The following content is Part III (my divisions!) from Kevin Swanson's second speech at the 2009 CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" ("MLS")--"Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision"--delivered on Friday, March 6, 2009 and available in full, audio form from ResoundingVoice.com.
Having stressed the need for education to have practical implications, Swanson moved on to what he called the "Principle of Liberty" or "Principle of Individuality":
The Word of God says, “If the Son shall make you free, you will be free, indeed.” [John 8:36--We'll continue on the theme of the Principle of Relationships in my next post in this series.
--JAH] . . .
. . .[t]here is nowhere in the Word of God where we read a 12-year-old has got to be reading Aristotle. There is nowhere in the Word of God where it says a 13-year-old has got to be able to read.
Parents that come to me and say, “Oh, Mr. Swanson, my little Joey is 9 years old, and he can’t read, and we have been bolting him to a desk, like the Department of Education tells us to, four compulsory hours, every single day, for 172 days out of every year, and he just sits there and he vibrates. He’s got ADD and ADHD and ABD – American Boy Disease – and everything else. What do I do?”
I say, “Here’s what you do: when that little boy is young, you just let him go out and plow the fields with dad all day long. Let him fish for an hour in the afternoon. He can come home; you read to him a little bit and put him to bed. Do that until he’s 11-, 12-, 13-, 14-years old. And don’t give him any television, whatsoever. And don’t give him any of those drugs.
"You come back to me when he’s 13-14 years old, and we’ll talk about whether he’s ready to learn how to read.”
Okay, now. Is there anybody in this room, right now, that says, “Oh, that’s illegal! Oh, the Department of Education’s gonna come after us, now!”?
No, brothers – if the Son will make you free, you will be free, indeed.
You are the parent, here. You are the father and the mother. There’s nobody who knows that child and loves that child more than you do. So if you come to me and you say, “My little boy can’t read. He’s not ready to read until he’s 13. Yes, his little sister’s reading at 3." --I say, “Great! Big deal about the little sister; that’s the way it is for her. She’s got gifts and talents and abilities that God has given her, and that’s just fine.”
See, my daughter, Emily, is a zero at math. And it was frustrating for me. At first, I was really getting all tight inside because she was slipping behind. Being as I like math and all
. . .she was not performing. And I was getting pretty stressed about it.
We left Saxon Math in the dust, and we went with Math-U-See. We have the little block things, and you put the little block things together, and you can feel them and touch them.
That didn’t do any good.
Then we had her in CalcuLadders for a while, where the CalcuLadders – you just keep repeating it over and over again: "3+3=6. 1+1=2.
. . ."
"It doesn’t matter what it means, just say, '1+1=2.' Just memorize that.
. . .Whenever you see a one and one together, do something like this."
We worked on that for a while. And then, after a while, just out of the blue, Emily gets it. Just out of the blue. I don’t know how she got it; she just got it.
What I found is that children do not learn on a nice neat little line like this. Some learn like this. Some learn like this. Some learn like this. Some don’t learn anything for 14 years, and [then suddenly] they pick it up.
And some are like Rebecca, just the other day.
Rebecca has learned math very nicely, and then, my wife came to me and says, “Rebecca, yesterday, forgot everything she’s ever learned. Five years, gone.”
I said, “Well, just start over again, I guess. We’ll go back to one. It’s okay.”
Then, a couple weeks later, she picks it up.
It’s just the way it works.
Every child is completely different,
guys. . . .
My little Rebecca Joy
. . .My other kids are way ahead in some of their subjects (whatever ahead means). But on the standardized tests . . .In Colorado, we’ve got to take the standardized tests.
My older children were doing the 95s and 99s, and Rebecca Joy comes along, and she does the 56s. Of course, I’m Executive Director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado. I want to do something for the average.
You heard about Brian Ray’s study. You know, [homeschoolers a]re at the 86th percentile, and right now, [Rebecca Joy] has taken our average down to, like, 72. So, "Come on! Let’s go!"
I was concerned about this, but see, Rebecca Joy is just completely different from the other children. She’s just a very artsy person. She walks like this. She’s got a style to everything. She does dishes in an artsy sort of way, with her fingers up and stuff. It usually takes a little more time, but she’s got to do it artistically. It’s got to be right.
