There are two key differences between modern American education and the Independent Learner School and they are closely related: First, in the Independent Learner Model, children learn independently of their teacher. This is a big paradigm shift for most of us. After nearly a century of doing so, we have come to believe that students have to be taught every last thing they learn, and they have to learn it from an adult (see what poor children in India can learn all on their own). Yet look how quickly our children can master the latest video game, or the new DVD machine. Parents often want schools to teach a course in computers, but if those parents just give their children access to the home computer, they’ll surpass their parents’ computer skills in just months. With little visible effort on the part of the child, none on the part of the parent, no whining about homework, quizzes and tests, students can easily master substantial computer skills.
The second key difference in the Independent Learner School is that students do not have to march in lockstep through their curriculum. In the modern education approach we gather all the five-year olds together each fall and begin thirteen years of education; a practically identical education for children who are not at all identical; the same information, at the same pace, the same way, despite the obvious fact that children are not at all the same. It seems normal to us. It’s all we know. Since God made many different kinds of children, shouldn’t their education adapt to them?
When kids are forced to work at the same prescribed pace, many of the kids are left bored and some are left bewildered. Then we wonder why many students loath school and learning.
If a computer class were created to teach those computer skills previously mentioned, imagine the difficulties that would ensue: assignments, tests, quizzes and grades. Generally, what was a positive, painless experience when students are left alone, can become a disappointing and less than effective means of learning. At least one good question should arise here: ‘sure they’ll teach themselves computers, but how about grammar?’
Will They Teach Themselves Grammar?
In the Independent Learner School we argue that children learn best when they learn on their own. But you are probably saying to yourself, “Sure, maybe they do teach themselves things like computers and possibly all 250 Pokeman and their attributes, but are they going to teach themselves grammar or fractions?” People learn best when they do so because it is relevant or interesting and it is necessary for the teacher to make things relevant and interesting, but there can be limitations. Some children also learn for the sake of pleasing their teacher or for a sense of accomplishment. But there are going to be times when the teacher is going to have to say, “Johnny, you can’t start to work on your computer project until you finish your grammar and math assignments.” Every child is different, but that’s the point of the Independent Learner School; the teacher can adapt to meet the needs of the individual. Some students are going to need a more structured approach to their studies, others will be hard to hold back.