The other day a neighbor visited me while I was working in the garden. She wanted to talk about the changes occurring at the local school. Comparing the education she and her husband received with that her children were receiving, she had determined that they were getting an excellent education. Both parents were pleased their children were learning “so much more” than they had.
I had to agree with my friend, that we most often use our own schooling as a standard of measurement for our children’s schooling. I certainly did when my children were young. But is this the best measure for quality in education? I asked the neighbor to consider how the world had changed, in the time since she was in school, and the amount of information we and our children have at our finger tips. It seems reasonable to assume that our children would, and should, be learning a great deal more of the information that took us years to assimilate. For the most part, children today begin school having access to more information than their parents had. By the time a child has completed one year of schooling that information has almost doubled. When I was in school it took many years for information to change. This provided me and those of my generation a certain consistency with learning information that is not available today. Therefore, I’m not certain that the same paradigms for learning, that served my neighbors and me, are adequate for today’s student.
This need to assimilate so much information makes the teaching learning process even more challenging. The Internet offers the opportunity for students to work at their own level, at their own pace, on topics that are of personal interest. Our work is a continuing effort to assist those we serve to understand and adapt their instructional programs by offering choices for personal learning.
Web-based, online learning gives students a unique opportunity to explore learning and gain knowledge at their own level. Online learning offers a way to stay ahead of the information tide of an expanding knowledge base. Students do not need to be time bound by their learning program. Online learning can offer real-time learning in a vast number of subjects and topics for individual instruction. The best online learning programs will provide students and parents the flexibility necessary for true knowledge to take place. We know that what we learned in school is not enough for the future of our children. We have a responsibility to provide programs that offer skills and tools the students can use to ensure a successful future.
In this regard home schooling is reinventing the idea of school. The integration of knowledge is a personal process, rather than a social process. By viewing school not so much as a place, but the act of learning, those who home school have forced us to look at a new paradigm for schooling. These parents recognize that acquiring knowledge does not need to be a group activity but is often more effective as an individual activity. They know that how they learned is not the best method of learning for their children. Home schooling parents use varied approaches in teaching their children. Many have added online curricular programs to provide a new avenue of learning for their children.
How we learned and what we learned are not adequate measures of education for our children today. When I hear about educators who continue to teach the way they have for many years, it concerns me. The tried and true paradigms of the past, that served us well, that prepared us for a successful future, are not adequate today. We all have to try harder to challenge our own methods of educating and of evaluating schooling.