Monday, September 26, 2011

Paying Attention to the "Whole Child"--Something Homeschoolers Already Knew

Homeschooling is successful for a boatload of reasons. And some of its success may have something to do with a homeschooler's understanding of this: Testing is often a poor measure of academic success. A child's success as a student simply cannot be quantified by a grade received on a test. Yet in an academic culture that values test scores above all other measures, children who possess strengths and skills that cannot be measured by a test are at a distinct disadvantage. Marilyn Price-Mitchell, the sociologist who recently wrote The Fallacy of Good Grades was right on the money when she drew these conclusions in her article:

"Parents can make a difference by paying attention to the "whole child," - not just the child who attends school each day but to the child who participants in family life, reaches out to others, thinks creatively, acts wisely, collaborates, and shows respect. Parents have the capacity to nurture these qualities in children, to let them know they are more than a test score.

"We may be living in an age that is obsessed with numbers, but that doesn't mean we have to teach our children to measure their self-worth by grades or test scores alone. In fact, parents are in a position to nurture psychological literacy and help develop the internal strengths that determine a meaningful life." (emphasis mine)

Sadly, in an article that focuses heavily on parental influence in instilling necessary skills into children, the inherent strength of the homeschool environment to accomplish what the public school environment cannot (even with all its self-awarded superiority) is never mentioned. Homeschooling, by nature, provides an academic and emotional environment that is, at its very core, all about "paying attention to the 'whole child'." Parents who spend every day teaching their children are naturally in a position to nurture those qualities that matter...helping their children know that "they are more than a test score."

"To succeed in the 21st Century, students need a multitude of abilities that go beyond internal character and reading, math, and science skills. Today's young adults must be able to adapt to change, problem-solve, innovate, and manage large quantities of knowledge. To do so, they must learn to think critically about complex issues. How do we test critical thinking in schools? We don't. In fact, most schools don't even teach critical thinking skills, the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a goal of improving it."

Isn't it strange that a system that fails to instill the most valuable skills and qualities is esteemed as superior to a system that has been proven to be better equipped to instill those same qualities? Stranger still is the illogical reality that critics of homeschooling (did you read Arby's recent post) often bypass questions concerning academic development, and instead choose to raise questions of social development when addressing the effectiveness of homeschooling. And strangest of all is the ludicrous line of thinking that insists that the most valuable function of the public school system is raising socially capable people, when in fact, that very system seems to find its greatest "success" in instilling the most negative social values that children could ever acquire.

I am continually baffled that in the face of a growing body of evidence that public schools are failing in every way, people still seem to think that homeschooled children are missing out on something of critical importance in their development into capable members of society.

Does any of this make sense to you?

1 comment:

  1. I've been searching through Mrs. Price-Mitchell's website, blog, and online articles, and the only mention of homeschooling that I can find is:

    Children learn by being members of families, through trial and error, and through exploration. The rise of homeschooling is a response by many parents to bring education and learning together, to help children build on strengths in supportive, nurturing, and more natural learning environments.

    Education and Learning: Can they Coexist?