More and more we as a society are asking, “What is education”?
It sounds like an easy question; we recall our school experience and describe the methods with which we are familiar. But the lessons we learned in the traditional classroom can now only offer a shallow definition of education. We have realized that the conventional “chalk and talk” is lacking in form and function in our rapidly changing society.
Rather than think of education as simply the transfer of knowledge and retention of certain facts, it has become about creativity, problem solving, and adaptation.
Education itself must adjust to our need to learn, unlearn, and relearn in order to meet the demands of a technology and information driven society.
Even with the prevalence of digital devices on every desk and in every pocket, communication skills and teamwork are more important than ever. In the classroom and in homeschools, we can’t ignore one without imperiling the other.
Disciplines and vocations that were once completely separate seem suddenly connected - industry, technology, and academia now cooperate on many levels. The turnover in technology and information used to be years, and now it is measured in months.
Our children must be prepared for jobs that don't even exist yet.
Parents and teachers must understand the different needs of their students and learn how to engage them in a way that exercises and enhances their abilities and searches out their weaknesses. Our children also need to be allowed to explore, question, and test knowledge that is increasingly fluid.
This is scary to parents and teachers who grew up in a world where “Just the facts, ma’am” was our mantra. We were suspicious of anything that didn’t conform to what we knew to be true. We’ve all heard our share of digital horror stories and seen pictures of kids glued to screens, apparently an indication that the world has pretty much come to an end.
Our generation was told that we could depend on a life-long career, where you went to school, earned a diploma and degree, found a job, and worked there until you got a gold watch. Now students can expect several transitions as the requirements of their career choice evolve and new occupations emerge.
The reality is, times have changed irrevocably, and our students need us to adjust so they can flourish in our globally networked world. This does not require us to sacrifice character and courage, but rather, we must help them exercise and retain their integrity and work ethic in a rapidly changing culture that will constantly test their competence, creativity, and perseverance.
The internet has made education a democracy, where information is available to all, no longer controlled by an elite few. The gatekeepers themselves are becoming obsolete, because the gates are bent and hanging by a hinge.
This places the responsibility for how one accesses, verifies, internalizes, and exercises knowledge squarely on one’s own shoulders. There is no longer a teacher or parent to blame if the student doesn’t learn necessary skills to succeed. More learning is taking place outside of the classroom, with non-traditional sources and non-traditional methods, requiring critical thinking, ingenuity, and collaboration.
This is education heaven for a homeschooler. Without the state appointed gatekeepers, mandated curriculum, and federal hoops to jump through, we are free to give our kids the kind of learning experiences that will help them develop the competencies needed for a successful future.