To My Fellow Home Schoolers
By Larry Morley Arnoldsen, professor emeritus of secondary education at Brigham Young University
For many years people contacted me concerning the topic of "Home Schooling". My name appeared as a reference in John Holt's original edition of, Teach Your Own. Holt had asked (late 1970s) to list me as a reference because I was a Professor of Education at Brigham Young University supportive of home schooling developments.
At that time, the late 1970s, I became a convert to home schooling, and my wife and I began home schooling our three youngest children. I was on Utah State Conference programs for fifteen years including "Keynote Speaker" of the 1984 state conference. I have written many articles on the topic. In the early 1990s I was asked to offer a course of study on home schooling at BYU which I did for some years. Former BYU President Merrill Bateman commended me at my retirement for offering the only such class in America as far as it was known.
Prior to becoming a professor of education, I was a public school and junior college teacher. Also, for three years I worked as a full time consultant to eighteen public school districts assisting them in their efforts to improve schools. This work included experimental teaching in elementary and secondary schools.
I served for some years on the Utah State Advisory Board for Alternative Public High Schools. I have also worked with private schools. For two years I wrote a monthly column on teaching for Today's Catholic Teacher.
I was asked to write an article for the "Iíve Got A Question" section of the 1999 October issue of the Ensign, the official monthly publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints under the question "How to Help Children Develop a Love of Learning."
I have tried to help anyone interested in Home Schooling, and I am always delighted to do so. How can I be of help when much that I stand for (and John Holt stood for) is so much at odds with what is commonly thought of as education, or schooling, in today's world? How can I be of help when many parents are imbued with an educational point-of-view very much at odds with Holt and myself? My response to requests for help comes from a perspective that is unusual and is usually foreign to the one requesting help. In such an event the one requesting help may not feel helped at all, and may be even a little offended when presented with such a strange response.
How am I so different? I am often asked for suggestions on curriculum. People, in most cases, are looking for "a good home school curriculum." I do not believe in conventional curricula! They are not the right things to use. The child should lead us. Curriculum should emerge and evolve from the child's or learner's searchings and probings for knowledge and understanding. In this way the learner learns what he needs to know.
The most important learning outcome is how to learn. If one becomes a competent learner, what ought to be learned will be learned. In fact, learning will be greater, generally and specifically, than when a curriculum is followed. The learner should be respected and supported in taking responsibility, in establishing learning goals, developing appropriate study plans, and evaluating both goals and plans for study. "Traditional" education puts these activities in the hands of teachers, producing many very dependent and reluctant learners, and for most, destroying the love of learning.
Who knows what someone else needs to know? No one really knows! No one knows enough to establish proper learning priorities regardless of the field of study. A "teacher" can suggest; but for optimum learning to occur, the learner must make the final decisions and be permitted to follow through on those decisions, or not follow through. In superior learning one cannot clearly mark out in advance the course one's study will take, or needs to take. Unforeseen doors will open leading the student into new and intriguing discoveries and revelations and directions.
Some might say: "But surely the child or learner can't know what he should know!" In one sense, of course, the child doesn't know what he needs. But to admit that is not to admit that someone else besides the child knows. On the other hand, the child is, in fact, the only one who can really know what he needs, as unsophisticated as his ability to know may be. He experiences and perceives the world and himself as no one else can understand. Only he knows, in this sense, what he needs.
In the best kind of learning and teaching, the learner decides what is to be learned. The teacher/parent, because of her/his greater experience in learning, may be able to help the learning occur, but he also may not be able to help.
Teaching is easy and almost anyone can be a good teacher. This is because the focus should properly be on learning and not on teaching. People who engage in teaching often think erroneously in terms of what the teacher should do. They think of how to keep learners (students) busy for certain amounts of time, of what to have students do. Such concerns shrink to almost no importance when teaching is viewed from the perspective of helping learning occur, or helping the learner. In so doing, motivation, boredom, and discipline become unimportant. In fact, it becomes just the opposite: how to keep up with, respond to, and help supply learning experiences and materials for the student.
In addition to assisting the learner, the "teacher" does have something very important to be doing: engaging in one's own learning and self development. The effective teacher/parent is a model. The effective teacher/parent, teaches what he/she is. Is the teacher a learner? Is the teacher learning? "Thinking" can be learned from a "thinker," "patriotism" from a "patriot" and so on. The great teacher is a great learner!!!!!!!!!!
Some Books I recommend for anyone interested in helping children learn (teaching):
John Holts' books:
Teach Your Own,
How Children Fail (1964)
How Children Learn (1970).
The Childen on the Hill,(1972)
Micki & David Colfax
Homeschooling for Excellence, The Story Of A Home Schooling Family (1988).
Free At Last: The Sudbury Valley School
Leo Wiener translator
Tolstoy on Education,(1972)
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1750-1830)
Pestalozzi's Educational Writings
To Understand is to Invent (1973)
Jean- Jacques Rousseau (1764)
Myths in Education, (1979)
To Children I Give My Heart, (1981)
The Education of the Infant and Toddler, (1988)
What We Owe Children (1970)
There are more writings of course, and not necessarily books, but these are some I greatly value as sources of educational ideas for the parent/educator. Other books would include those a teacher/parent would be using to pursue his/her own interests. I would be glad to discuss the mentioned writings as well as any questions regarding home schooling if there is interest.
I have also made some films over the years of home schooling families, there are also some other films about home schoolers that I would be glad to show and discuss them if there is interest.
Sincerely, Dr. Larry M. Arnoldsen
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