Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Boxification

In my first post about homeschooling A. Peevie, I neologized "boxification" to describe how education in a traditional environment sometimes looks.

Everything is boxed up, planned, and rigidly controlled; there is very little room for exploration, imagination, or inspiration in a traditional educational setting.
I'm not saying that this is true in all schools at all times for all students. I am asserting, however, that for some kids, the strictures of a traditional school detract and distract from real learning.

For example: A. Peevie has been studying about WWII in school. He asked Mr. Peevie, "Did the emperor of Japan commit suicide after Japan lost the war?" Mr. Peevie encouraged A. Peevie to do some further study on his own to find out.

The problem is, A. Peevie has tons of stupid homework every night. This is what I mean by detracting and distracting. Left to his own devices, A. Peevie would be researching and learning about post-war Japan. That WWII study unit would not be over just because an arbitrary curriculum said it was over. His interests might take him to the World War II Database, or to the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie; or he might call his grandfather to ask about his experience in WWII, check out his army medals, and research what each one means.

Instead, he spends hours after school working on math problems that he still doesn't understand after two years of traditional instruction, filling in the blanks on spelling workbook pages, and answering questions from a 20-year-old social studies book.

Let's talk about that math situation for a moment. Why is this bright kid struggling so much to understand the basics of pre-algebra? Why are his standardized test scores dropping? He used to test in the 60th percentile, and now he is testing in the 30th. Clearly what we're doing is not working--but what is the response of the school? Do more of the same, in the same way, with the same teacher.

As Albert Einstein famously did NOT say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Einstein may not have said it, but it has verisimilitude, wouldn't you agree?)

There has got to be a more effective way for A. Peevie to learn algebra. We are going to start with the Kahn videos, and go from there. Honestly, I think all he needs is a little bit of compassion, a lot of patience, and a teaching approach that correlates effectively with his learning style--whatever that is. I don't know what this looks like; my own math-phobia precludes me from dealing with algebra any more than absolutely necessary.

I also think I will ask A. Peevie to read Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences. It's been awhile since I read this tiny tome (only 180 pages), but I remember that it made math accessible, interesting, and relevant.

Mr. Peevie and I want A.Peevie to be educated. We want him to have the tools to be successful in college and in life. At this point, I believe that we will prescribe certain learning objectives that we want him to accomplish by the end of his high school years. We will also help him develop and pursue his own learning goals. Our hope is that A. Peevie's high school curriculum will primarily derive from his own interests; and that these interests will lead to an unparalleled learning experience for him.

But I'll also admit that I am terrified. It's possible that this could be a big mistake; and it's unclear what the consequences will be if it is a mistake. We're moving forward on homeschool because it feels like keeping the educational status quo for A. Peevie would be an even bigger mistake.

Fingers crossed.


6 comments:

jeanie said...

Einstein also said that if you are not terrified moving forward than your not really moving forward!

Well maybe he didn't say that, but he should have. I think terror is a one of the side effects of faith. So way to go Peevie family! I am believing right along with you and rooting for A Peevie -- I think he will thrive.

On another note, I am enjoying the regular blogging and uber impressed because I happen to know you are also an assistant softball coach! So who are you and what have you done with my friend E.Peevie?

Dave Haynes said...

T. S. Eliot said the quote about insanity. I really hope this works out for you guys. I know this wasn't the point of the post but that Holocaust museum is amazing isn't it!

Leslie Wolf said...

I don't think that you should be terrified, but I think that you should be concerned and vigilant, as I am sure you are. I did terribly in school until I went to college. In fact, I barely graduated from high school. I attended both private and public high schools, and neither worked for me. I know many other people who had similar problems at the pre-college level but did fine in college. Half of my colleagues in grad school probably fit that profile. The quality of instruction at private and public schools are often lousy, though one definitely shouldn't generalize. At any rate, it has been true in my experience that private and public schools often do little to stimulate real thought. I have taught college students for five years, and I have seen plenty of evidence for that. I am sure that you can find ways to stimulate A. Peevie. My only concern with home-schooling is that some parents are great when it comes to some subjects but bad at others. Math and science are tricky, but so is English. You will have English covered, and I'm sure you're working on math and science. (Clearly you are already working on math.) You are one of the best writers that I have encountered. I don't say that to flatter you. It's true. I have read a number of "Best Essays" collections, and I would put your style up against any of them. That's a true blessing for A. Peevie. I think that the most important things for students to learn are reading, writing, and thinking. You are great at all three. And so is Mr. Peevie. Definitely focus on those. I can't tell you how many college freshmen I have taught who didn't know what to do with a comma and didn't know a semicolon from a colon. Also, many can't read or think well. I think that the biggest challenges for you will be math and science. Anyway, sorry to ramble. I hope that this is marginally helpful, or at least marginally encouraging. One other thing. At some point, have A. Peevie read James Wood's book "How Fiction Works", and then have him read good novels. I think that Jane Austen is excellent. We all need good art, including good literature. Students especially. If you are interested, I would be happy to talk about teaching critical thinking. I have a lot of experience with that. Anyway, God bless and good luck!

Leslie Wolf said...

No more blogging after 2 am. I'm sorry for leaving such a long, rambling post on your blog last night. I hope it wasn't too obnoxious.

Eve Bradshaw said...

@Jeanie--I know, right?

@Dave--Can you cite your source attributing that quote to T.S. Eliot? I couldn't confirm it.

@Leslie--Thanks for the generous props. FYI, I will not be A. Peevie's teacher; more on this in future blog posts. I will put the Woods book on A. Peevie's and my own reading lists.

You need never apologize for commenting, no matter how rambling. It only makes me love you more.

Leslie Wolf said...

I just re-read "How Fiction Works", and I should warn you that it contains some very adult language and themes. Still, I was reminded again that it is by far the best book that I have read on the novel. So, you may want to read it first and then decide whether A. Peevie should read it now or whether he should wait. The content was also more advanced than I had remembered, so it might be a good idea to wait anyways.