Thursday, August 04, 2005

#181 - The Professional Educators Reach Lower and Lower...

I have already posted at least once about attempts by parents to fast-track their kids through school by starting them even two years (or more) before they would normally enter kindergarten. I stand fast by my earlier thoughts on the subject. The so-called pre-school years are a time for kids to learn the basic lessons of life - at home - from Mommy and Daddy. It's far too soon to begin adding the pressures of formal tutoring and greatly increases the risk of either a negative educational experience later, or even a complete burn-out before reaching junior high.

This is different, mind you, from kids who show a desire to grasp and learn different skills and concepts, and are gently tutored along those lines by their parents. Heck, my Mom tutored me in my reading and writing skills for at least a year before I entered first grade (they didn't teach more than alphabet recognition skills in my day in Kindergarten), and it was driven by my constant harangue of "Mooooom! How do you spell my name?" She quickly realized it was just easier to coach me along and nurture my native ability. By the time I walked into class in first grade, I was already reading a little ahead of most of my class. By third grade, I was reading better than most sixth graders. All because I wanted to, not because Mom and Dad felt that I needed a "leg up" on my education so I could nail that Ivy League appointment.

You may then imagine why I don't like the sound of this article in the Washington Times.

Key quote:
The national tutoring chain has expanded since January to include students as young as 4 as pre-kindergarten students -- part of an increase in tutoring nationwide that analysts attribute to parents eager to push their children to the front of the class.

Apart from my initial "here we go again" thoughts, something else jumped out at me while I was reading the article. Flashing back for a moment on that story I just related about my Mom's tutoring, I recognized the more disturbing trend here: Parents have become all too eager to abdicate their parental right and responsibility to teach their own children.

Professional educators have been most effective in creating an atmosphere of implied incompetence among parents. They have successfully foisted on us the idea that we are somehow incapable, or, worse, unworthy to teach our own children. This evolution has been most visible just in the forty-plus years since I first walked into a classroom myself. In those days, I was being handed over to a teacher who had been reasonably well educated, and was prepared to teach me in the simplest terms possible the knowledge I needed to succeed in life. My own parents were able to reinforce what I was learning in school by providing me opportunities to use what I was learning. (Note: Dad could never believe what I wasn't learning in school. In his day, by golly, you knew calculus before you graduated from kindergarten! Yet another reason, I guess, why we lag behind the rest of the world in productivity.)

Today's parents, by contrast, are overwhelmingly bewildered by the teaching methods being employed by modern educators. The methods for teaching basic mathematical principles have changed no fewer than three times since I first learned them in grade school. Heaven help me if I ever had to go back to sixth grade and try to learn that stuff today; I'd be completely lost! No wonder parents have to hand off tutoring responsibilities (at $45 an hour!) to companies like Sylvan!

I firmly believe that this has become one of the primary motivators for parents to begin homeschooling their kids. Everything is happening sooner, faster, and more expensively. It has now become all about forcing kids to excel before they're even ready to tie their own shoes. It's also about following the money.


We homeschool for two reasons: our two Woodyettes. I have no desire to have them taught by an increasingly cynical profession that more and more believes they are the only saving grace our children have. It's as if (dare I say it?) they want to be my children's only religion.

Well, not as long as Mrs. Woody and I have anything to say about it, they won't.

UDPATE: The Woodyettes found a cauldron this morning full of new school supplies direct from Diagon Alley (they've been doing some Hogwarts schooling this year). The kids (and their Mommy-Teacher!) have been on summer hiatus this past month. Thus, on finding the new treasure trove, Jelly Woodyette exclaimed, "Mommy! Does this mean we can do school today?"

Makes a Daddy feel good, that does.

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