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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I learnt Latin! (Or "why I want to home-school")

Learning Latin has been something I've wanted to do for a long time. I didn't have the option in high school, and didn't have the time in college to take a class in it. A couple of different times, I looked for online resources to help me learn on my own. I looked at Wheelock's Latin, and beginning Latin textbooks. And I always ended up giving up within a couple of chapters/lessons, etc. because it seemed like what they were talking about was already over my head - declensions, conjugations, etc. It was obvious this stuff was important, but no one ever explained why. I didn't know enough to gain a foothold into the mountain of grammar that everyone started with.

Then today I found this site: Latin 1: The Easy Way (via Del.icio.us). She has 9 lessons that serve as an introduction to Latin. But she didn't start with explaining the various declensions to me - she showed me a sentence and what it meant, and then showed me other sentences. I could see the variations, and they made sense. Suddenly I had a hook into the language - it clicked!

Obviously, I don't know Latin just by reading through her 9 lessons. There will be lots more practice and reading and I will probably go back to the standard textbooks and work through them. But, I will be able to make headway with them only because I now know what it's all about, and it's because I found a resource that worked with my way of learning.

And that's exactly why I want to home-school my children when I have them. People learn in different ways, and everyone probably has multiple ways they use to learn different things. If someone wants to learn something but isn't able to, it's probably because (s)he hasn't yet found someone who is able to teach it in the way her brain is geared to understand. That's the fault of the teacher, not the student. If the teacher continues to insist that his/her way of teaching is the right and only way, the student will get frustrated and give up. Children especially, do not have the patience or awareness to try and find other ways to learn what they need to know. If a teacher can't explain something well enough, the child will accept the explanation that it's the student's fault for not being smart enough to understand him or her.

A good teacher will try and explain things in multiple ways to reach students with different methods of learning. However, in a classroom setting, there's only so much time available to cover a given piece of material, and hence there isn't time to ensure that everyone has had it explained to his or her satisfaction. It's inevitable that someone will be left behind, and, if the material is sufficiently fundamental to later studies, those people will have a very hard time keeping up. Even the best teacher doesn't have time to individually instruct every one of his or her students.

A home-schooling parent, on the other hand, has all the time he or she needs to ensure that his/her child masters every topic (s)he needs to. While finances might be a restriction, it is far less of one than the teacher with a class of 20 to 30 students. And certainly, the parent has far fewer (ideally no) bureaucratic hoops to jump through if (s)he wants to try unorthodox teaching methods. If a textbook isn't working, throw it out and find a new one. Build houses of cards to explain geometry. Do chemistry experiments with edible results... Keep trying new things until, one day, you see your child's face light up, and you know they've finally got what you've been trying to teach them.

Sure, school teachers have those moments too, and they find them just as rewarding. Possibly, they find them rewarding enough to make up for the otherwise largely thankless teacher's life. But, like I said, even the best teacher does not have time to do everything (s)he would like to. Imagine the plight of the child who is stuck with a bad teacher! I don't want to play dice with my children's education that way. And, more and more, I wonder why anyone would.


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