Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Homeschool 101: You Know The Drill

If you're new in these parts, these are my homeschooled children, who call themselves Unorganized Hancock, performing at a function hall in the little town where we live in western Maine. The older one is still younger than many high school seniors, but he's got his diploma already. The little one is eleven now.

I've written from time to time about homeschooling, but no one pays any attention to anything I say about it. The Instapundit and many other large, ocean-going  ships of the blogosphere have linked to my essays about homeschooling, and strangers come and go, and usually launch into their diatribes about how homeschoolers are weirdos that don't vaccinate their kids and only learn about chemtrails or how fracking causes autism, depending on which cable TV shows you prefer. Others assume my kids won't have time to learn to read and write because they must be chanting the Paternoster all day, with no time left for none a dat book lernin'.

I'll try one more time to explain what's going on, then I'll give up. What you're looking at are the fruits of the only approach to education that works. I won't equivocate one iota: It's the only approach that works. Please try to understand what I wrote, right there in simple, declarative, italicized words, so that you can ken what I'm driving at. We teach our children at home because we want to use the only approach to learning that works for humans. The. Only. One. Here it is. You're welcome:

Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test

There is no new math, or old math for that matter. No matter how many other approaches other people try, how much mewling is transcribed on the Internet about socialization, or how many tennis balls you put on the bottoms of the legs of your kindergarten chairs, it's all wrong and it doesn't work. Like a volume knob that makes the radio louder when you turn it clockwise, and diminishes the sound when it's turned counter-clockwise until it clicks off, the design was perfect on the first attempt and cannot be improved. Every variation after that will be worse. People who want to break new ground without doing anything constructive will change the way that knob operates to become notable for the novelty, but it's always worse.

Human children can only learn constructive things by one approach: Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test. What you're looking at is the culmination of Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test. To be more specific, you're looking at the test. Like duck's feet on the pond, the drill, drill, drill happened in the rehearsal room where it belongs. When drill was done, they were ready for the test.

The impresario running this performance approached me halfway through and told me that the other acts didn't show up, and asked if my boys could play for more than their scheduled half-hour. UH pulled this song out of a hat, and many others, and played them more or less perfectly, and even added mugging for laughs by the little one. Simply playing the song was nothing for him or his brother. Playing that song was just the residue of drill, drill, drill, long ago, and they'd done their homework.

Before someone says, sure, if the kids spend all their time on music at the expense of their other studies, anyone could produce an eleven-year-old playing music for money, and a big kid that can do the same with only an eleven-year-old to help him, I need to be plain again: Music is treated as extra-curricular activity at our house. The little one doesn't even care about playing the drums. He likes electronic music. And before you try saying these kids must have a leg up somehow, like private tutors or something, you need to understand that we are profoundly poor, living way below the poverty line, and they learned to play music like this in a room with no electricity or heat. You don't need those things to Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test. If you like the way they play a Beatles song, you'll love the way they decline verbs, because the same approach is used for everything.

Both children receive Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test for every subject, taught by their mother. They can write, and spell, and add, and know the difference between carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, and everything else kids in public schools do not know, because the administrators won't let the teachers drill, drill, drill, but make the kids take the tests anyway, and fail miserably.

Drill, Drill, Drill -- Test is the only approach that works. There isn't another one. If you're trying another one, you're wasting your time, and another human being's life. It's really that simple.


Sam L. said...

You're an evil man, Mr. Sippi, crushing the beliefs of those who believe in public schooling! But Mrs. Sippi is so kind and gentle that, well, I have to figure it's gonna wear off on you eventually.

Them boys can play. That Spare's gonna be a caution when he grows up. I still say he needs a narrow-brimmed fedora.

Anonymous said...

But, but, but Drill Drill Drill is NO FUN. No fun for the kids, and ESPECIALLY no fun for the TEACHER.

Where's your HEART. MAN.

SippicanCottage said...

Hello anon- I don't think that's true. Kids like structure and reliability. The teacher, their mother, likes it too. Watching the steady progress of any student is always gratifying.

As far as my heart, I think it's heartless to make kids flounder around instead of giving them important things to learn in a structured way.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

BooMushroom said...

I missed drill drill drill after I left 4th grade in Utah for the People's Republic of California. I had a leg up on my peers(and still do) because we did math drills. +-x/ a hundred problems in two minutes, starting with adding zeros, up to nines, then the same with subtraction, multiplication, and division. It took about four minutes out of our school day, once a day for a year. And it WORKED. I can only imagine how intelligent everyone would be if this was the norm for every grade and every subject.

