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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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12/24/2004

What to teach?

My son Sam is now four and it is time to think about school. Or not. Or not would mean homeschooling which, amazingly enough, my partner Susan is advocating. As much of the burden would fall to her this is a huge factor.

The possibility of actively helping decide what Sam is going to learn brings up an interesting question: what would I like to see taught.

My own list - recognizing that there is a fairly set curriculum for homeschoolers in BC - seems to start with history. World history with an emphasis on Europe and the Near East. As well, history of science and medicine. Quickly that expands into useful hands on stuff. Do Newton's optical experiments, build a catapult, explore the five basic machines, build a generator, raise a frog or two. While I can have fun with the history of music and art I am going to have to sub out any actual art or music teaching being bereft of any artistic or musical talent whatsoever. (Happily Susan is a qualified piano teacher so we just have art to cover.) At least one second language and there is nifty computer software to do the heavy lifting here. And, of course, build your own computer and actually know where the !#!@$ hard drive is.

Yes, I know, he is just a little kid and this sounds like an awful lot of stuff. But the advantage to homeschooling is that kids tend to spend a lot more time "on task" in the regrettable language of the education world which means the actual "school" part of the day can be covered in between two and three hours. Which leaves the rest of the day open. Susan will need a break and my thought is that I would do a "supplemental" hour and a half a day.

Kids spend twelve and a half years in school. Nine months a year, five instructional hours a day. In principle, 900 hours a year although that is rarely the actual number. That's 11,000 hours. While many flourish it is difficult to see 11,000 hours of benefit in even the brightest conventionally educated graduate. (I know simply because I TAed a couple of sections of PoliSci 100 at UofT composed entirely of Ontario Scholars with Grade 13, none of whom could write. (Well one, but he had done the first eight years of his schooling in a good English school.))

The entire question is up for grabs at our house. Any thoughts, suggestions, comments would be grand.