Two extremes that can impact your direction for studies:
The generalist knows less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything.
The specialist knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.
This anonymous quote came from a University of Western Ontario professor that I had only for a few days before I dropped a Greek history course. It was the only thing I learned from him but it profoundly stuck all these years.
Two extremes that can also influence how you “do school” at home….
1. One main perspective is that “school” is too formal, too boring, too hard, too unappealing, too unchildlike, too restricting, too complicated, too uninteresting so that we must protect our young children from “having to have school” until they are older and can maturely handle the drudgery and necessity of it. A slant on this is to have less “school” and more time to freely roam around in self-discovery.
2. The other main perspective is that “school” is a lifestyle, integrated into everyday life to the extent that it becomes the life and without “school” there is no life. Everything is about learning and education; there is no separation of school versus family life versus spiritual reflection versus running errands versus work responsibilities. It is all blurred together so that the child grows up thinking that their version of “schooling” is actually “life”.
The main problem with the first perspective is that it gives a distorted work ethic (“play is better than the necessity of work so enjoy being free from work while you can”) and ultimately can destroy a child’s interest in learning (“school is not fun so wait until you’re old enough to handle school little by little and you’ll get used to it and then maybe you’ll figure out your own interests and have fun with that).
It starts with wrong assumptions – that school is boring and too hard for little minds. But “school” at an early age CAN be (and IS in our home) fun, desired, eagerly anticipated (e.g. “Let Me Read!”, “I want school too”, “I’m big enough”, I want to copy and learn/follow the leader”). A child can effortlessly pick up on so much! And a child can learn to read early relatively easily (which means less need to read everything for him/her for future lessons and that means more time allowed for younger siblings and a sense of independence for the young reader.)
Why on earth would I want to delay this kind of school?
And why would I ever want to burden even an older child with tedious, picture-deficient, dull drills, dust-laden, ineffective curriculum (whether cheap, expensive, or free)? As a mom, I searched for (or made lessons) until I could find stuff that wasn’t wasting their time or mine with meaningless busywork and would be appealing to a young child who was eager to learn.
Have you ever read the statements that go something like this: “Research shows that ____children learn better when their formal school years are delayed until age ____”? The problem with “research” like this is that they are studying incomplete data – they aren’t comparing HOW the children were taught. So yes, if you are choosing to use only a written method of materials designed for older children who can read already and can sigh and “get it done so they are rewarded with play”, then, please, let your littles run freely before being subjected to that. But there is a better solution.
Today, there are a number of moms who are writing more child-friendly curriculum materials to help guide a teacher/parent to allow the young ones to participate in the wonderful world of learning. With a leader’s loving guidance (as opposed to neglecting them self-discover everything on their own), exploration is enhanced with a fun, formal-if-you-want-to-call-it-formal, series of lessons that are designed right at the young child level. It isn’t psychological manipulation; it’s simply appealing to someone who likes pictures, hands-on play, and wants to grow up to understand words and equations just like Mommy and Daddy.
The main problem with the second perspective is that a “graduate” can feel lost without that version of school when they are faced with “the differences” in the real world beyond their close-knit family.
They may do well with work at home or as an entrepreneur in their own business or ministry (which is often more flexible) and yes, those workers and creative people are just as valuable to society. But if they want to or need to go to a regular college/university in order to get a job to earn money to buy necessities and live away from parental provisions, it can be a challenging for them to successfully adjust in that real life system.
What about “self-discovery” methods? Is there a place for this in good education? I think so but you can read my comments on this post here: Inquiry-Based Science.
Just throwing my thoughts out there for you to chew over and think through.
Rather than leaning towards an extreme, aim for balance! ♥
Note: Of course, a child can specialize in a talent or follow a special interest and THIS is FINE! I’m encouraging though that this isn’t all you try to do. Be balanced—teach broad subjects too with enough depth to get them somewhere in life. It will help them to understand other people.