Teach Them to Teach Themselves

The key to a better future is new generations of dangerous children who have learned to teach themselves. We expect adults, graduate students, and more mature university students and adolescents to be able to teach themselves. But we do not expect younger children to know how to teach themselves — and that is one of the biggest mistakes we have made over the past century and a half.

We can no longer afford to make the expensive mistakes of the past, not if we want new generations to have a future worth living. The excerpts below are borrowed from Dr. Arthur Robinson’s website, provided with commentary:

Learning is not a team sport. Learning is an activity that involves solely the student and the knowledge. Everything or everyone else that may become involved in this process is essentially superfluous—and is potentially harmful as a distraction from the fundamental process.

Dr. Robinson home-schooled six young children on a ranch in Oregon. Most of the Robinson Curriculum was developed after the untimely death of Robinson’s young wife and mother of six.

Adults ordinarily do not have special teaching aids and dedicated teachers available to hold their hands when they need to acquire new knowledge. Usually, they have only books. When the knowledge comes directly from other repositories such as computers, people, or other sources, that knowledge is seldom tailored for spoon—feeding to an unprepared mind.

Robinson is referring to the self-teaching that adults do to improve themselves, at all hours, around the world. Most effective learning is done for oneself.

Since certain skills need to be acquired at an early age—particularly mathematics and reading, writing, and thinking in one’s native language—it is sensible to arrange the homeschool so that learning these essential skills will automatically lead to the development of good study habits. This is one reason that self—teaching homeschools have a special value.

Dr. Robinson is referring to sensitive periods of development for a variety of important areas of learning. If this time is dithered away on cartoons, video games, or other frivolous play, the child will not have learned either the knowledge, or how to teach himself for learning future knowledge.

Consider, for example, the teaching of math and science. Many homeschools use Saxon Math. Although produced with teachers and classrooms in mind, this series of math books is so well—written that it can be mastered by most students entirely on their own without any teacher intervention whatever. This self—mastery usually does not happen automatically, but it can be learned by almost any student with correct study rules and a good study environment.

The parent who wishes for his children to self-teach is not alone. Many decades of work have been put into devising ways of building young minds to higher and higher levels of self sufficiency in learning and action.

While the subject matter [ed: Saxon math], can be mastered with or without a teacher, the student who masters it without a teacher learns something more. He learns to teach himself. Then, when he continues into physics, chemistry, and biology—which are studied in their own special language, the language of mathematics—he is able to teach these subjects to himself regardless of whether or not a teacher with the necessary specialized knowledge is present. Also, he is able to make use of much higher—quality texts — texts written for adults.

Robinson points out something that should never be overlooked: children need to teach themselves to read and communicate on an adult level. This will open many doors of opportunity.

Besides the great advantage of developing good study habits and thinking ability, self—teaching also has immediate practical advantages. Many children should be able, through Advanced Placement examinations, to skip over one or more years of college. The great saving in time and expense from this is self—evident. These and other comparable accomplishments await most children who learn to self—teach and then apply this skill to their home education.

With the cost of university these days, it is important to develop ways of reducing costs — and of raising funds, something that is emphasised in The Dangerous Child Method.

Even children of lesser ability can, by means of self—teaching and good study habits, achieve far more than they otherwise would have accomplished by the more ordinary techniques.

This is a crucial point to get across in this new age of a dawning realisation that “all men are NOT created equal.” Although some will not achieve as much as others, it is important to help as many as possible to achieve as high a goal as they are willing and able to aim for.

Self—teaching is an “extraordinary” technique today, but it was ordinary in the past, when most of the great scholars in human history learned in a similar way.

This is an excellent point, which is made very clear by John Taylor Gatto and Joseph Kett (Rites of Passage).

Self—teaching, excellent study habits, and a well—disciplined approach to independent thought are characteristics of these people… These are skills that can be taught to any child. When your eight—year—old child is all alone at his large desk in a quiet room with his Saxon 65 book and has been there three hours already—with most of that time spent in childhood daydreams —and says, “Mommy, I don’t know how to work this problem,” give him a wonderful gift. Simply reply, “Then you will need to keep studying until you can work the problem.”

How else will you teach your child self discipline? The child must learn to do things for himself, starting with learning.

For a while his progress may be slow. Speed will come with practice. Eventually, he will stop asking questions about how to do his assignments and will sail along through his lessons without help.

These study habits can then spill over into the other subjects—with astonishing results.

The above excerpts were borrowed from “Teach Them to Teach Themselves,” contained in The Robinson Curriculum. Much more information at the website.

The Robinson Curriculum is several giant steps above government schooling. It should prove useful for many parents who are struggling to come up with an alternative approach to learning, other than the government approach that too often leads to drugs, delinquency, teen pregnancy, lifelong incompetence, tons of disinformation that will be difficult to unlearn, and a perpetual tendency toward groupthink dependencies.

Government schooling can be supplemented at home using creative exercises, tutoring, and a gentle correction of disinformation and bad — or non-existent — learning methods. In that sense, one would be using government schools as a risky type of daycare. If the child has already learned to be dangerous, that might work.

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