I’m posting on the subject of University again. I’ve had some questions from a reader that others might well also have. She asked how I knew whether my kids were well educated in science, geography, maths etc… And which universities accept homeschooled kids and on what basis, since we don’t have exams and how do I know at which age my kids would have the ‘suitable amount of information needed’. These are all questions I bet lots of people are asking.
I’ve posted twice before about University: https://homeschoolingmiddleeast.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/ours-is-more-than-a-home-education-story-its-a-what-kind-of-human-being-do-you-want-your-kids-to-be-story-2/
As I said in the first post, for us, this is more than a home education story; it’s a ‘What kind of human being do you want your kids to be?’ story. And what kind of human being we want our kids to be is more important than what University, if any, they go to. We are not preparing our kids to be bankers or insurance salesmen. We’d ideally like them to be able to step off the corporate treadmill and live a more alternative, fulfilling life. Both my husband and I have grasped for books like Po Bronson’s ‘What Should I Do With My Life?’ about people who stepped off that treadmill late in life, when it seemed too late and they are really inspiring stories. It’s a great book. But we’d like our kids to avoid getting to this point in the first place. We hope they’ll know their passions and follow them. ‘They’ always say you’ll do well doing what you love. ‘Doing well’ might be relative, it might not be investment-banker ‘well’ in terms of $$s but instead might mean having a happy family life (since you have the time to have one), jumping out of bed everyday thinking, ‘Yeah! Another day!’ and having enough money for most of your needs and some of your wants.
I’ve referred before to David and Micki Colfax who have four children, three of whom went to Harvard. Their book is called ‘Homeschooling for Excellence’. I bet a lot of people think the fourth must have failed in comparison to his brothers but as I said in this post https://homeschoolingmiddleeast.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/day-21-of-homeschooling-in-the-middle-east-but-to-go-to-school-on-a-summer-morno-it-drives-all-joy-awaythe-little-ones-spend-the-day-in-sighing-and-dismay/ a 2002 article said that he was working with the developmentally-disabled in Sacramento. Now that’s success in our mind! That is contributing to the betterment of this world and hopefully loving doing it.
But, in answer to, ‘How do we know the kids will be well-educated?’, I answered by saying that there are so many curriculums out there that you can get some idea of what your kids ‘should’ know and a useful website, although you have to subscribe to have access to all of it. The URL is http://www.everythinghomeschooling.com
But I should add, who decides what your kids ‘should’ know, when? Why should we care about these arbitrary curriculums? Most people would say kids should know how to read by, I don’t know, 7 years old. But plenty don’t and this is OK if those kids have had every opportunity to read for themselves, have been surrounded by interesting age-appropriate books, had access to a library (public or private), been read to and have not been diagnosed with any special needs. The reason they are ‘late’ readers is primarily because they have not been pressurized to read like most kids and they weren’t yet interested. And they will probably be better readers at, for example, 12 years old than kids who have been reading for the last 5 years – because they will CHOOSE to read once they are reading and will reach proficiency very quickly. What’s the point of being able to read, if you don’t. My son is not a keen reader and I’m sure this is because I had to pressure him into reading proficiently in order to get him accepted in the school of our choice at age 6 (which we’ve now pulled him out of at age 7). Oh, how I wish I could turn back the clock. Although I feel relieved that he’s a good reader, given Society’s pressure on him to be, my overwhelming feeling is sadness that he doesn’t like reading and that it’s probably my ‘fault’, although through ignorance rather than intent. If only I had left him to choose to read when he was ready, when he was interested enough in something to make him read, which apparently always happens. Every child, without intellectual disabilities, with plenty of help on hand, reads by about age 12. It’s an amazing process that I’ve read all about.
The other argument about kids knowing specific things by a certain age is that when you’re homeschooling you can leave many subjects for later if you need/want to. For instance, there are incredible studies about Maths being taught and learned in very short periods of time when they are left until the kids are aged 12 or so. From ‘Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything’ by Laura Grace Weldon, “…Benezet wrote, “I feel that it is all nonsense to take eight years to get children thru the ordinary arithmetic assignment of the elementary schools. What possible needs has a ten-year-old child for knowledge of long division? The whole subject of arithmetic could be postponed until the seventh year of school, and it could be mastered in two years’ study by any normal child.””. And Weldon quotes a mother in her book, Angie Beck from Kansas, “’I’ve come to trust the process…that they WILL learn all they need to know. It might not look the same as their publicly schooled peers, but when the time is right, and the need is there, they will learn it. My husband and I have as one of our greatest goals that our children learn how to learn. That when they need the information, they know how to go about getting it.’” I agree absolutely with this.
