Trust The Children

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A New Prescription for Public Education?

In a recent trip to Washington D.C., I read a full page article in The Washington Post Daring to Think Outside the K-12 Structure. I couldn't believe what I was reading. If there is a place in the world where union control is evident on many fronts, it is DC. However, may I share several headlines? "Students Move at Own Pace Toward Proficiency". "Fast Learners Benefit From Skipping Grades, Report Concludes." "Learning When, Where And How They Choose."

Here are a few excerpts:

Fast Learners Benefit From Skipping Grades, Report Concludes

"Few educators these days want to go back to the early 19th century, when often the only opportunities for learning were one-room school houses or, if you were rich private tutors. But a report from the University of Iowa says at least those students had no age and grade rules to hold them back."

"What was lost in the 20th century was "an appreciation for individual differences," scholars Nicholas Colangelo, Susan G. Assouline and Miraca U.M. Gross conclude in the report, "A Nation Deceived: How schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students." Now, the report says, "America's school system keeps bright students in line by forcing them to learn in a lock-step manner with their classmates."

"The report is part of a national effort to move gifted-education programs away from keeping students in the same grades and giving them extra, enriched classes and projects. It is better, the report says, to let third-graders capable of fifth-grade work go to fifth grade. Or break out of the grade system altogether. "


"The Iowa report contradicts the widespread belief that skipping grades or heading for college at age 15 risks social trauma and psychological harm. Accelerated Students are often more comfortable with students at higher levels of learning and seek out older students when denied a chance to skip grades, the report says."

"No other arrangement for gifted children works as well as acceleration." (Washington Post, Tuesday June 13, 2006)

Doesn't all of this sound very very much like a home based education family talking to a disbelieving parent or sibling? The advantage to our children to go as fast or as slow as they want or need to go and the benefits in every way to the child and the family, have become self evident to home schooling families for years. Books like "Dumbing Us Down", and "School Can Wait" along with "Growing Without Schooling" from the late John Holt, were all primers of the first order as our family considered the Home Based Education model. We concluded before such studies The Post cites, that greater freedom in education to be sensitive to the true educational pace of our own children, offered more advantages than the risks. Some who attempted to convince us of the folly of home based education where quick to enumerate all that we would be losing by not taking the public education medicine in it's complete dosage. How thankful I am, that we also considered the side effects of that medicine as well as the benefits of a "home-eopathic" approach. To put it in athletic terms, it seems some in the education establishment are taking pages from the Home Based Education playbook.

While any forward moving changes cannot and will not eliminate all the inherent injuries done to children in the public setting, especially at the younger ages, these changes, can only include more of the children who must use the public option in an ever growing circle of more effective educational approaches. Any educational option closer to what we can do at home, may yield for others the increased educational benefits we have at home. This may constitute a brighter future then for the public side of things, and a broader public affirmation of what we do at home. However, for those trying to decide now, with young children still at home, perhaps this kind of public comment provides the added confidence required to venture forward for the benefit of your children. Just what the doctor ordered.


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