A Home School Father Describes How He Taught His Award-Winning Daughter
Feb. 12, 2011
I certainly appreciate the posting of the Charlotte Iserbyt video and I've been thinking a great deal about it; we have to get off our duffs and do something about this. There is a war in progress and too many remain on the sidelines. Well, I suppose sharing is the easiest and first choice but I hope to come up with other ideas.
Also, Dr. North's recent articles on homeschooling have forced me to consider sharing our experience, and even though I'm reluctant, I now believe success stories like ours now need to be shared. Otherwise I doubt if anything changes for the better. Listening to the Iserbyt lady was the clincher I guess. People must know there is a better way in addition to finally helping them see the true costs of public education. So where's the beef? I'll show you and let you decide whether my premise is correct.
I certainly believe in homeschooling and strongly believe that the focus must be on when childrens formal education should begin; doing this will serve to maximize the benefits. Beginning very early pays enormous dividends over and above expectations. I think we should emphasize early childhood education but too many resist the notion, for whatever reason. All I know is what worked for us and I have the goods to prove it.
The last thing we should do is continue the tradition of putting children in kindergarten and school by ages 5-6. There is a better way by beginning years sooner, no later than age 3 I believe. If you are one of those who think we need to let children be children, whatever that means, then let me suggest you stop reading here. My child tells me learning is FUN and she cannot imagine a day without learning something new. So here is our story and I'll try to keep it short but still meaningful.
I homeschooled my daughter, born in 1993, almost every day from 1996-1999 and she was reading childrens books by age 4. By the end of age 5 she had read almost 200 books during the past year. Because of my poor health I had to place her in a private Christian school in 2000 for 1st grade but crucial seeds had been planted which would return benefits far beyond our expectations. So I was a homeschooling Dad for only a few years and its still been a fantastic investment. The results have been stunning at times as I think about the past decade now. And it doesn't take long to get results either.
Just this past week she was named a National Merit Finalist and has been invited to an expense paid (except the parents!) interview for a Johnson scholarship at Washington and Lee University next month; its their most exclusive award. She has been applying to various schools lately and I saw a reading list she had compiled. It had 9 pages of about 27 books to a page; it looked like half of them were entertainment type books such as Agatha Christie. Since there were over 50 of Agatha's mysteries on her list I've recommended she begin a blog devoted to that topic or author; within 5 years she could be a world expert in that niche.
When we initially began it was simply my desire to teach her to read ASAP because I wasn't about to let her get an education similar to mine. But as we worked on that aspect she really showed much more interest and motivation than I had anticipated. So I gradually expanded her fields of learning over time. Its not easy to get a 3 year old to learn for 3 hours a day but we persevered at it for 5 days, 15 hours a week until age 6. Because of my health I simply sat with her in front of a computer while she followed the Jumpstart software series for kids....http://www.learningvillage.com/html/rjskinder.htm
That link is a review of the program and I cannot recommend any software as its been so long ago since I used it. But Jumpstart did a fine job and I think we paid $30 each year for the program. I began with their Kindergarten module at age 3, the next year we learned their 1st grade module at age 4, and so on.
My wife, who had to work during the day, took half our dining room and set up and make shift classroom for us to supplement the software. It really resembled classrooms the child had seen on her fav cartoon show, so I think this helped her appreciate what we were trying to accomplish. I do know she really liked it and it helped sell her on the idea.
Our day consisted of morning and afternoon sessions at 90 minutes each. After about 45 minutes of a lesson my child would become fidgety and start to lose concentration, so that is where I would become more active and help keep her focused; easier said than done but it worked out once I discovered what worked using trial and error and some frustration. So the last 45 minutes of a session are not easy; we often took a 5 minute break at that time but it must be kept short before the child finds other interests.
If I had more sense I would have kept logs/diaries of our work, along with the tools used for measuring success and finding problems. But I was shooting from the hip, without a written plan, no progress reports, and yet she has excelled in everything! The early start and daily schedule are crucial. I cannot stress enough the importance of a head start like this for your children because it will instill confidence that is later expressed in a variety of ways.
Somewhere along the way within 2 years of beginning this project, a spark was lit inside the child that has become a consuming thirst for knowledge of all sorts. Oh that I was so hungry when young! While the experts can debate the particulars, I think a proper worldview and the confidence coming from that provides another great edge. The child needs to know how to piece all the various parts of her world together into something that makes sense to her, and when it doesn't, to find answers to her abundant questions. Rewards can vary but I used storytelling with her as she enjoyed it so much. Once she could read without help the child was off and running on her own and each subsequent year required less of my efforts.
After she had a few years complete I later found that she had gained a permanent edge on her peers. Our child has remained 2 grade levels above her classmates since 1st grade; she is the top student in a school with the most National Merit Finalists among schools in the area. Our school is but 10% of the size of public schools too. So take that school board! Print that newspaper! Read that teachers' union! She is now a living testimony against everything a public school represents.
I can easily believe a program to attain a college degree by age 18 is within reach of everyone willing to put forth the effort because my child was ready for college type work by age 14. I know that for certain because at age 15 and 16 she twice recorded a perfect score on the verbal section of the SAT exam (which was dumbed down around 1993 to hide the failure of the schools). She was the top Latin student in our state for 2 years and the runner up was homeschooled year round which gave us great pleasure to see; she placed in the top 25 in our state during the annual Math field day competition in 4 of the last 5 years. Every year we could see progress but this kind of achievement was certainly unexpected and I'm only giving a summary. I could easily go on about the many pleasures her parents have enjoyed escorting her to award ceremonies! So I believe there is much to be said about beginning as soon as possible with a homeschooling program. Just imagine your child with dual degrees by age 18! Not to mention a ton of money saved to boot. How can you beat that?
It really is possible for everyone to give their children that permanent edge in school and life by starting no later than age 3. I have seen ads on the TV, though not lately, for programs that begin at 18 months or sooner perhaps. I wouldn't be surprised if they were not that successful.
Too many think public education remains free and neglect to realize just how costly it has become; such costs are hidden and obscured within their childrens' unsuccessful, underachieving, and often unfulfilling lives who just don't realize what happened to them. I find it tragic that folks still don't realize how little they learned in school AND why. Until they hear about the success stories of homeschoolers and see what they are missing, they will not change and that is a very depressing thought.
Politicians like to tell us what would have been if they had not passed this or that legislation while I like to think what could have been if education was truly a competitive market. The Egyptians have finally moved off the sidelines and are making their voices heard so why don't Americans do the same? Because of the sad state of education today I can no longer ignore the issue especially after listening to Iserbyt. We must get this message to people everywhere and a few thousand blogs may do it.