It’s sad how much of what is taught in school is useless to over 99% of the population.
There are literally math concepts taught in high school and middle school that are only used in extremely specialized fields or that are even so outdated they aren’t used anymore!
I took calculus my senior year of high school, and I really liked the way our teacher framed this on the first day of class.
He asked somebody to raise their hand and ask him when we would use calculus in our everyday life. So one student rose their hand and asked, “When are we going to use this in our everyday life?”
“NEVER!!” the teacher exclaimed. “You will never use calculus in your normal, everyday life. In fact, very few of you will use it in your professional careers either.” Then he paused. “So would you like to know why should care?”
Several us nodded.
He picked out one of the varsity football players in the class. “You practice football a lot during the week, right Tim?” asked the teacher.
“Yeah,” replied Tim. “Almost every day.”
“Do you and your teammates ever lift weights during practice?”
“Yeah. Tuesdays and Thursdays we spend a lot of practice in the weight room.”
“But why?” asked the teacher. “Is there ever going to be a play your coach tells you use during a game that requires you to bench press the other team?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then why lift weights?”
“Because it makes us stronger,” said Tim.
“Bingo!!” said the teacher. “It’s the same thing with calculus. You’re not here because you’re going to use calculus in your everyday life. You’re here because calculus is weightlifting for your brain.”
And I’ve never forgotten that.
I actually also get really angry about this whole, “most people won’t use it” bullshit. Because yeah, by the numbers, most people won’t be astronauts and engineers and use calculus every day. But when you use that as an excuse not to teach it you go from “most of these kids won’t go into careers that use this”, to “these kids can’t go into the careers that will use this”.
I don’t use most of my education in my everyday life. But I wouldn’t trade away any of it. It taught me how to apply critical thinking, how to question. There are also things I thought I’d never use, but that I use all the time now. You don’t know who in a class is gonna need to know x or y, so all students might as well know it.
Besides, how do you imagine a world where you’re only taught what you’ll need would work? Baristas only knowing how to make coffee, accountants only knowing maths, History teachers only knowing historical facts? And who decides who needs to know what, how and when?
Tbh this is why I wonder about homeschooling sometimes too. I mean, when i was convalescing after surgery the tutor my school sent couldn’t explain calculus and it was the one thing I failed awfully.
I always think of that when I think about parents teaching their kids everything. How much does Jane Random know? I mean, she *might* be an amazing teacher, sure, and absolutely some parents actually are, but all I know for sure she did was make a human.
This is really interesting discussion, but I want to add that that’s not usually how homeschooling works. Typically, in the way I’ve experienced and/or seen it, it works in one of three ways:
1. Taking online classes/an online curriculum. This would typically have about the same set of subjects Classic School (public or private) would have, although less ability to say, ask a teacher things, so I’m not sure how useful it really is. I kind of get the impression that people usually go this route if it’s decided that the social dynamics of Classic School are too damaging to the kid involved to be worth it, or if the very specific time commitments would be.
2. Kind of being taught by a parent, but mostly by books. This is what I did from the ages of six to eleven, and I mostly learned a lot of stuff pretty well. Honestly I just read a bunch of textbooks and did a bunch of workbooks for a few years… it was concentrated on the subjects that interested me most, but I did a bit of almost everything.
3. In the best case scenarios, usually when the homeschooler is a teenager, they seek out tutorship/mentorship from an actual shit ton of people in the community, who each have various skills. Maybe their neighbor teaches them math, and someone a parent knows can teach them outdoor skills, and someone else can teach writing. I actually know some people who have managed to do this, so it’s apparently possible, although I never experienced it personally, and it seems to have worked out for the people who have done it.
Of course, some people also … kind of don’t do anything? Which sounds pretty bad, and I’ve often judged people for it, but oftentimes the people who didn’t bother with any schooling at all when they were like, ten, suddenly get motivated at a later age and do well in community college or something. I’ve seen that happen. I guess it’s kind of like protecting them from bad experiences with school at a young age so they can have good experiences later?
I think there’s a lot of arguments to be made for and against all sorts of things in education, and a lot of room for nuance too, but I did want to add all that.
Being able to essentially self teach from reading books at age 6 is likely pretty uncommon I think.
I think most parents can probably teach their kid reading and basic maths, if they have enough time.
I’ve seen a lot of examples of this not happening though. (yay, special interest in fundamentalism).
A relatively common pattern is this:
Generation 1: Has some post secondary education, can write well, without obvious spelling mistakes. Has 5-12 kids.
Generation 2: Graduates from homeschool at 16, appears functionally literate but with odd, idiosyncratic mistakes. Literacy skills may vary hugely with birth order, younger kids may be far less literate because they’ve been taught by teenage siblings.
Generation 3: Mostly still teenagers, but appear to be way, way less literate than you’d expect for age. Things like 16 year olds who write like 7-8 year olds.
I think it can work ok on a basic level, but if you don’t leave parental control and get education from experts at some point, then you get progressive decline.
The kids who are motivated to learn at any point likely end up ok eventually. You can learn to read and write as an adult. But the kids who aren’t motivated to learn are likely to end up functionally illiterate or so poorly educated they can’t hold down most jobs.
This caution is important.
Around here there are homeschooling groups, so you might teach your kid yourself for the stuff you’re good at and then take them to a class for French or something. I haven’t looked into it a lot yet since my son is only two.
I do remember when I was in high school (the early 1990s) I worked part-time at the public library, and we always hated the days when the homeschool kids came in because they were rowdy and had no respect for adults or the books they were there to read and sign out. So my initial impression of homeschooling was less than good.
I went to public school and it was okay. My husband went to public school and wasn’t challenged properly. We want to homeschool if we can. I’m pretty clear about my limitations, though; we’ll be seeking out that French class and some kind of social studies/history supplement because I am terrible at social studies and my French is, shall we say, rusty. I’m confident in my ability to teach English/Language Arts and elementary level science and math; my husband is a computer engineer, so he is very excited about looking after advanced science and math (though I may need to step in with biology and chemistry supplements to ensure a rounded education there).
And I’m open to sending my kid(s) to school if they want to give it a go when they’re older. I’m thinking high school, TBH. I’d rather he not have to deal with middle school “politics” and there’s too much about elementary school that can be screwed up by the wrong teacher, especially for a kid who isn’t neurotypical (which genetics say my kids definitely will not be).
Oh, and in case you think I forgot about art and music: I’m a musician and we already go to music classes, and he’ll take lessons as soon as he’s ready; and we have art supplies and I’m gradually exposing him to different materials as we go, and if he shows interest I’ll find him a teacher or class (I draw and paint but I’m not an art teacher).
I think it’s about knowing your actual limitations and respecting them.
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