I’m watching her doing the standardized test. One year, I’m coming to her – she’s doing the fifth grade – and I’m coming to her. I say, “Okay, now I’m gonna watch and see how this happens.” Well, she’s doing this test, and she is – before she gets on with things, she’s got to do these little drawings on the margins of the tests. I’m sitting there going, “Honey, this is a timed test. Can’t we get on with things, here?” But she has to make it very pretty first.
That’s just the way she is. And you can’t rush her through these things, otherwise she gets all tight inside.
So we’d send the tests in for grading, and, do you know: they don’t actually even bother looking at the margins of the tests? The machines just kind of [ignore that kind of stuff].
Ask yourself: Is that fair? Is that right? My little girl, Rebecca Joy, has been so blessed by God with these talents, gifts and abilities, and these machines are not looking at her drawings! I just think that’s wrong. We ought to be respecting the talents and abilities that God has given.
By the way, at one point I was gloating over my son’s – he had the 99. He got the 99, and I’m saying, "Too bad they didn’t give us the decimal point – could have [come out as] 99.99 or something."
My wife, she nails it. She says, “Yeah, but you notice that they didn’t give him a mark on character, there, anywhere.”
What did we just say was preeminent in the education of a child, per God? Does anybody remember that far back? I think it was something to do with character, right? Isn’t that right?
Where are our priorities? What are we doing?
See, we have the wrong system, here. We have the wrong system.
You know that it’s parents that know and love their children the best, normatively. So I think it makes perfect sense why God has established the paideia of a child, and placed that child in the hands of parents. Moreover, the Principle of Relationships, I think, is the key issue, here.
Once more: I think this is great content, good stuff we need to pay attention to.
I'm not sure I want to encourage parents to ignore all academic education for their "ADD, ADHD, ABD" sons until they are young teens. But, even there, I think Swanson is offering a useful counterbalancing/antidote to the extreme pro-academic perspective too often advocated in our world today.
Just last night, as we have been doing rather frequently lately, when our daughter and son-in-law came over, we read a few more chapters in Ralph Moody's astonishingly wonderful autobiographical Little Britches series of books.
We stopped at a certain point. Ralph's father dies in the first volume and we are halfway through volume 2. It seems a number of men in the community were smitten by Mrs. Moody. "So why is she so uninterested in them?"--the question seemed to hang in the air.
An interesting question. The men were all successful in their own ways. But none of them were educated (we're talking "book learning"). "Book learning" is obviously a high priority for Ralph's mom. (She won't let him drop out of school at 11 years old, though that would have been his preference and it was still legal in Colorado back in 1910 when this story takes place.)
"But Ralph's dad hadn't graduated from high school . . . "
So we talked about it.
Mrs. Moody was clearly not looking merely for a "successful" man--someone who could make lots of money and provide a (physically) comfortable life for her and her children. She wanted a man of high character.
And Mr. Moody--Ralph's father--had obviously been such a man. Maybe not school-educated. But he was smart and he had good character.
So she had married him.
But she had also recognized the handicap under which he had labored due to his lack of education.
So. My point: I agree with Mrs. Moody of a hundred years ago that I prefer character over book learning. But, frankly (honestly), I'd prefer both.
I wanted both in my wife.
If I were a woman, I would want both in the man who would be my husband.
Back to the primary subject of Swanson's speech, however: I agree with him: Parents (and other educators) need to concentrate on their children's (or students') unique, individual characteristics and pay less attention to whatever "the norm" is. Find your kids' strengths and maximize them rather than seeking to make them conform to the way "everyone else" is.
One last comment.
For what it's worth.
This comes from something I learned from Dan Sullivan in his Strategic Coach program program. It's explained rather thoroughly in the book Unique Ability and developed also in Now, Discover Your Strengths.
Basic idea: You don't have to become "good" or even "excellent" at the things where you lack natural ability. Indeed, you will waste a lot of time and energy (both physical and emotional) if you concentrate on improving your abilities in areas of weakness. Rather, you need to find ways to "manage around" your weaknesses so you can concentrate on your strengths to use them and make them stronger. Concentrate on your unique abilities rather than your myriad weaknesses.
--If everyone concentrated on maximizing their ability to use their strengths (what Christians might call "gifts"), the world would be a better place, indeed.
--For a little more on this last theme, see my post on the Strategic Inheritance blog titled Family wealth, unique abilities, and personal resumés and/or my post, right here on John's Corner, titled Strengths & Talents: Finding one's life mission or purpose.
Next post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" - "Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision," Part IV (The Principle of Relationships).