Judging Its Effectiveness
In judging the effectiveness of our home school, I have some experience for comparison.I, myself, was fortunate to attend one of the finest public schools in Texas, Lamar in Houston, during the late 1950’s when public schools in America still retained reasonable standards. I performed well and was admitted to every college to which I applied – including Harvard, MIT, Rice, and Caltech. After graduating from Caltech, I obtained a PhD in chemistry from the University of California at San Diego and was immediately appointed to a faculty position at that University.
There I taught introductory chemistry to 300 students each year and supervised a group of graduate students.
The Children Teach Themselves
I can honestly say that the six Robinson children in our home school were, on average, at least two years ahead of my own abilities at their ages and have a far higher potential for the future than did I. Moreover, by the age of about 15, they were surpassing at least 98% of the college freshmen that I taught at the University of California at San Diego.The oldest, Zachary, had already completed our math and science curriculum at age 16. (Our curriculum uses the actual freshman and sophomore texts from the best science universities in America.) That October he took the Scholastic Aptitude Tests for the first time (the PSAT). His scores of 750 in math and 730 in verbal for a sum of 1480 (and a NMSQT score of 221) were above the 99.9 percentile among the 1,600,000 students worldwide who took the test. The other children are, for their ages, performing at least as well.
During the our homeschool years, I had spent less than 15 minutes per day (on average) engaged in working as the children’s teacher. They taught themselves.
The Children Assume Responsibilities
Moreover, each one of them, spontaneously and without suggestion or demand from me, took over an essential aspect of our farm and personal lives. They did all work with the cattle and sheep, they did all laundry, cooking, and housework, and they were working beside me as Laurelee used to do in the scientific research and civil defense work that is our ministry and our professional life.One by one, my tasks just disappeared as the children assumed them.
In general, they preferred to work independently. They tended not to share tasks and did not divided them as one might expect. For example, at 11 years old Joshua was the cook – and already a better cook then than I. Zachary did all work with the cattle (about 30) and the chickens; Arynne cared for the sheep (about 100); Noah was in charge of all farm and laboratory repairs; and Bethany did the washing and taught Matthew to read. Some tasks were shared such as house cleaning, sheep shearing, and watching over Matthew.
This sort of extracurricular work is especially valuable as reinforcement for the home school.
While self confidence can be built somewhat in sports or other “activities”, the self confidence that comes to a child from the knowledge that he is independently carrying on an activity that is essential to the survival of the family is valuable indeed.
It is important, however, not to take advantage of this situation. The development of a young mind takes place in a few short years. A parent must always make certain that the children have more than enough time for their academic studies and for essential recreation. When children show an aptitude for productive work helpful to the parent, there can be a tendency for the parent to let them do too much. This can deprive the children of mental development necessary to their own futures.
This School Is Entirely Self Taught
I generally consider each child’s time to be more valuable than my own. If I provide them the time for optimum development and direct them to the necessary tools, then each of them should be able to surpass my own abilities and accomplishments. If they do, then my goals for their academic work will have been fulfilled. Remarkably, they have spontaneously responded with efforts that provide me also with more time for productive work.Our home is not as neat and clean as some, our spelling (including mine) is not all that could be desired, and our traditions have become somewhat unusual (they leave the Christmas tree and nativity scene up for six months each year – from December through June), but these children know how to work and they know how to think. Their home school is a success.
This school is entirely self taught by each student working alone. It depends upon a set of rules that can be adopted within any home in America. As their parent, my sole essential contribution has been to set the rules under which they live and study.