I once had a homeschooled adult tell me her kids attended a demanding hybrid homeschool program because she didn’t want them to have gaps in their education as she felt she did.
So here she was, a successful adult with a college degree, raising children, yet she felt the need to protect her children from perceived educational gaps.
I wish I would have asked her what she felt these insurmountable gaps in her education were, but I didn’t want to be nosy. However, it seemed odd that she found these holes so troubling since, by all accounts, she was a successful, educated adult.
But here’s my take.
The whole idea of gaps in education has become so politicized, monetized, and insidious, we don’t even see the absurdity.
Politicians and school districts make themselves relevant by perpetuating these myths, curriculum providers make money by assuaging fears of gaps, and the public never questions the legitimacy of either.
But really, is any of this true?
The first myth is that there is an agreed-upon body of information that qualifies as a gap-free education.
Can there be a gap-free education? Is there some magical person who knows everything?
There may be a set of skills necessary to function in society, but admittedly it is relatively minimal. Of course, we aren’t striving for the minimum, but the idea that somehow anyone can have a “gap” free education is absurd.
Personally, my gaps are many: I escaped school without ever taking a Physics class, most of my knowledge of World War I is from Downton Abbey, and I can’t remember the date of a single Civil War battle which was the subject of many tests.
Allow me to get philosophical for a moment, would you want to live in a world where everyone knew everything? It can be bad enough in a world where everyone simply thinks they know everything.
The second myth is that institutional school, with its set scope and sequence, provides a gap-free education.
We’ve been indoctrinated to believe a gap-free education can be achieved with a set scope and sequence delivered over the course of 13 school years of 180 days.
How would this even be possible? This assumes that the body of knowledge is fixed and unchanging, which is ridiculous because when I was a child, Pluto was a planet, then it wasn’t, and now they aren’t sure.
The third myth is that gaps can never be filled.
I didn’t own a personal computer until I was 25, I didn’t read Jane Austen until my late 30’s, and only recently learned that Europeans believe Santa Claus lives in Lapland, not the North Pole.
Do we stop learning once someone hands us a diploma or degree?
Is that even possible? No.
The human desire to learn is innate. We can’t turn on the TV or computer without learning something, and there is no expiration date on our ability to acquire new skills and knowledge.
The fourth myth is that gaps will have a lasting adverse effect on a person’s life.
Belief in this myth can cripple the homeschool mom. We’ve taken on the responsibility of raising and educating our children when most of the world thinks that’s a job best left to the “professionals.”
What if we ruin them? What if they’re crippled by some critical piece of information we failed to pass on?
This worry can keep us up at night and turn us into worksheet dictators. We require every box to be checked and assignment completed so we can rest secure in the belief that the gaps won’t be our fault.
The fifth myth is that the responsibility for our education lies with someone else.
Our society loves to call for accountability and responsibility. If children don’t learn, it’s the teacher’s fault. Children act like children, and it’s the parent’s fault.
However, as a mom of six vastly different and unique children, I can unequivocally tell you this is false.
Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.
In the end, the responsibility lies with the individual. I can help and support my child in their quest to learn Algebra, but ultimately, I can’t force them to learn it.
And neither can a school or standardized test.
Humans love to blame someone or something for their lack, but the responsibility for any real or perceived gap in our education lies with us. We can choose to correct it, decide it isn’t essential, or blame someone else.
Ultimately, it is our responsibility. At some point, it becomes our child’s responsibility.
Reject the Myths
Will homeschool students have gaps in their education? Of course, as will public, private, and charter students.
As much as the idea of a complete and definitive education is appealing, I think you can see it is an unrealistic expectation.
Our fears and concerns over not covering everything propel us along the never-ending quest for the perfect curriculum. We worry about the “shoulds” instead of appreciating what is and seek ways to fix our children when they are not broken.
Reject the idea that for learning to be complete and correct it is confined to specific subjects covered in a particular order at a certain time.
Learning is a never-ending journey; the fun is filling in the gaps.
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