Take Your Kids Out Of School

If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.

“If you raise your children to feel that they can accomplish any goal or task they decide upon, you will have succeeded as a parent and you will have given your children the greatest of all blessings.”

Overview :

  • Modern education and its structure and methods is an accidental result of the industrial revolution and is profoundly wrong in every way.
  • Growing up and assuming adult responsibilities is a family affair and must be the primary goal of raising children.
  • Academic education can wait without cost to the individual or the society.
  • Taking your child away from public education will give them a large advantage in life.

At about 12 years old, my son started disliking school, became rebellious.  That didn’t go away, and he started really disliking math.  I understood that the only thing he couldn’t easily recover from was disliking math and science, so I started reading.  Wish I had done that before kindergarten, would have saved everyone a lot of time, trouble and money and put our son on a better path to a good future.

 I read books on educational resarch, psychology of children’s maturation, and the contrarians in the educational community.  I recalled the many black grandmothers who have sheparded kids thrown out of public schools into Ivy League colleges.  I re-read O’Neill’s “Summerhill“.  I thought about the home-schooled children we had met, the engineers I had worked with who didn’t have formal training.  I tried to put it all into the context of history.  This is my current understanding :

Modern Education Is So Wrong

There are no shortages of serious critiques of the modern system of education, I can’t add to them.  These points seem most important :

The major fallacy of modern education is the ‘building knowledge’ nonsense, the idea that children must learn beginning reading in first grade in order to handle second grade work, and second grade to handle 3rd grade, etc.  That is flatly wrong.  Any 3rd grader who is illiterate will learn to read at 3rd grade level with little instruction.  I have relatives who brought children into the US who didn’t speak any English.  Thrown into English-speaking classrooms in January, by the end of their school year they were speaking, reading and writing English at grade level.  At the beginning of the next year, they were indistinguishable from their American peers.

Mental maturity controls the rate of assimilation of new knowledge far more than previous levels of knowledge.

The next major fallacy is cultural : our society does not progress primarily from academic success, and credentials do not guarantee competence, interest, honesty, or willingness to work hard.

Academics are indeed important, but adults can become interested in anything and progress very quickly to any desired level.  After WWII, high school graduates, who had never had academic interests and would never have gone to college, promoted on the battlefield to officers, went on to Harvard, got Ph.D.s and made important discoveries.

“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.”

All of us know that we are 10X as effective at learning when we want to know something, or need to know it, so are actively pulling knowledge into our mind and building understanding.  Modern pedagogy consists of methods to stuff answers down the throats of unwilling captives.  They have vocabulary texts instead of reading lists.  The lecture/test approach doesn’t even work well at the college level, and kills love of knowledge.

There is no particular set of knowledge that makes you an educated person.  But anyone can love to learn and become an expert at anything.  That love is exactly what our education system most effectively kills, and what our emphasis on credentials costs us.  Google once emphasized credentials, but after analyzing who does well, college isn’t necessary.

Schools teach morality, badly.

But most terribly, modern education is control, and accustoms our children to being controlled by higher authority, to defer to authority.  They must follow rules, are allowed to take no risks.  They become accustomed early to breaking rules and avoiding punishment.  Wall Street rapacity and our falling rate of new companies are born in school rooms across America.

Even if our educational system were brilliant at producing minds sparking with intelligence and wisdom, it would be a net negative on our society.  The effects of raising children in highly controlled environments has been known to stunt adults since antiquity.  Our educational system has crippled our entire society.

The best of our children rebel.  Our son did so, thank God, when he was young enough to recover.  Our friends have children who rebelled much later, and in ways which are drastically limiting their futures.

Our educational system and credentialed society waste far too many people and the opportunities they represent.

Training Adults Is Most Important

Civilization did not start yesterday, humans’ natures are a constant, we have the words of many wise men about how to rear children.  From antiquity to the present, producing adults of character for a good society has been the goal.

