Monday, January 11, 2010

To drill or not to drill

My wife and I are the parents of three highly independent/energetic children. They are 7, 3 and 2 years old and all three have distinct personalities. As every parental figure knows it can be difficult to guide and steer the children in the right direction and help them make the right decisions for themselves and everyone around them. Meaning, they can be cherubs at times. . . or tornadoes.

As a homeschooling family, I have to give my wife credit for her efforts. I would like to think I could have the patience and fortitude to home school our children, but like many others. . . understand why parents outsource the teaching/child caring to the public school systems. It is easier.

It is easier on the parents for many reasons and also allows for both parents to bring in additional income.

One of the most difficult changes for me to accept on this journey our family has embarked on has been to let go of beliefs that were instilled in me throughout most of my youth. Drills and tests.


Some of you may be asking, "What's wrong with drills and tests?"

The short answer is nothing is wrong with the question, but you shouldn't expect a quantifiable answer to it. A three year old may not be able to explain the math and science behind cooking or the motor skills being learned by balancing on a skate board. A seven year old cant explain the language skills being learned by reading a book a day or the math/fine arts involved in music and drawing.

Why do things have to be drilled and tested to ad nauseum? Our human race for thousands of years learned because we were curious and/or mentored in given subjects. Skills were demonstrated by doing. So how did it get to the point where it is multiple guess and short answers?

The first public school was founded in 1635 and children were forced to attend. . . often by force. Has the education of our children benefited from this? Well, that's a debate for another time, but in Massachusetts, the literacy rate for the general populace has decreased. (you can certainly research that on your own if you would like hard figures).


The general point is, after years of being taught to a test I often find myself doing the same to my children. I will ask for proof of their knowledge and want demonstrated results. I often find myself asking the following: "What did you work on today?" or "What have you been studying?"

I still fight myself from asking for tangible results that I can look at on a piece of paper. A, B, C, D and F are easy. But nothing about raising children is easy. It took my wife to demonstrate that taking the time to listen and interacting with my children demonstrates the results better than any grade ever could.