I am planning the 2-14-2015 schoolyear for Maya and Ian. My intention was to read Ruth Beechick’s You Can Teach Your Child Successfully for the second time, as my inspiration at the beginning of the year. But I don’t have time. So I drug out this stuff that I summarized from a book I read afew years ago. Published in 1994, it is rather old stuff, and I wonder where research has lead since? I’ve heard snatches of negative comments about allowing children too much choice in their learning path and it makes me curious how the educational trials are turning out currently. Don’t most issues have opposing extremes with a perfect and moderate middle ground? 😉
Anyway….here it is: My report, written several years ago on….
Educating The Entire Person – Ron Dult
I like to read some education philosophy over semester break, to sort of inspire and stimulate my little homeschool at a time when I begin to run dry. So, here is a summary of the book I finished reading today.
This book is a 127 page essay which was written in 1972 and revised several times. I read the 1994 and most recent revision. Basically, the book attempts to provide a philosophical foundation for productive learning and responsible teaching, which is something that interests both Andrew and I. Andrew had to listen as I read aloud many passages to him from this book.
Dultz makes the initial point that methods of teaching that do not focus on specific learning needs of the individual should not be expected to have a beneficial effect upon them.
Learning begins at a young age and we as parents are responsible to preserve and encourage the intensities, enthusiasms, and individuality of our child’s native gifts and inclinations and interests. Working with their natural learning inclinations is providing wind to their sails, while making them work with our learning inclinations, if they chance to be differ from his, is like providing the sail and asking him to provide the wind.
We teach them a love of knowledge, how to read, write, and speak and do math. During the childhood years we encourage them to seek many, many varied experiences and show them that life is a great adventure with endless possibilities to be explored and delighted in.
As a child developes, we teach them to think for themselves. Thinking for oneself is more important than a gathering of facts or a particular set of skills. The latter are useless in the hands of an adult who has not been taught to think for themselves. We teach and test, often, on the latter rather than the former.
How do we teach them to think for themselves? A student must be taught to observe things accurately, to study things in great depth without distraction. To really inspect and to become immersed and absorbed in a particular thing of interest to them. We can ask questions such as: 1. Is the student studying what is right for him? 2. Is he internalizing what he is learning in a healthy way? 3. Is there an application to what he is learning, so that he is truly living it or is the learning a stagnate part of him and possibly even an irritant?
We also give them gentle guidance and an increasing freedom in choosing what to learn and how to learn it without burdening them with a study diet of rules, expectations, and guidelines. If a toddler is given rules and excessive instruction about how to walk, they would quickly lose their desire to walk, as a result of the burden of instruction at times when they were perhaps constructively entertained in other ways. Too much regimentation of the learning process can also result in a loss of desire to learn.
Students should be more responsible for their own learning journey, Dults says. Imagine that a friend invites you to play tennis with him. You hate tennis and you stink at tennis and you don’t want to play tennis and would rather play basket ball which is a game that you know and enjoy. But your friend says, “Oh, the options will be given to you…which racket to use, which side of the court to play on, wether or not to keep score etc. Certainly, in this example, you are given many choices. However, if your heart is set on swimming or basketball, these choices are meaningless. Students who are told what to learn are often unhappy because the subject matter doesn’t interest them. Even when given options about how to learn it, it becomes discouraging and a mere matter of obedience and submission to the instructor.
A youngster must struggle with motivating himself as a student; which means being given the option of not learning anything so that he will be required to motivate himself to learn something. Our goal is self-sufficient adults so we must work at producing self-sufficient students who can manage their own affairs.
Dults said that in order to learn well, the contents of ones mind must be organized and be able to speak in practical ways into one’s life. Otherwise, the contents of the mind should be forgotten and unlearned. He suggests that many of us are taught in a compulsory manner things that are irrelevant to us and these things can be an interference with our thinking of things that actually matter to us as a unique individual. Just as excess baggage is a burden to a person, so is excess knowing. We internalize only a small percentage of what we encounter, therefore that small percentage should be the right things. What are right things? Well, things that produce beneficial results in my current life, things that bring positive transformation in my life or those around me, or that are a logical extension of current processes going on.
So one must identify the contents of his mind and evaluate them for pertinence. This can supposedly be done with a notebook and a pen over the course of 6 months or so, as one writes down the essence of their beliefs and values, their motives and goals, personal habits, emotional characteristics, interests, problems, needs, vulnerabilities, areas of confusion, and anything that you consider to be essential aspects of who you are. Well. What a job. I am not sure if I am up to the task, even though it sounds fun. So then, what we find to be fluff and dander in our minds, we discard…not by just willing it away but by actually changing who we are and how we act. This involves God, of course, and his redemption, but Dultz doesn’t mention that aspect.:)
Three things must be learned: 1. Those things the student desires to learn 2. survival skills…how to be a self-sufficient adult 3. character traits. All other things are optional, even the ones that we’ve already made compulsory.
The most fundamental job of the educator is to nurture the development of a spirited relationship between a student and an area of study or object of interest. The objective of this nurturing is to stimulate and encourage the impulse t learn.
So each student needs a learning profile and each collective group pf students needs a learning profile. What is a learning profile? Learning needs, interests, and inclinations. The student and students should be primary in writing their learning profile. Parents and teachers give guidance and ask appropriate questions in this matter, but the student, in the end, takes responsibility of recording this. He can be encouraged to revise it occasionally.
A school run on this principle would have certified educators with classrooms. A child would tour the facility and let his attractions settle on several classrooms, teachers, and subject matter that appeal to him. The teacher provides guidance, resources, etc. but the student is responsible for motivation and to stay on task and to decide what to study or what to make etc. Each student would be required to be cooperative, to apply themselves to SOME matter, and to be respectful and polite toward others’ learning processes, otherwise be expelled.
The conclusion, then, is that voluntary and self-directed learning, assisted by an environment and a teacher that encourages and supports it, is the superior educational path for students. And that wherever learning is mandated in exact ways like subject matter and how to learn it and when, it becomes oppressive and a drudgery. Giving the student the freedom to manage his own education is enriching and freeing and, in the end, produces a better-equipped and more effective adult for the life they will encounter.
I just don’t know what to think of it. I don’t know why I keep happening upon these quirky but intelligent sounding educational books, without intending to happen upon them. It certainly serves to keep me in a stir and not stagnate. One thing I have learned is that there is some good even in extreme ideas if some balance is added. That is how I am inclined to view Dultz’s stuff.
What do you think?