Working part-time from home the last nine months has enabled me to observe more closely my kid’s education. We’ve been homeschooling for more than 10 years, so the pandemic didn’t really change the way we do business.
What I’ve noticed is the difference in retention between pushed information (something someone else thinks you should know) and pulled information (something you want to know so you look it up). You can’t really do a study on this, but in my estimation the amount of retention for pushed information is almost zilch and pulled information is pretty much all.
I know this is true for myself. I remember zero from my freshman earth science class, but I remember reading in the library before that class that “Like a Rolling Stone” was recorded during a snowstorm and Mike Bloomfield showed up for the session with just his guitar, no case, and had to wipe the snow off before he played those famous leads.
The way my wife has set up our homeschooling program builds on this. In the summer she has a meeting with each kid and they talk about what they want to learn in school the next year. It isn’t a free for all. The kids have a menu that they can choose from, but they have a say.
When the books show up in August, they can’t wait to get started for the subjects they are most interested in – history and literature. Both kids love history, and I’m shocked at how much they know. My daughter already makes connections between current events and historical events.
My son has a great memory for lists, every Led Zeppelin song and album in order (warms my heart) and every professional sports stadium, when it was built and why (go figure). He also knows all the presidents in order, when they were elected, and what party. He already has the timeline of United States history etched in his brain and he can cruise around from time period to time period. I asked him how he is able to memorize all of that information. He says he doesn't know. He just reads it and remembers.
And it isn’t just history, my daughter loves animals so about a month ago we worked out our schedule so we could go to the Pittsburgh Zoo twice in one week. The first time we went through was like a normal visit. The second time I got a master’s level class. After our last visit, she had researched all the animals that she liked and had absorbed and enormous amount of information. Enough information to talk non-stop for over two hours. I barely said anything besides, “Wow, that’s interesting.”
So that’s the second component, you need to have an audience, someone who cares to hear about what you know. That is why grandchildren are so talkative with their grandparents. Grandparents are really interested in listening to them.
You also have to allow time for things to grow. Every day I ask the kids how their school work went. “Fine.” What did you learn? “I don’t know.” But on the way to the grocery store I may get a 10-mintue download on the history of Egypt, or a quick bowl of cereal before bed turns into a 45-minute discussion on the Civil War.
Easy for me to say, my wife does all the heavy lifting getting them to do math and spelling and all of the other stuff that isn't as much fun. But the fact that they are engaged with at least some of their school work in the way I am with studying rock and roll is at least worth noting.