We read this interesting article in the Telegraph magazine about the Khan Academy. This has to be of interest to home educators, as Salman Khan has a very individualised, child focussed view about teaching and learning. His academy started small, with tutoring of a relative, but rapidly expanded into a large community who draw from his free online tutorials and methods; initially self-funded, his work gained the attention of large funders such as Bill Gates, and he was recently named one of the four most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
To quote Khan, 'Aged one to four, kids are excited by anything new, they want to figure it
out, then all of a sudden when they turn five you start seeing fewer curious
kids, by nine or 10 you see very few with any curiosity, and by 18 it’s very
much the exception. Curiosity is just stamped out of them. I’m convinced
it’s indoctrination, not a genetic thing. Kids are herded together, the bell
rings, you’re rewarded for passivity, you’re rewarded for compliance, that’s
what keeps you moving through the system.' Challenging the status quo, he states, 'I want a school where you have the ability to flex your creativitiy without sacrificing academic rigour.' Absolutely! I am sure many home educators have chosen to avoid the mainstream for precisely that reason. Khan also believes in excellence. He believes we limit children by forcing them into a set mould, and that almost literally, the sky is the limit. That is where I find myself disagreeing, although one admires his optimism: 'We could be going faster than the speed of light to the stars, GDP would grow and people would be happy.' I do not believe that sheer intellectual development will ever make man happy; in fact, some of the most miserable and tormented people are those who have excelled academically, pushing back the boundaries in their field of interest. Indeed, as the Psalmist says, (twice, in both Psalms 14 and 53), The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'. In fact, Biblical wisdom teaches something quite different, that 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding.' (Psalm 111:10), a concept which is expanded upon throughout the book of Proverbs.
Aside from that fundamental philosophical difference, the methods used in his education seem robust, and his vision overlaps with much of what many home educators seek to emulate. Again, to quote the Telegraph article, 'He thinks bigger classes with more teachers would provide a more creative
learning ground. In his ideal classroom there would be 75-100 students of
widely varying ages, with three or four teachers. Some students would be
working at computers; others would be learning economics through board
games; others would be building robots or designing mobile apps; others
would be working on art or creative writing. All that really counts, he
says, is enabling all children to learn at their own pace before moving on
to the next concept (this echoes of Charlotte Mason who held that a child should only do one thing at a time, and do it until perfection). Otherwise, you end up with 'Swiss cheese learning’ –
fundamental gaps in a student’s knowledge.'
I just watched one of the collection of more than 3000 online video tutorials. I chose the most basic, that of single digit addition. I was interested to see how this free thinking 'genius' tackled the most fundamental of arithmetical concepts. I was refreshed by the simplicity and clarity, done in a non-patronising manner. I can see how these resources could be built upon at an individualised pace whereby a child can truly develop and hold interest. On the website are also many testimonials of students and teachers who have used these resources to their benefit.
I for one, have marked it as a 'favourite' and look forward to using these great resources.
- I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure.