Home schoolers should think about two principles when it comes to “application” type questions. They are:
1. Information and skills become useful to the degree they can be applied to new situations.
2. Students need to have experience in applying what they have “learned” to new problems or situations. Their ability to apply what they have learned reveals the depth of learning.
Below is a true story that illustrates these two principles.
Before leaving for Vietnam to serve as a fighter pilot, a student attended a class in advanced gunship. Part of the course content included knowing emergency procedures in the event that something went wrong on a mission. They were so important that he had committed them to memory. He bragged to his flight instructor that they were so memorized he could literally recite them in his sleep. The lieutenant, a veteran aircraft pilot, simply nodded and said, “Good.”
The lieutenant orally quizzed the student for a half an hour in which the student responded with the correct answer to every question asked. The lieutenant affirmed the student’s complete memorization of all the procedures and suggested they board an aircraft and practice shooting.
Once in the air, the target practice began. Without warning, the lieutenant purposely killed the engine and the aircraft began to descend toward the earth, out of control. The student, shocked by his instructor’s action, panicked. On top of this, he couldn’t recall any of the emergency procedures he had “learned” and so confidently recited earlier that day. About 100 feet from hitting the ground, the lieutenant took back control of the aircraft and the lesson, which really wasn’t about practice shooting, was over.
Like the above story illustrates, the key to asking questions that require application, is real life experience. So… how do we set this up when home schooling? It might help us to think and ask the number one question our children are often asking themselves, “When are we going to use this?”
A few possibilities:
Math: Use math skills to build or remodel something. All four operations, problem solving, measurement tasks will be required.
Home Economics: Make dinner. Use a recipe. Purchasing the necessary ingredients, measuring accurately, following directions, are just a few skills that will be tested.
English: Write a paper for publication or contest entry. Research skills, formatting standards, grammar, spelling, and punctuation must all come together if the end result is to be of “presentation quality.”
Art/Crafts: Engage in projects that in order to complete, competency in certain skill sets must be acquired.
Athletics: Sports such as soccer or basketball require the application of skills in a team context.
History: “History repeats itself” as the saying goes. Dig beneath the facts of history and look at the circumstances and causes that lead to the outcome. The wisdom literature of the Bible is an excellent pattern to follow. Look at today’s current events and hazard a few guesses as to what’s going to happen in the future.
Science: Learn the scientific method and then apply it as a framework to understanding possible reasons why things happen the way they do in this field. Do experiments.
The ability to apply knowledge and skills to a new situation is foundational to the next three levels of questions we’ll be looking at.
Now it’s time for you to answer a question that will require you to apply what I’ve just presented. Once you’ve chosen an answer, scroll down to find out if you’re correct. You find that you’ve reached the limits of your ability and patience to teach junior high math. You start looking for a tutor. Who do you choose?
A. A mother of seven.
B. A mother of three children grown children, all of whom graduated from college.
C. A non-credentialed tutor that you hear is “really good.”
D. A state-certified teacher
A. Some parents do big families well, and others, well… just hang on. Often in larger families, much of the teaching is delegated to the older children and so there might be a resource here.
B. This certainly looks promising and her children are grown. She might have the desire to help, so it’s worth checking out. But, there isn’t necessarily a cause and effect relationship between parent teaching and student accomplishment. Some kids are driven and others are laid back. One parent I know admitted to me that her son taught himself to read-he thought she was too busy and couldn’t wait. He later went to the University of Oregon on a scholarship.
C. The question here is who said she was good? If you know the referring families and trust their judgment, this could be your best bet. If the tutor is competent, certification is a non-issue. This is junior high math, not calculus, after all. Often, self-taught tutors possessing strong relational skills along with life and parenting experience are your best bet.
D. Even though I think that certification is the camel nose in the tent of home schooling, earning a credential at least suggests you know how to study and pass tests. I wouldn’t hold this against the tutor, but certification doesn’t guarantee they know how to deliver the goods either. Still worth checking out, but in this age of never-ending student loans, be prepared to pay more for the state’s blessing.
Thanks for reading!
Curt Bumcrot, MRE
Director, Basic Skills Assessment & Educational Services