Friday, December 04, 2009

Another Oft-Asked Question

My MIL forwarded this email to me from one of her 'old coot' jabronis:

Speaking about learning, does C-Nut have any resources for Math & Science? I'm looking for some for [grandson] in 6th grade. He's bored to death, gets straight A's and isn't challenged at all. Even in the gifted program they don't do much. He reads at a 12th grade plus level and loves to read. I feel he'd do well and like Math & Science if he were challenged to do higher level work. I hate to see his capabilities go to waste. They tried to get him in the only good private school there. He passed all the academics but there were no openings. Even in this economy, because the public school budgets are cut way back, people are keeping their children in the private schools. When China and India lead the world, we can blame ourselves for the paucity of interest in our educational system. At least in the NY suburbs, you have better schools.


So what should I say?

Should I recommend supplementary enrichment in the form of specific books, websites, and maybe inter-scholastic competition?

Won't that just make the kid even more bored in his age-graded classroom?

That seems like sort of a cruel thing to do, both to him and his classmates!

Now I don't know this kid in question at all, but the idea that a *private school* or a *better public school* would solve everything is fatuous, a mirage at best. The system was never designed to meet the needs of students - never mind the needs of individual students.

First and foremost, a kid with the above profile should skip a grade, or two.

Now I know the parents will never go for this, for unfounded *social reasons*. Still, if they asked, that's my best answer.

Secondly, I would advise him to, like I said above, carry on with advanced math independently. Just BUY the higher level books, READ THEM, and self-propel. Check out Singapore Math. Mine the web for its cornucopia of educational resources. The kid and his parents should create their own curriculum or course of study. He should strongly consider competing in the spelling bee, the geography bee, some of these competitive science fairs, and regional/national math competitions. (The latter is where I did the bulk of my education self-education - before blogging anyway.)

But the problem with *supplementing* is that the child's time has already been co-opted by factory, government schooling. Just the getting-ready and commuting time alone wastes a tragic amount of energy - never mind the tedious school day itself. And think for a moment about *homework*. Realize that homework is yet another intrusion into the family and intellectual life of students. Heck, they already had your kid for six freakin' hours that day! It's an intrusion in the sense that homework will impede not only extracurricular intellectual interests, but also parental time, and opportunities to WORK or learn a trade. I can't tell you how many *moms* I've heard whine about having to *help their kids with their homework each night*!

I know a local homeschooling parent who spent six long years trying to work with their child's government school, and other parents, at developing a strong *supplementary curriculum*.

Obviously, they gave up, ultimately choosing the path of home education - BUT only at the cost of precious time and energy. The child went from being *bored* at school to now being *behind* (somewhat) the other kids who were homeschooled from day one.

I genuinely like to be helpful, even if most askers will never, ever take my advice.

But these repeated questions kind of exasperate me.

I don't really want to talk about how to make marginal improvements within Big Education any more than I want to offer suggestions on *how to better wage war in Afghanistan*.

At root, these aren't really questions....they're COMPLAINTS.


Megan said...

If you are in a helpful mood, the Afterschooling forum on the Well Trained Mind message board is perfect for this sort of thing. I'd send her over there.

I'm expecting a sea change in the general attitude towards homeschooling over the next decade or so. There's been a huge baby boomlet born over the past five or six years to educated, relatively affluent parents, and they're all going to have to realize that their children are not being served by the public school system. That the teachers are not people they want teaching their kids, that the administration is happy to sign on to any new experimental fad no matter how ludicrous, and that the kids aren't learning anything useful.

Private school might be a better option, but it's incredibly expensive, especially if you have more than one child. And around here at least, there are twenty applicants for every seat. You can't get your child into Derby for love or money: for the past few years they've had more sibling applications alone than they've even had spots.

Right now homeschooling still has the stereotype of being for fringers hunkered down in their bunkers, but many parents are going to have to realize it's the best option for their families. And as more and more people do it, it will start to become just another well-accepted option.

CaptiousNut said...


I am strongly considering starting a private school.

It would be, obviously, along the lines of individualized homeschooling.

And thus very small.

I do believe the demand is not only already here, but will increase as you predict.

Megan said...

Ha, that's totally my dream.

The expanded dream involves winning MegaMillions, buying soon-to-be-bankrupt Black Rock, and putting my large private academy with working farm there (I'm a fan of manual labor and toughening up kids).

The smaller dream just involves running a little Dame School out of my house. And maybe getting a chicken. Or something. I actually hate animals, I just like the idea of them.

I'll happily send my kids to you for math (they're 2.5 and 9 months... when do you start?). I'm more of a humanities person. Then I just need to find a Latin and Greek teacher.

CaptiousNut said...

Math starts at age 3.5 - counting past 10 anyway.

But, one-two hours per day, every day....and I slap knuckles with a wooden ruler.

Megan said...

I'm good with all that.