It can be so hard to figure out whether a child is really learning or if they are simply regurgitating facts they’ve been forced to learn. With education, you can find yourself asking, “is my child learning?” I know that I have had this debate myself as I have been homeschooling my two for the last almost 8 years. I am going to share my opinion on this but I want you to keep in mind that others may have a different perspective.
Is my child learning?
With the push in this nation towards countless standardized tests, we are constantly asked to prove that our children are really learning. There is a constant drive towards quantifying our kids and making sure they can perform. I love the way that Sir Ken Robinson explains the way American education has been industrialized to produce workers.
While this may have worked in the industrial age, we are left questioning whether this is still what is best for our children and our school systems.
How do kids really learn?
I think that what we need to look at is how kids really learn. Every child is going to learn and remember material in a different way. For some children, rote memorization may be the ideal way to learn. They may thrive on flashcards and memorization work. For others, like my daughter, rote memorization is the quickest way to assure she learns nothing.
One of the most important things for making sure your child is really learning is to figure out first, how they learn best. If you have a child that is a hands-on learner and they are in an educational setting that never lets them get hands on, there is a chance they will learn very little.
Does your child test well?
Many people use standardized testing to quantify how much a child learns. While this is great in theory, it doesn’t really work if you have a child that doesn’t test well. I have one that is an incredible test taker and one that does terrible on tests. For my oldest, I find that I can get a better view of what she has learned by having a good conversation about the material. I challenge her to teach it to me and I find that she is able to share that better.
Is homeschool the only option?
Absolutely not!!! I strongly believe that there are children that would be extremely disadvantaged by being homeschooled by a parent who is not really capable of homeschooling. There are so many options out there for education. It may mean looking beyond the public school, supplementing, or looking into ways to better work with your child’s teacher. I don’t believe that homeschool is a fix all for the educational system. I think it needs to be on a family by family and child by child basis instead.
So, how do we know if a child is really learning?
One of my readers asked the following:
“How do you stop thinking the way compulsory education taught you? I still can’t shake the belief that kids will have to be forced to learn things and they’re going to resist, which I feel like is the attitude of mainstream education. People seem to judge whether a kid is learning what they’re supposed to by how many facts they spew, which in my heart I don’t believe is proof of anything other than memorization and regurgitation. Does that make sense? I feel like I’m rambling but this is more a philosophical question about what is true learning/education and how to shed the old way of thinking about it.”
For me, I think it is better to have a conversation with the child. What are they really retaining? Can they teach you about the subject matter instead of telling you facts? For me, I am less concerned with dates and names and more concerned with her understanding the S.P.R.I.T.E. (Social, politcal, religious, intellectual, technological, and economical) features of a point in History. What made that date important? For us, the focus is more on the context than the facts.
There are some areas where rote memory is needed.
I don’t want this to seem like an anti-rote memory post. There are situations where your child will just need to learn certain facts for the sake of their future. A few examples of this would be sight words, skip counting, and certain Math facts. These will be needed for future concepts and your child will have a much harder time without them.
So how do you define if a child is really learning?
True education is a balance of doing what they must do with certain rote learning concepts while making sure they are genuinely connecting with the material presented. The honest answer is there will be things they just have to learn because that is the way it works. There will also be plenty of places to infuse fun and engaging learning to reach their interests. A quality education is a balance of both approaches with a direct focus on the child’s learning style.
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