How to do that is not a mystery: what works is constantly being with adults, watching them work and play and socialize, participating as much as possible.  That works for training Gypsy street musicians and precocious minds of all kinds.

Kids learn very fast from adult company.  They get examples of things their parents tell them is important, and good parents reinforce the lessons : honesty, integrity, hard work, tolerance, thinking before leaping, how to think, …

Being with children trains them to be a child, social learning is primarily from their peers.  That is the opposite of training competent adults.

Academics Can Wait

Summerhill has examples of kids who graduated from his school at 16, but were illiterate.  They subsequently learned what they needed on their own, and went to college.  Around the world, adult literacy programs require students to attend a few weeks of classroom instruction, and then those adult minds can take books home and go to college 2 years later.  One assumes the internet could match that record.

There is an ‘unschooling‘ movement in the US.  Put kids together in mixed-age groups, leave them free to play, answer their questions.  Give them a lot of games and toys and materials and tools and access to the internet.  Leave them alone to do as they will, and the younger learn to read and calculate from the older kids so they can play the games, will all pass exams as normal and go on to college.  The difference between them and schooled children is that they love learning.  They have achieved all of their learning on their own, and continuing is normal.

Our public school system takes 12 years to turn out illiterates who hate education.  Unschooling is better than that, but not as good as having your kid around adults all the time.

Younger Adults Have Advantages In Life

Many of our friends and family have kids starting college.  Others have finished recently.  Majors are English, art, psychology, …  Their kids are still looking for a place in life after college, too late to modify their college learning.

College majors are chosen by children, minds without much context of world and its workings allocate the educational resources of the nation.  And your college tuition and taxes.

Any life experience will give your children an advantage over people who drifted through college.  The more the better.

Results of Our Experiment

‘Data’ is not the plural of ‘anecdote’, so don’t generalize, this is an existence proof for one kind of kid in one environment, and is not yet a success on the formal education front.

Our son was ‘unschooled’ beginning 7th grade.  We had him tutored in languages, music. He belonged to a dance troupe and soccer team and played with kids on our street, people from those are still his friends.  Many of his friends have been several years older.  He had a computer beginning at 18 months.  Since 7th grade, he has often been left alone at home except for tutors coming in for lessons, has spent his time watching Youtube videos and playing computer games, doing experiments, brewing beer, building things, mixing and burning thermite, learning that .50 BMG primers are really powerful and how to test such things safely, … He learned the word processor to write a couple of essays on topics that interested him, none since.  He learned spreadsheet to keep track of his money and spending.  A free-range kid.

We did a good number of things together, shooting, hiking, camping, some experiments, …, but that was a relative failure on our part, not nearly enough.

He is now 18.  He speaks 4 languages, reads 3 OK and the 4th at grade-school level, can write well only in English.  He knows much science, because he always liked that and Youtube has some great science channels.  He has watched very many blacksmithing, flint knapping, machine shop machines machining, building steam engines, workings of all those, cars, appreciating fine cigars, mechanics of firearms, … His vocabulary is awesome, he reads college level books of all kinds, not nearly as many as I think he should.  He speaks well and confidently, explains complex mechanics on a whiteboard with diagrams, works through manufacturing steps for parts for his car. Several years ago he downloaded EE texts to learn about logic gates, constructed adders and 7-segment displays with Redstone in Minecraft. Everyone who meets him comes away commenting about how grownup he is, how many things he knows and can talk about, how polite he is.

Doesn’t know much of the history, civics, social science, biology that a high school would have given him.

Certainly not a genius, just smart and interested in things, so knowledgeable and interesting.

