Home education is, by its very nature, something done by amateurs. So how can it be that homeschooled students score an average of 15% higher on standardized tests than their public-school peers?
I believe that strength, rather than weakness, lies in the non-expert, amateur way it's done: the word amateur, meaning "lover of," hints at the truth: when you do something because you love it, it sinks deep in your soul. Amateur parents show their children they value education by living and breathing it with them. Children are free to learn about things that are actually interesting to them, rather than what is in the standardized curriculum for that month. Education that is prepackaged and streamlined by experts is not only boring, it's not very effective, especially for small people.
I've known plenty of former teachers who homeschool their children, and they tell me they frequently get comments from others like, "Homeschooling is great for you--you're a teacher." But they also tell me that very little of what they learned in their courses or on the job has any bearing on what they do as a homeschool parent. In fact, teaching is something that most homeschool parents do very little of, except in the casual ways which parents teach a child to tie his shoe, and the occasional clarification of a math or grammar concept. Homeschooling equals self-learning in most of the families I've known over the 24 years I've been on this journey.
Here's a quote from my new book:
We have begun to think that only when a child is engaged in an adult-structured and adult-guided experience will he actually be learning. But as we know, the most important and difficult task of our entire lives, that of assigning meaning to sounds and learning to reproduce them so that others can understand the idea that is in our brain (learning to speak), is accomplished by means of private, internal, self-paced, self-structured lessons. We may think that the time spent in the crib, in the car seat, in solitary play, or even just “spacing off” is not educationally meaningful, but if we could see inside the super-computer that is the child’s brain, we would see that the processing is going full speed. Most probably the learning process is more effective in the quiet times than when the child is maximally stimulated by externals (playing with groups of kids, television or tablets, etc.).
"The child is curious. He wants to make sense out of things, find out how things work, gain competence and control over himself and his environment, do what he can see other people doing. He is open and receptive and perceptive. He does not shut himself off from the strange, confused, complicated world around him. He observes it closely and sharply, tries to take it all in. He is experimental. He does not merely observe the world around him, but tastes it, touches it, hefts it, bends it, breaks it. He does not have to have instant meaning in any new situation. He is willing and able to wait for meaning to come to him--even if it comes very slowly, which it usually does." John Holt, How Children Learn
I have come to believe that a child can do more with his time than an adult can do with that child’s time. It is difficult (for me at least) to resist the urge to “teach at” a child but I try to be cautious with this, making sure it’s something they are developmentally ready to learn, that they have an interest or see a need for it, and that there aren’t so many distractions that they can actually focus and internalize. I try to keep explanations short and focused, and give lots of room for the child’s brain to gnaw on a problem, instead of just presenting a series of “question-answer-question-answer” which doesn’t promote independent thought.
Last, just for fun, here are a couple of comments I've received about You Don't Have to Be An Expert:
"I wanted to also thank you for the book you wrote I picked up at the Utah State conference a couple of weeks ago. I am learning some wonderful and insightful things and appreciate you writing it! We also bought Magic Math and will be using soon. Thanks for ALL you do!"
"Just finished your wonderful book!!! I wanted to thank you for inspiring me!! Thank you for a great read!"