Reason to Homeschool #4 – What’s Going on Outside of School

As adults we are fully aware of the value of time. We carefully weigh our options and look at the pros and cons of selecting one activity over another. When we choose to engage in a particular activity at the expense of another, we look at the opportunity lost by not engaging in the other activity. We spend a lot of time figuring out the best use of our time, and it should be that way.  How we spend our time is extremely important; we don’t have much of it and we can’t waste it.

Is a child’s time any less valuable than an adult’s? I would argue that it’s actually more valuable. We only think it’s less valuable because children are young and we envision them as having an endless supply of time. The way children spend their time is what defines their lives and shapes who they will become as adults. Once they become adults, how they spend their time doesn’t have nearly as profound an impact.

When I look back at my childhood, do I think it was a good use of my time to be in school for six to seven hours a day, and then do one to three hours of homework each day for twelve years? Overall, I had really positive school experiences. But, was it a good use of my time? No, it wasn’t – but not because of the things I spent my time doing while in school.  Rather, because of what I missed while in school.

Comprehending everything we learned in school, even the useless material, did not require six to seven hours per day, plus homework time. We could have learned it all in much less than a quarter of that time, if it were taught outside a school environment, and at a time when interest and cognitive ability were in alignment. Currently, homeschool families are guided toward spending no more than one to two hours per day, per child, on teaching/learning activities, if their goal is to stay in step with local school districts.

True learning occurs primarily while navigating through interactions with new people, new environments, new situations, and new feelings.  Real life involves these things on a daily basis. School is staged. It’s a practice area for life rather than a place to live life. It’s not even a realistic practice area.  The kids in the classroom are all the same age, and they all follow one set of rules that an adult dictates to them. The environment remains the same every day, and there are few unique situations that require unique solutions. The material is carefully crafted and fed to the children. Furthermore, much of what is “taught” in school is actually not being learned; it’s being memorized. It’s no great feat to memorize thousands of facts, or learn to do any task that can be broken down into a repeatable process. These things only have value if you can place them within context, give them meaning, and use them in the “big picture”, which is achieved through living life.

When we spend six to seven hours in this poorly staged setting each day, there isn’t enough time to live life and learn.  There is no substitute for actually living and actually experiencing. It can’t be staged.

The most important thing for a child to learn is how to be creative. All of life is based on creation.  Being creative requires a solid relationship with self, and draws upon the true nature of the soul. Creativity requires a good imagination and intrinsic motivation. If a child has a good imagination and is creative, everything else will follow – all other intellectual knowledge will come as the child seeks it out.

So, what does a child miss while spending all of those hours in school and with homework? One of the things they miss out on is family time. More than three decades of research shows that families have greater influence over a child’s success in life than any other factor, including schools. Children learn the most, not from people who teach them, but from people who talk with them. In families, people talk with each other. When children are homeschooled, they get to be with family members for the majority of their day. Family members, who care about them, talk with them, understand them, and empathize with them. Family members, who provide real life living and learning, who help make up an environment that inspires curiosity and interest.

What else does a child miss out on? Time to live; time that could be spent interacting with people of all ages within the context of normal life; time that could be spent outside, interacting with nature; time that could be spent encountering an endless stream of unique situations and experiences; time that could be spent developing a superb imagination; time that could be spent letting intrinsic motivation be a guide toward tasks and activities; time that could be spent creating. Imagination and creativity are a person’s main tools for creating their reality, and ultimately determine their success.

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