My inbox is already filled with tips and tricks about how to prevent the dreaded “summer slide” from happening and I hit delete without even reading. Honestly they piss me off. For those of you who don’t know that term, it means the percentage of knowledge “lost” over the summer break because kids aren’t sitting at desks for 6 hours a day doing worksheets and mandatory reading. A commercial for a learning center here in Cleveland said that it is as high as 40%. My question then is, “Was the knowledge really learned if so easily it can be forgotten?”.
The headlines scream budget cuts, failing grades, teacher layoffs, grading scandals. Does anyone else see that our nation’s educational system is a train wreck? And we expect more and more from our children to try to keep up with countries like China and the Netherlands, pressuring Kindergarteners to be able to read by the end of the year and saddling elementary school children with hours of homework, which is in fact hurting the nation. As a homeschooler I am lucky enough to be in charge of my children’s education but that doesn’t make me ignorant to the fact that every child deserves a better education than what is out there right now.
Children want to learn about this vast world around them, they need tools and facilitators to help that journey, but they don’t need us to bombard them with extra workbooks and mandatory reading. True learning isn’t something that is easily forgotten. If your child was taught about measurements to prepare for a test, took the test and passed, then a few weeks later you ask the child about measuring and the child does not remember, then I believe that the lesson wasn’t truly learned. Make sense?
Because we unschool and let the girl’s interests dictate the lessons, the information matters more and is built upon. AJ is doing the same math as Gabby, Gabby is learning about animal families and a deeper understanding of the various ecosystems, and even Moira is learning with her sisters. It is a pretty amazing thing when out of the blue your 4 year old announces that “two 3′s and three 1′s makes 9″ and then continues to tell you that “300, 60, and 4 equals 364″! No worksheets, drills, flashcards, or nonsense… just discovery (and lots of praise from Mama!). Every day there is some kind of discovery, deeper question, and demand for more information about topics of interest. I love it!
I hope that those same parents who complain on Facebook about too much homework, lack of recess, standardized tests that make no sense (Florida, hmph!) actually start to speak up and demand a change to the system instead of blindly following along the path. Do something about it, speak up, write letters!
As for my kids, we are going to continue doing what we do, weekly trips to the library, cooking lessons, lots of time outside, and plenty of opportunity for questions, experiments, and true learning. I hope you do the same and really enjoy the summer!