Oct 29, 2012

Overall Education, Depth vs Acceleration

Two threads inspired this post,
http://forum.brillkids.com/general-discussion-b5/we-can-do-by-moshe-kai/msg91624/?topicseen#new and

Actually, they inspired a lot more than this post, I've been reading and re-reading a lot of homeschooling books lately, and charting out the next chunk of our education.  The people at BrillKids really inspire me.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  My husband recently asked me what's next for Peter (our oldest, 5), and it's been so hard to answer that question!  I have a 5-year-old that is reading on a 4th-grade level.  How do I go about teaching this kid?  It's time for him to start school!  He's got a couple of really smart siblings tailgating him too.  This is uncharted territory for me, and I am both terrified and thrilled with my responsibility to my children.

I'm grateful for the Moshe Kai thread that inspired me to get going and focus on Math.  I bought my Saxon textbooks on e-bay, and we're prepared now!  But what about everything else?  I've been reading "A Well Trained Mind" by Wise/Bauer, and I am attracted to the depth such an education would provide.  So, thinking along the acceleration track, my overall plan is to do a grade level's worth of material every semester.  Then I charted out everything she says to do, and I realized that I'd be setting myself up for failure trying to keep on top of all of the busy work in the textbooks, especially with multiple children.  I'm not that organized, and I don't want to give my children that much paper work at a young age.  I don't want burn-out for them or me.

Then I realized that I'm looking to the wrong source for advice on how to do an accelerated education.  Bauer's outline was designed for a 12-year education.  So I started googling, and I came across a very interesting family, the Swanns. 

Joyce Swann is the mother of 10 children, and they all received their masters degree by the time they were 16.  Her mini-articles on home-school.com are very interesting.  She had a strict schedule, doing school from 8:30-11:30 every day of the year unless their dad had the day off.  The children still had plenty of time to play after those hours, but school time was at the table, and was very focused.  Aside from her strict schedule, however, I can't apply her method in my own home because frankly, our family can't afford the route she chose.  Still, I am planning on reading her book, as well as her daughter Alexandra's book "No Regrets".  Joyce had a very linear approach, which she herself summarized as, "elementary school, high school, university, graduate school".  The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

However, on the WTM's forum thread on accelerated education, classical education advocates bring up a good point, which is that while certain academic studies can be accelerated, it is hard to accelerate the depth subjects of literature and history.  I once heard Susan Wise-Bauer argue against early college by saying that academic education can be accelerated, but there is a certain maturity that only happens when you go around the sun a few times.  She asked, "Have they read the great books?  ALL of them?"  That was my attitude too until I read the Moshe Kai thread.

Many education methodologies share learning phases, but they do not take Early Learning into account.  Here is the rough outline I have come up with:

Phase one, 0-5. The sponge phase. (what Peter has just finished) During this period, children learn to read well, and learn to love to read. They go to the library and read lots of books about lots of different things. They are introduced to math and music, etc, but all according to Doman's advice "Always stop before your child wants to stop". Learning is a big game.

Phase two, K-11. The academic phase.  Here my children learn how to study with "deliberate practice".  This period ends with a basic high school education. Each semester will cover one grade's worth of material. (We may go faster, but not slower). Our children will be awarded with a laptop computer, or other large item such as an instrument upon graduation.

Phase three, 12-18. The Scholar phase. There is a part of me that has been enticed by the benefits of "child-led learning", where a child can study in depth something they are interested in without having to do other academic work. Some argue, "If they study motercycles for 8 hours, there is bound to be math in there somewhere." I say, "Really?" Um, ya, I'm not going to risk it. However, AFTER they have a high school education, they will have more academic maturity.  They will know how and what to study. They will have a broad background in a variety of subjects. My true academic responsibility to my kids will have been fulfilled, and so my only requirement for my kids during this phase will be to be productive. I will require that they do some kind of academic work of their choosing.  We will highly encourage our children to start getting college credit, especially when they are high-school age since it's free.  The boys will be required to get their Eagle scout award, and the girls their YW award, which is the work-equivalent in our Mormon church.  They may choose to practice an instrument, be involved in 4-H, develop a skill such as woodworking or pottery. They may be involved in a lot of musical productions. They may take high school AP classes. They might tutor their siblings. They might start a business. They might become truly well-read. They might be in a variety of different clubs. They might secure an internship or become an apprentice. It's up to them. 

This last phase is still a bit vague because I'm not ready to tackle it yet, but I do know that if they get their basic high school education by 12, it will open a lot of doors for them during their transition to adulthood.  That's what my husband and I really want for our children.  There are so many leadership opportunities during the teenage years, and I would love to open as many doors to them as possible.  I would love for my children to get a college education, but I also recognize that there are a lot of great alternatives if they choose something else during these years.  College will still be waiting for them when they are older, should they wait, and if they have a lot of leadership experience under their belt, the scholarships will be waiting too.

Anyway, that's a lot of rambling, but I wanted to share my thoughts.  I do think that no matter how smart the kids are, as parents we should push our kids for greater learning.  Does accelerating our kids mean that we sacrifice the depth we could otherwise go into any given subject?  Is faster better, or is deeper better?  I would argue that "better" is better.  I'm just trying to figure out what "better" is for our family.  I have a few more posts in my head on this subject that I'll be sharing soon.

What does "better" look like to you?


Heather said...

I am a big fan of education, or I wouldn't do what I do (homeschool), but I would rather have my children grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults then to be book heads with no social skills. This plan seems to be so intense and driven that I can't fathom they would be normal outside of academia and maybe not even that. Knowledge does not equate to maturity. You can't force puberty no matter how many books they read. You can have a high school education but that doesn't give you the maturity level that comes with 18. I think a better focus would be to give them a great education but make sure that with that comes social, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. I can't fathom that having a Master's Degree at 16 or 18 would allow for development of any of those other areas.

Tamsyn Spackman said...

I appreciate your comment, Heather. However, this plan is actually not that ambitious for our family, given the early education they have already received. My 5-year-old doesn't need to be taught how to read, he is already independently studying an anatomy book in his free time. This is the next step for us. He also plays with his friends in our town-home, is involved in other homeschooling co-ops, and is well-adjusted socially for a 5-year-old. I have studied the lives and families who have chosen this path, and I see well-adjusted, balanced children.

Tamsyn Spackman said...

As a side note, this post was originally a new thread I started on Brillkids. There has been some amazing insights and stories shared by other members of the community. So, for further reading, here is what others have to say about it.


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