Monday, February 27, 2006

Raising Independent Learners

Couldn't find a pen, so I'll have to jot down my quick notes here before I go to bed and lose them in sleep...

An important goal of homeschooling is to help our children develop into independent, motivated learners. Certainly the more they can operate in this mode in high school the better - particularly essential in college.

This theme of self-activity, independent learning, active cooperation, etc. runs through a broad range of writings and teachings on education and homeschooling. (And I think I've heard a little chatter in this direction from Every Waking Hour)

Here are some sources...

Homeschool graduate essays in A Catholic Homeschool Companion
The parent's prime concern is to impart not only intellectual content but an intellectual method, so that by mastering progressively difficult subject-matter the student is gradually trained in intellectual self-reliance and self-development. (pg. 9)

The aim of stimulating the self-activity of the student is basic to the Ignatian concept of teaching...
Though the Ignatian educational aim is primarily the formation of the student, this formation is not something which can be imposed or mechanically acquired, but must be the result of the cooperative effort of student and teacher...
Ignatian teaching should be conceived primarily as an art, secondarily as a science. It is the art, namely, of generating interest in the students and inspiring them to exercise and develop their personal power...
This insistence on self-activity should be directed toward forming int he student the habit of independent study and reading, and an interest in scholarly pursuits. (pg. 10)

I think this is also related, particular the part about "with the consent of all their faculties"...

We are called to train those committed to our charge to be Catholic with the consent of all their faculties, and to express their Catholicity constantly and consistently in thought, judgment and action.

from Implementation of Ignatian Education in the Home by Fran Crotty
especially relevant here seems the phrase.. "the necessity of a gradually more active cooperation on the part of the pupil in his own education"...
Hence every form of pedagogic naturalism which in any way excludes or weakens supernatural Christian formation in the teaching of youth, is false. Every method of education founded, wholly or in part, on the denial or forgetfulness of original sin and of grace, and relying on the sole powers of human nature, is unsound. Such, generally speaking, are those modern systems bearing various names which appeal to a pretended self-government and unrestrained freedom on the part of the child, and which diminish or even suppress the teacher's authority and action, attributing to the child an exclusive primacy of initiative, and an activity independent of any higher law, natural or divine, in the work of his education.

If any of these terms are used, less properly, to denote the necessity of a gradually more active cooperation on the part of the pupil in his own education; if the intention is to banish from education despotism and violence, which, by the way, just punishment is not, this would be correct, but in no way new. It would mean only what has been taught and reduced to practice by the Church in traditional Christian education, in imitation of the method employed by God Himself towards His creatures, of whom He demands active cooperation according to the nature of each; for His Wisdom "reacheth from end to end mightily and ordereth all things sweetly."

Pope Pius XI, On Christian Education
Homeschooling with Gentleness: a Catholic Discovers Unschooling
The latest Stanford numbers show a rise in homeschooler applications. In 1999, the first year of tracking, 15 applied. Four were admitted, and all four enrolled. In 2000, there were 35 applications, more than double the previous year's. Nine were accepted, and five, including Butler, started classes on the Farm this fall.

That's a tiny subgroup, just 0.2 percent of the applicant pool. So why is the University interested? Admission officers sum it up in two words: intellectual vitality.

It's hard to define, but they swear they know it when they see it. It's the spark, the passion, that sets the truly exceptional student--the one driven to pursue independent research and explore difficult concepts from a very early age--apart from your typical bright kid. Stanford wants students who have it.

Looking very closely at homeschoolers is one way to get more of those special minds, the admission office has discovered. As Reider explains it: "Homeschooled students may have a potential advantage over others in this, since they have consciously chosen and pursued an independent course of study."

Indeed, when he and his colleagues read applications last year, they gave the University's highest internal ranking for intellectual vitality to two of the nine homeschoolers admitted. And an astounding four homeschoolers earned the highest rating for math--something reserved for the top 1 to 2 percent of the applicant pool.

"The distinguishing factor is intellectual vitality," says Reider. "These kids have it, and everything they do is responding to it."

from a Stanford article on homeschoolers
Montessori ideas of child-led learning and freedom within limits

This is a concept I'm hoping to investigate and explore further - not sure at the present how they are all related. Would love to hear of resources, quotes, ideas, etc. that others may happen upon.

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