragmatist (okay – pragmatist: someone who just does whatever works), and if you’ve stumbled on this blog while looking for something on How to Homeschool in Three Easy Steps, you’re probably already hovering over that little button with an x in it. But, dear me, I’ve been raving away here for nearly a year and I’ve barely touched on the subject of what works. I really must make more of an effort.

What are the effective means of education? Ah, my friend, the answer is so easy! Words, words, words.

Words are the God-given vehicle for passing on knowledge from one generation to the next. Your children’s moral training comes from your words, backed up by correction where necessary, and necessitating much stretching of your wisdom muscles as you try to understand their questions, their dilemmas and their dreams. Likewise their training in the common necessary actions of life comes from imitation and instruction as you live together. And many of those things which we think of as falling under the academic disciplines will actually be covered as you do these other things, at least for the first several years of life. I think it is vital not to feel pressured into starting academic instruction too early (anything up to ten can be too early, depending on the child) for at least two reasons of towering importance:

1) The more naturally you can learn a thing, the better you learn it, and the less likely the danger of harm to the growing mind. Pressure to perform in a formal setting can be disastrous for young children, and too early formal teaching, especially of mathematics, can cause serious learning difficulties.

2) If we make part of the day “school time”, and make everything revolve around that, we risk bringing one of the evils of the school system into our homes. There is nothing wrong with having lessons and making children do them, but because of the nature of our society and its belief in the school system (falsely called ‘education’) as a god and saviour, we have to be vigilant to avoid emulating its values. Children pick up the societal attitude towards ‘education’, and their little antennae will immediately detect signals suggesting that you, too, believe the lies: that you’re not a good child if you don’t love school, that you won’t succeed in life if you don’t do well at school, that you won’t get a job unless you have the school system’s rubber stamp. The more you can teach and learn by doing, the less need to worry about all this.

And when you come to the end of what you know, what your parents know, and what your families and friends know? Ah, then we turn to books. But don’t wait – start today to fill your home with beautiful and interesting books. Become a bibliophile and you’ll become an autodidact, you and your children. And there will never be enough time to read and there will never be enough bookshelves. Glorious, glorious problem.


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6 thoughts on “Education: What works

    • I enjoyed seeing you! You were very polite to spend so much time talking and so little looking at books. I look forward to seeing your home and bookshelves (and you) one day.

  1. I remember when I was a kid we were forced to read aloud to the class and I was a quite a shy kid and felt uncomfortable. I would stumble over the words and just felt horrible about myself afterwards. It had everything to do with anxiety not ability but at that age, I didn’t know the difference.

    Great, poignant post! I couldn’t agree with you more about how disastrous the pressure to preform is.

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