He started work at 17, connections with friends of my wife’s.  He works as many hours a week as he can fit into his dance, music, language lessons, often more than 40 by working weekends.  His job is in an electronics firm that got started from a kickstarter project.  He is a shop floor menial, but works with engineers, production managers, has lunch with VPs of finance, marketing and Engineering.  He has had the experience of a half hour 1-on-1 talk with one of our areas very prominent businessmen and supporter of new ventures.  That was initiated at a a friend’s birthday party by the gentleman, they discussed their experiences in companies.  He assembles systems, tests, packages, takes them to FedEx, ships them.  He goes to suppliers to get components. He talks about problems of testing power electronics, kilowatt motors, firmware bugs, problems managing people (he is in charge when senior people are gone, trains new people), power company standards and politics, supply chains, advantages and disadvantages of Chinese suppliers, market segments in other lines of business, problems in growing a company.  He hears about the executive’s other ventures, their new ideas.  He has ideas of his own.

I could not design a better apprenticeship for him.

He is un-interested in further education.  He resists even taking the GED test, tho he got 17 of 19 science questions correct in a practice test.  He makes more $ than his friends just now, and the job is still changing enough as it grows to be interesting.  Reality is a great convincer, his friends will start to out-earn him, he will get bored, he likes the money, so I am not much concerned : there are many ways to higher levels of knowledge.  (My wife is concerned, she pushes, he politely ignores her.)

We have relatives and friends whose children are outstanding in academics : the finest private schools and proceeding to the best colleges and interning at the most prestigious NGOs, stepping stones to high levels of miniondom.

I would not trade those experiences for what our son has, even if he had fit into conventional schooling.  Our son is much more of a generalist, will do well whatever happens — somewhere in the world will be a safe place for his talents.  Their children are specialized, vulnerable to sudden changes in economics and politics.

So our kid is not perfect, we could wish for more obvious educational attainment to brag about.  But he is responsible, kind, grown-up in looking after himself, continues learning about everything, has good friends, is polite and cautious in new things.  Could be a lot worse.

Conclusion

Children taught essential skills by family and raised to be adults as early as possible, Conservative since the dawn of civilization

Build community, abolish public education.

———-

Added 4 months later :

Our son now manages the shops assemblers : 5 people who he trained and helped select.  All are in their 20s.  He does inventory, orders supplies, is responsible for scheduling : the hard problem, given the supply chain problems.

He got a raise and is in a bonus program. It is a startup, so there are a lot of different things for him to do, he has photographed the new products, written manuals, welded frames for displays, and is the only one in the company with experience in mechanical CAD software and 3D printing, a new tech they are beginning to use.

The company has open houses, product announcements.  He meets executives from the companies who recognize his name, want to thank him for his assistance.  Some of those visits are inspections by companies looking at potential suppliers.  He is the person who takes them through the shop, explains the operations.

He is now the oldest male in the dance troupe, has been the leading dance for a couple of years.  He still takes music lessons, is the only one of his peers who does.  He is still taking lessons in one of his languages, speaks the other 3 at work.

Still a good apprenticeship.  Not bad progress for a kid who isn’t yet 19.

—–

Just the recent two of the many articles I come across confirming that the educational process is not reality-based.  Alfie Kohn has books confirming that, and research on parenting, what actually works vs the advice you get everywhere.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/02/why-our-children-dont-think-there-are-moral-facts/?smid=tw-nytimes

  BC Prof Suggests Young Children Need Less Formal Math, Not More on Thursday March 25, @03:37PM

Posted by timothy on Thursday March 25, @03:37PM
from the all-in-favor-say-pi dept.
DesScorp writes “Professor Peter Gray, a developmental psychologist and researcher at Boston College, recounts an experiment done in New Hampshire schools in 1929, where math was completely taken out of the curriculum of the poorest schools from the area until the sixth grade. The results were surprising; with just one year of math under their belts, the poor students did as well or better than students from better schools by the end of the sixth grade year, despite the fact that the better schools had math in their curriculum all throughout elementary school. Professor Gray thinks children are not mentally wired for the kind of formal math instruction that is taught in schools, and that we’d be better served by putting off the teaching of theory until the seventh grade. He scoffs at the notion that if children are failing with current levels of math instructions then we should double down and make them do more math in school.”
Read More… 344 comments
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