Larry Geiger said...

Elementary school. Almost every day. We opened our reading books. The first person stood up, read a line or a paragraph. Next person and so on throughout the entire class. Everyone, every day. By the end of elementary school we could all read.

Lance de Boyle said...

I teach at a collitch of deaducation. [I used to teach sociology, but I left when I noticed that it had become solid communist, with a side order of useful idiot.] I realized that I had left the frying pan and hopped right into a clown show when I heard "colleagues" justify their "constructivist methods" [kids should "discover knowledge" through unguided "inquiry"---which works real well when you have an IQ Of 85.] with such phrases as:

1. Be a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage.

2. Drill and kill.

3. One size does not fit all. [Therefore, no one should wear pants?]

4. A curriculum should be seamless. [Again with the haberdashery motif.]

5. Teachers should not used tested programs. They should develop their own materials. [Because it is good to use kids as subjects in an experiment.]

6. What is knowledge, anyway? [Morons.]

7. Children should not sound out unfamiliar words using knowledge of the sounds that go with letters. They should guess what words say using context cues, such as pictures on the page or the shape of words. [Because the word horse looks just like a horse.]

Homeschooling is the only way to keep kids out of the clutches of teachers indoctrinated with progresso-marxist flap and doodle. Besides, they don't know how to teach, anyway.

Gringo said...

But, but, but Drill Drill Drill is NO FUN. No fun for the kids, and ESPECIALLY no fun for the TEACHER.

I suspect this was written tongue in cheek, but I will respond anyway.When I worked as a substitute teacher in a bilingual first grade, I got the impression that the students liked the drilling involved in learning phonics. For one, it gave them an opportunity to speak, which everyone likes to do.

I also suspect that a big reason why the whole language advocates prefer it to phonics is that they are looking at the drilling involved in phonics from the perspective of an adult.

An adult finds repetition/drilling to be boring- especially if the adult learned the material 30 years ago. For a child, the material is new, and the repetition helps reinforce what is being learned. Think of the 5 year old who wants to hear the same story every night, and how that drives the adult up the wall. Very different perspectives on repeating things, because the five year old and the adult have very different knowledge bases.

Lance de Boyle gave a pretty good summary of the nonsense being preached in Ed Schools. Instead of teaching prospective teachers what has worked in 2500 years of formal classroom instruction, profs at Ed Schools are concerned with developing and proselytizing The Next Big Theory Which Will Explain Everything. Which will be taught to all the Ed School students as if it were proven fact when there hasn't even been a research paper published on it yet. [I exaggerate, but not by much.]

The Heir and the Spare keep knocking it out of the park. The Heir has become very proficient on the guitar. Seems that in each and every song I hear the Spare use a different drumming approach.

shoreacres said...

Last October, I stopped by Fox School in the middle of the Tallgrass Prairie in Kansas. The docent happened to be there, and we were it -- so we chatted.

What I didn't know about one room school procedures is that every student went up front to the recitation bench and -- well, recited. The point was that, by the time an 8th grader got out of there, he or she would have listened to the same lessons, over and over, as classmates older and younger recited.

It worked, too, just as drills worked for me when I was in school. We had vocabulary cards, memorized our times tables, memorized poetry and conjugated Latin verbs. We could find countries on a map and knew their capitols. I wasn't in some fancy private school, either. I was in an Iowa public school, and when I graduated high school, I was better read and more accomplished than a goodly portion of what's coming out of universities today.

If I had children today, I would home school, whatever it cost in time, energy or dollars. Your family's proof it can work.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Sip:
Thank you. THANK YOU! T H A N K Y O U ! ! !

Not only have you raised two beautiful sons, you have put into words as clearly as can be state the true nature of learning and the only successful process of education. I am grateful--now all we have to do is get the school system turned around before those who have gone through the current system take over the, or try to run, this country.

Richard Blaine said...


I view public school as nothing less than Child Abuse.

If they teach anything at all, it's done poorly, and often wrong. They don't teach logic, or how to question conclusions or what are presented as fact. They don't prepare the kids for life of self reliance.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. In three weeks we will begin our sixteenth consecutive year of homeschooling. Our newest student, a first grader will be one of eight this fall.

By the way, I don't recall discussing our teaching philosophy and lesson plan format with you... ;)