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Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Purpose of Education

It seems to me that the human decisions are made on the basis of two distinct processes; one is our primal, instinctual, "gut" reaction, usually based on emotion (fight or flight), and the other would be our rational mind which is capable of overriding emotion based decisions. I think (and this is plain old personal opinion here...I'm no expert) that the purpose of education overall is to train the rational mind to make decisions that are based not on feelings, but on logical thought processes and a body of knowledge.

As far as comparing the radically different methods of homeschooling...I prefer to see it as a spectrum of approaches, as opposed to different sides of an argument. The reason for the many "radically different approaches," can probably be attributed to the radical differences between one human and another. Different personality types, different learning styles, differences in breadth or depth of interests...all of these come into play when you begin considering the education process, and there is no "one size fits all". Any homeschooling parent of more than one child can tell you that none of their children learn in the same manner...which can be difficult, but it's also one of the strengths of homeschooling. A ratio of one parent/teacher to anywhere from 1-10 kids is still better than any ratio you're likely to find in a public or private school, and it allows the parent to customize the curriculum to the individual child by encouraging their strengths and building up their weak areas. Some children need a very structured environment, and others thrive with a bit more freedom. I can tell you that at different points in our education process we have varied from unschooling to a very structured classical curriculum, and many other methods in between. When I find something that "clicks" with a particular child, we stick with it...if not, we move on to something else.

"Why is it important to read the classics? Or to know basic science? Or to know math?" That goes back to the importance of building a body of knowledge that we can refer back to when making decisions. Life is too short for us to learn from just our own experiences...we must make use of the knowledge & experiences of those who have gone before us. I can tell you that from the classics I learned how to think & write clearly; I gained glimpses into history...and into the psyches of the different well-developed characters; I learned from their triumphs and from their tragedies. From basic science I learned about the inter-connectedness of all life; I gained a great respect for the universe I live in and every life around me. By studying math I gained the appreciation of(and ability to duplicate) pattern and balance...whether it's in my bank account, a well designed landscape, or the universe itself (okay, I can't duplicate that part...but I sure do appreciate it ;-).