Category Archives: homeschool success
When the Beatles were a fledgling band, they went to Hamburg, Germany, and spent several years playing more than 1,200 live shows in clubs and bars, accumulating over 10,000 hours of playing time. When they returned to England, they were a slick, professional band with a startling new sound no one had heard before. According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve expertise in any specific field.
Many of us would like to perform as well as the Beatles did at something – but who has the time? We’ve got jobs to work, kids to raise, bills to pay; taking time to pursue a dream is often nothing but a pipe dream itself. How many adults who are now accountants would rather be artists? How many lawyers would rather be authors? For that matter, how many secretaries might rather be accountants or lawyers?
Homeschooling, however, offers the unique opportunity for children to become experts in a field – maybe even more than one – if they have the desire and drive to achieve it, before becoming bogged down in the details of everyday adult life. In particular, unschooling gives the child even more time and space in which to achieve mastery.
At about the age of nine, my now sixteen-year-old daughter began trying to draw seriously. Her perfectionism frustrated her attempts until I got an artist’s light box for her, and showed her how to use it to trace and save the good parts of a drawing with which she was dissatisfied. That tool was the spark needed to light the fire.
Drawing quickly began to consume her thoughts. In less than a year she was drawing every day. She has carried a drawing bag with her everywhere – and I do mean everywhere! – for years. She draws in charcoal, colored pencil, and ink, or using her graphics pad on the computer, or her fingertip on my iPad. Failing that, she sketches on her own skin with a ball point pen! She has an account on Facebook that she rarely accesses, but is on her Deviant Art account (think: Facebook for artists) every day, interacting with her friends and fellow artists, viewing and commenting on artwork and receiving comments on her own.
For at least the past six years she has drawn an average of five hours a day (and five hours is a conservative estimate, I assure you). Even this very low estimate yields well over the 10,000 hours needed to become an expert in her chosen field: illustration.
I think it shows, don’t you?
And I can’t help but look at this and wonder: how would it have been possible if she had been in public school, or even in a school-at-home program that took all her hours and energy?
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
About seven years ago …
“Look, Mom, I broke my pecan in half.”
“Mmm-hmmm. Does it taste better that way?”
“Now I broke both halves in half. Now I eat them!”
“Wow! Do you know that when you break a half in half, it’s called a fourth?”
“Yeah, look. I’ll break this pecan in half, and then both halves in half. How many pieces do I have?”
“One, two, three, four.”
“Right, four. So each piece is one-fourth. Get it?”
Without responding, she eats the pecan. Okay, maybe it’s a little over her head; she only just turned five. We eat a few more pecans, then …
“Look, mom! This pecan is in thirds!”
Sure enough, there in her hand is one pecan in three pieces.
So does Nova, at five years and three months of age, understand fractions? No. But is she gaining a good basic understanding of real world math? Yes.
Will she remember this tomorrow? Unlikely. But has she gained a concrete experience of fractions that she can build on when fractions show up again in her young life? Absolutely.
Did I set out to teach her fractions? No. Did I use a concrete opportunity to help her put a name to something she is beginning to understand intuitively? Yes.
Will I run out and find some fraction worksheets to help her build on her knowledge? Not on your life. Will I keep an eye out for more concrete, real-world experiences that I can use to help her expand her own world? You bet.
Not bad for a Christmas Eve morning, sitting in your mom’s lap eating pecans, and wearing your dad’s sweatpants as a shawl.