In light of my recent discussion with David Kern and Chris Perrin, I thought I would share my first adjustment of the school year. One of the greatest advantages of homeschooling is the ability to make adjustments. There is the danger of making so many adjustments that we never settle in to the work at hand but otherwise it is a great benefit to be able to change something that is not working.
Join me as I think out loud.
Recently my son Benjamin, a college student, unwittingly walked into the living room during a meeting of Charlotte Mason moms. We were discussing the history/humanities curriculum that I use, King’s Meadow, and I asked Benjamin what he thought. He said that he loved KM because Dr. Grant, the teacher, made it seem like it ‘mattered.’ This sums up the humanities in one word. They matter. This is especially important for our sons. It is why we often hear the question: “When am I ever going to use this?” A good teacher is one who inspires the student to see that IT matters.
In our home science has been a bugaboo. I know that it matters but I have not been able to inspire the children. We did science to get a high school credit. Period. This bothered me but not excessively because I did have one son grow up to go into a scientific field. Nathaniel graduated with honors with an A.S.. He works in nuclear power making a great salarly while finishing up his bachelor’s and raising a family. He was able to build on his strong humanities base because it mattered to him.
But still I wanted us to love science as we should. This year my 10th grade son Andrew is taking biology. At the beginning of the year I gave him a little pep talk about how he could love science just like Nathaniel. Andrew nodded the nod of the unbeliever. He spent the first week of school dutifully doing the program I had laid out for him.
At the end of the year he will be tested on biology at the local public school. Last year he was tested there on algebra and he did very well. This made him excessively happy. He wants to do well on the biology test too. He came to me at the end of last week and said that he had been on Khan Academy and felt that he could better prepare for the test by watching the Khan videos and using various AP biology apps for Kindle and my iPhone. I decided to let him give it a try. Then suddenly this week he said that he was beginning to love science.
His motivation to do well on the test had inspired him to develop habits that in turn produced in him a love of biology. It is true habits are closely related to love. I found that out when I learned to love running simply because I had used an iPhone app which rewarded me daily with a little check. Before my Couch to 5K app I had not even desired to run and now I love it.
What does this mean? It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that we are motivated by the base desire to do well on tests. But I had tested my kids before in science with programs that had provided weekly and quarterly assessments. Those programs had never produced love. In fact our whole modern system of schooling may be based on the the hope that assesssment alone is what matters. We are not Pavlov’s dogs. If we were our school system would be succeeding.
To use Andrew Kern’s metaphor of weaving, it is like putting together a cloth without the crossweave or even pulling out the crossweave (woof) leaving a pile of theads. The woof in this metaphor is that it matters.
Assessment can be a tool which triggers a habit which develops a love. It can never be more than that. It can never matter itself. Habits that produce love are tricky things. We should not fall into the temptation of using manipulation as a shortcut to reach our goal.
Our goal is love.
Love is what matters.