Friday, August 28, 2009

Homeschooling, Embracing the Slow School Movement

It was three years ago that I took my now 13 year old son out of the public schools and began to homeschool him. As a young child my son loved being read to and spent lots of his free time reading books. Driven by this love, in 3rd grade he embarked on a mission of reading all of the Harry Potter books and was half way through the series when he suddenly refused to read any further. Along with that refusal, he also refused to write or go to school.
His refusal to attend school was done with his entire being and was not to be taken lightly. He claimed that the constant changing of subjects didn't allow him to spend the time we wanted to on each subject. That he would no sooner get involved with math when it was time for reading. I knew after many weeks of forcing him to attend using threats and punishments, that I needed to stop and take notice that school simply wasn't working for him.
I wonder if the way we do public school really works for any kid. Days filled with rote memorization of facts in preparation for tests keeps kids from really getting to know their subject intimately. Teaching to the test allows students to perform well on standardized tests but doesn't allow them to think beyond the tests, to fall in love with what they are learning.
Slow Schooling allows children to study at a gentle pace. To explore subjects deeply and make connections to what they are learning, to learn how to think, not just how to pass tests. Slow Schooling doesn't mean doing school slower by letting the kids fool around all day. Kids are still expected to tackle hard material, it is just the process that is different.
Homeschooling and its ability to take time to learn subjects deeply is a great way to embrace the Slow School Movement. After many years of homeschooling, allowing my son to learn at his pace, freely choosing the books he reads, he now loves to read. It took about a year to undo the damage of school before my son really began to read or write again though. Initially, reading was encouraged with the use of graphic novels and writing was discovered through the use of creating cartoons, and slowly he worked his way up from there. He still hasn't gone back to the Harry Potter series. Kinda like when you eat something that makes you sick and you avoid that food for awhile, I suppose that is why he can't go back to Harry Potter. He was reading that series when the school sickness set in and that distaste may stay with him for awhile. For now, he is working on the books in the picture at the top of this post.

1 comment:

Slow ESL said...

I am pleased to see this. I teach English as a Second Language to adults at a community college, and I see, both in my own program and in credit courses, then tendency to cover more material over less and less time. We are swimming upstream, but we are fighting to slow the curriculum down so that the students learn deeply.