I know a lot of people will be sceptical but in ‘Free Range Learning’ Weldon cites a study called ‘The Development of Talent Research Project’ which looked at highly successful adults to determine what led to their achievments. “What Bloom found in nearly every circumstance was that, as children, these successful people had been encouraged by their families to follow their own interests. The adults in their lives believed time invested in interests was time well spent. These children were not steered toward specific careers but toward a strong achievement ethic.” I strongly urge everyone, homeschooler or not, to read Weldon’s book. It could change your life, for the better. The enjoyment of following your interests and learning a strong achievement ethic sounds like a recipe for a very happy childhood and successful adulthood, whatever you choose to do.
Weldon also mentions a most amazing story in ‘Free Range Learning’ that is outlined in this link: http://www.besthomeschooling.org/articles/math_david_albert.html in more detail than I’ll write here. It’s about an experiment a teacher called Daniel Greenberg tried in an ‘alternative’ democratic school. In 20 hours he and his willing students (aged 9-12, boys and girls) had covered Maths taught at school, from start to finish, that most kids spend years and years learning. Greenberg told a maths specialist friend about this ‘miracle’ and his friend said, “…everyone knows the subject matter itself isn’t that hard. What’s hard, vitually impossible, is beating it into the heads of youngsters who hate every step. The only way we have a ghost of a chance is to hammer away at the stuff bit by bit every day for years. Even then it does not work. Most of the sixth graders are mathematical illiterates. Give me a kid who wants to learn the stuff – well, twenty hours or so makes sense.” Wow!
As many readers know, I’ve been on the search for a Maths resource that makes Maths interesting. I think I’ve found it, thanks to my readers and other blog writers and I think I’m going to try ‘Life of Fred’ – what a great name! http://www.guesthollow.com/homeschool/reviews/review_life_of_fred_math.html. You could be Maths-ready for University from start to finish in 4 years!! That means I wouldn’t have to do any Maths with my son until he was about 13 years old if I didn’t want to! But I will, hence why I’m probably buying this. He enjoys Maths, to an extent, if it’s imaginatively taught so I figure, ‘Why not?’ But learning is not a race, including the ‘basics’ like Maths and Literacy/Language Arts. It’s should be a thoroughly enjoyable, thoroughly understood process. The ‘basics’ need to be grasped before adulthood, before independence, before leaving home, but only shortly before. If Maths and Literacy is lived and loved before then, great. If not, fine. If life is rich and rewarding before kids leave home, full of art, music, practical achievements, physical movement, friends, laughing and a love of learning, what’s the need?
However, back to University. I did a bit of research and even in the US, where there are considered to be about 2 million homeschooling families, nobody knows how many homeschooled kids go to University because no-one tracks how many homeschooled kids there are in the first place.
What I plan to do is when my oldest is around 15, when we have some idea of his interests (including whether he wants to go to University rather than pursue a life in art or music for instance), I will start contacting Universities he might be interested in, whether in the UK, Canada or wherever and ask them what their entrance requirements are for homeschoolers. They may say they have their own tests and give examples of them or he’ll need to get certain certificates which you can either teach at home and do the test at school or do through a local community college or something. I’ve searched the Net and found homeschooled kids have got into University, without trouble, in various ways. If I was contacting Universities without a track record with homeschooled kids, and it’s feasible, I would try and meet the Academic staff in person and chat with them about my kids. I would try to educate them about homeschooled kids and show examples of my son’s work.
At the end of the day, I feel confident that my kids’ natural thirst for knowledge, along with a very stimulating and resource-rich environment will be all they need to learn what they need. It’s shocking how little they learn in school given the amount of time kids spend there. We have SO much more time and hopefully the kids will remember what they’ve learned because their interests were catered to and they were taught it in a more personal way.
When you start researching and doing homeschooling, your assumptions are totally turned on their head. You start thinking outside the educational box, and so many other boxes as well. It’s great! But then my husband and I are the sort of people who are always trying to get out of the boxes we’re all placed in, so this suits us, it feels comfortable, whilst for others it’s just too scary. My kids seem happy being a bit different too so we’re a happy family!
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