Two educational models; two very different results . . .
A lot of people view education as a process somewhat akin to force-feeding a prisoner on a hunger strike. The student is determined to refuse all educational input; the teacher (in this case, you!) is equally determined to do everything necessary to cram as much knowledge as possible into the unwilling student.
Force-feeding unwilling prisoners
"Here's our scope and sequence," many classroom school teachers say. "These are the things everyone needs to know. We do everything we can to make sure our students learn these things."
That's the philosophy of the federal government's No Child Left Behind program, too, isn't it? It's most definitely the driving force behind standardized tests: find out how well we're filling these children's minds. As far as I can tell, most textbook publishers and educational software developers have adopted this philosophy as well.
It's their goal to pack the greatest number of "facts" into as small a space as possible. They highlight the names, places, dates, and so forth that they want students to memorize.
And then, through pop quizzes, tests, and essays, these schoolmasters and textbook publishers try to get kids to receive these mind-numbing collections of data, memorize the content, then regurgitate them for a grade.
These self-appointed keepers of the minds of America's future leaders try to use the shame of low grades to goad students into greater effort. And they reward with high grades those who easily memorize and recite whatever "facts" pass before their eyes.
Of course, as soon as the exam or essay is past, most students happily forget everything they supposedly "learned."
Textbook publishers and educational software publishers, of course, aren't the only ones who believe in this model of education. Sonlight, in contrast to the force-feeding model, is dedicated to . . .
Creating an insatiable hunger
No question, Sonlight wants to convey information. Indeed, by all accounts, we convey far more information than most educational programs on the market — whether designed for home or classroom use.
But whatever the quantity of information we convey, we are more concerned to create in our students an insatiable hunger to learn. Because, in the end, it really doesn't matter how much you know at age 7, 13, 18 or 25. What matters is whether you know how to find the information you need when you need it. . . and, most importantly, whether you have the desire to find the information that will most benefit you.
What good does it do to be valedictorian of your high school or college class if, having acquired your diploma, you declare — as I have heard far too many graduates say with fierce determination: "Hallelujah! I am done with school! I will never open a book again!"
At Sonlight, we are delighted when our students achieve high SAT scores and best their toughest opponents in intellectual competition. But, far more, we rejoice when we hear testimonies like these:
You know what my daughter's first words were this morning? "Mommy, get up. Can we do school now?"
When I received the Sonlight catalog, it was like God came to my mailbox and gave me a present. Every day, even the harder ones, seems like a miracle to me. The woman who swore that she would never homeschool LOVES it. Not to mention my KIDS!!!
The other day they were watching Reading Rainbow and Levar Burton asked "Have you ever read a book that was so good that you couldn't put it down?" My son responded loudly, "OHHHH, YES!"
Recently, my husband asked me, "So, are our boys getting about four times the education they would in public school?"
I said, "I don't know how much better, but I know the most important thing they're getting that they don't get in public school — a love for learning. They're being surrounded by wonderful histories and truths and ideas and coming to enjoy the environment of learning. That's what they'll carry with them long after formal schooling is over, and what will make the most difference in their lives."
I wish I had the space to quote about two or three dozen of these kinds of testimonials. We seem to get one or two of them every day. It is so heartening! . . .
Can you imagine anyone saying these kinds of things about a textbook, workbook, or computer-based program?
Yes, they'll extol these other programs' virtues in terms of conveying certain types and quantities of information; but I don't think you'll hear anything about a passion to learn!