Myths and Half Truths
There are a number of part or half truths that are around today and how many people believe them without even checking to see if they are true absolutely amazes me. While I recognize that half truths can be hard to combat I do not understand why so many people accept anything they are told or see in print, especially if it is on the internet.
Homeschooling is no exception. The number of myths and half truths seem to grow every year and everyone knows someone who knew some one who……
Here are a few of them:
It doesn’t matter what you teach.
Children will learn more than they have at school. It is true that children generally learn more than they would at school, but most of us want more than that. It certainly matters what you teach. To be able to function as an adult you need certain basic skills. A lack of these may mean you can not get a job or the job will be menial. The more knowledge and skills you have the better you will be able to cope with life as an adult and the larger range of jobs are open to you. Knowledge also helps you recognize half-truths—and our society is full of them.
You don’t need to teach reading.
Children will eventually pick it up or catch on. It is true 1% of very bright children do pick up reading very early and by themselves. They find learning in any form easy. The other 99% don’t, and even the brightest child needs to learn the mechanics. It is also true that some children take a long time to learn to read. These children need a lot of repetition at each stage and constant work. Left to themselves they will never learn, as the number of children who attend school and leave at year 12 without being able to read proves. Words are made up of sounds in the same way music is made up of notes. No-one suggests that the majority of people pick up playing the piano without learning the notes. Our daughter, Cindy, can play by ear and if she can’t find the music it can sometimes be of benefit. However we made sure that she can also read music. If the training of child is neglected in any area, whether it be reading or other subjects, there will be great gaps in a child’s knowledge.
You can teach what you like. It doesn’t matter.
It is true that almost anything fits the guidelines and outcomes. They were written so that no-one would fail. However it is not true that you can teach what you like or follow any method you like and get good results. Certain specific knowledge is needed as an adult e.g. you can not be an electrician or engineer without a high level of maths. Learning needs to be sequential and logical.
You can teach all your children together with topic based material.
If you had two children, close together in abilities, perhaps you could, providing you could find the necessary research material. If the children are not at the same level some of the children will miss out. Everyone has at least one child that answers for a younger child, so the younger child misses out. Making sure each child works at their own level using this method is very time intensive and hard. If there is a great difference between the top and the bottom level someone will miss out—either it will go over the head of the younger child or the older child will not work to capacity. There are American curriculums availablethat do this but the parents never last long—they burn out—and some of them repeat themselves every five or so years so the children are replicating knowledge and missing out on other topics. Learning must be logical, sequential and age appropriate.
You can choose a variety of books from a variety of countries and children will learn.
Of course children will learn, but they will not have a good education. Each country has books written to meet the specific needs of that country. They may cover different topics or cover similar topics in a different order. This makes swapping books between Australia and other countries hard. Simply because another homeschooler or a homeschooling magazine tells you that a book is good does not make it so.
Mothers can choose books for their own children.
It is true that mothers do know their children, but most do not know the books. Mothers and I work well together because, with insights from the mother on the character of the child, I can tailor the book to the child.
You can walk into a book shop and pick up any book and providing all the books are the same grade they will work well at home.
Firstly, the number on the book often doesn’t correspond to the grade of the book. Secondly, the books available in bookshops, even educational ones, are very limited. It is no secret that I consider Excel and D K books to be of a very low standard. Many of the books I sell you will no longer find in a bookshop. Thirdly, since there are no set standards, the level of each book may vary dramatically. Fourthly, not all books work well together or follow a logical, sequential progress.
It is not important to teach Social Studies.
Doing a few projects is not enough. What are now known as the “core subjects” were once known as disciplines? Why? It was because they were studied in a disciplined and logical way and it required discipline to follow through. Without a logical, ten or twelve year progress there will be great gaps in a child’s knowledge. For example, the geography of Australia has not been taught consistently over the last twenty to thirty years. I hadn’t realized how many gaps there were in many younger adults –under 35’s— knowledge until I asked about forty mothers, for my own information, where the Great Dividing Range ran. Of those 40 mothers only about two could tell me accurately. Knowledge of history and geography are basic to our understanding of our world, our political systems and our life today. For example, how can you intelligently contribution to a discussion on the number of migrants Australia should be allowing each year unless you understand the geography of Australia. Since 2/3 of Australia is arid or semi-arid and will support little or no population the number of migrants that Australia can accommodate is limited.
You can learn about science by watching nature videos.
Videos and films are certainly great tools but they can be no substitute for sequential learning. Without it there will be too many gaps. Already we are seeing the result of teaching little but environmental science in our schools. There is a growth in greenies but a lack of understanding of the basics of physics, chemistry or electricity.
All learning should be fun.
Not everything in life is fun and if we teach children that it is then we are doing them a great disservice. Many things require a lot of work and some things are dead boring. (Washing clothes each day or cleaning toilets, for example, or picking up after people who are quite capable of picking up after themselves.)
You can be what ever you want to be.
No you can’t. Some jobs require a natural talent—art—and some require more intelligence. We are not all the same and we do not all have the same gifts, but we can all achieve. Some occupations will require a far higher level of education and knowledge. The level of a job does not always denote its importance. Remember, the most important people in your community are still those who pick up and process your rubbish or your sewerage.
If you want your child to be a doctor or a scientist you had better teach them self instructionally and sequentially from the start with top quality material.
The internet is a source of great knowledge.
It is true the internet contains a lot of information. It is even true that there is a certain amount of accurate knowledge available on the internet, depending on the topic you are researching. However, since anyone can give their opinion on any subject, what is written on the internet might be a fallacy not a fact. (Try looking up the flat earth society, for example. Their arguments sound very scientific, but it doesn’t make the world flat.) Information on the internet is not necessarily true and children need to be taught to check what that they find from other sources i.e. books.
If it’s natural it must be healthy.
This is a major falsehood. Weeds are natural. Heroin is a plant derivative and therefore natural, but it is not healthy. Some natural products taken in small quantities can be very helpful e.g. digitalis, but in large quantities may be a poison. Most books that deal with health issues deal in generalities and anecdotes rather than specifics. It is best to consult a trusted doctor who knows about allergies and who also deals in natural products and make sure you have the correct information for your needs.
If you want vegetables that are healthy, grow your own. You can then pick them fresh. Fresh food in supermarkets is not really fresh. It has to be picked and shipped.