I recently read this op-ed in the Chicago Tribune. A teacher wrote it. He has a typical story about how he thought homeschooling was terrible when he was teaching in Chicago public schools. He talked about socialization, math, all the objections we’ve heard a million times.
But then he started teaching at the college level, and his best student was a homeschooler who went to school for the first time when she went to college. He wrote a list of reasons about why she was so much better a student than everyone else.
She had escaped the collateral damage from 12 years of conventional schooling. I’m thinking of my own lost years in elementary school, as a bored-out-of-my-gourd pupil in a classroom of 48 or more students doing busywork most of the day. So the schoolroom was still a novelty for her.
She applied her experience of one-on-one learning to the classroom format, as though she were the only one sitting in front of me. This led to plentiful and uninhibited conversation, and other students followed suit.
Having been the only person to be called on for 12 years, she did not use the group’s mass as camouflage, or a barrier, but accepted every question, suggestion, lesson and instruction as her own responsibility.
In home school she had daily conversations with one parent or the other about a myriad of subjects, whereas her texting, video-gaming, ear-bud-wearing classmates too often skated, side-stepped or escaped adult interaction much of their short lives.
If every student in my classroom were a radio, my home-schooled student was the one whose switch was turned on.
In the past 15 years, I’ve known of over a dozen home-schooled students in my college freshman and sophomore classes. All were competent in social interaction, and all had already developed their own methods of inquiry for independent learning.
All the reasons homeschool turns out self-directed learners, and all the reasons school does not, seem to apply to college as well. Most college students sit in classrooms. They do homework. They learn what they are told to learn. They can only choose from the topics of the courses that are open to them in a given semester. They can only learn things that can be taught in a lecture setting.
I wonder though, what is the point of sending them to college after they have already shown themselves to be excellent at self-directed learning? Why do they need college? Why not just go straight into the workforce?
I’ve been reading a book called Schools on Trial by Nikhil Goyal. He hated high school and he spend the whole time writing a book about how terrible high school is. The research is excellent, it’s a big, impressive publisher (Doubleday) and the book would be remarkable even if it were written by a 40-year-old investigative reporter.
So, here’s this kid who is clearly able to do his life without college. Where does he go? To Goddard, which is a well respected school but very alternative in that it’s low-residency and encourages independent learning instead of classroom learning. When I read that, it made total sense to me. Of course a kid who wrote a treatise against classroom learning is going to Goddard.
But what do you think? Why should homeschoolers go to college at all when the structure is just as messed up as high school?
Before you try to answer that question, just please do not talk to me about the love of learning, okay? You do not need to go to college because you love to learn. Of course you can learn outside of college.
Now, what do you guys think?