This weekend I got to speak to a room full of homeschool parents at the FEAST Home School Convention in San Antonio. That’s just about my favorite thing to do!

I love talking to parents about home education because I believe passionately that it can be a key to tremendous success for children growing up in a fast-changing world…IF we can free ourselves from the concept that “education” is synonymous with “school.”

“School” is how we were “educated”, right? Please understand me when I say that I am truly grateful for the dedicated professional teachers who poured knowledge into me. I owe them much. My grandmothers were both public school teachers. My parents were also teachers, as was my husband and many in his extended family. I know how hard they all worked to make learning efficient and interesting, but I also know how frustrating it was to try to inspire each unique child and, at the same time, fulfill bureaucratic requirements that often handled students like products on an assembly line. Some of that governmental mindset is inherent in the system.

America’s schools were modeled after the ones King Frederick the Great developed to teach literacy to the commoners of Prussia. His system was incremental and depersonalized–an inexpensive, efficient means of producing uniform and productive citizens. In the early days of America’s independence Noah Webster, the “Father of American Scholarship and Education”, dedicated his blue-backed Speller to providing an intellectual foundation for “American nationalism”–an empire founded “upon the idea of universal toleration”. Horace Mann, the “Father of the Common School Movement”, conceived of a universal public education system that would produce literate, productive citizens for the new nation. John Dewey, a progressive education proponent at the height of the industrial revolution, reasoned that the philosophies and literature to which students were exposed could not only produce literate, productive factory workers, but also eventually shape society by forming a standard public opinion. In 1917 Ellwood Cubberley, another leader of public schooling, said, “Our schools are, in a sense, factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life.” As if this view weren’t already bleak enough, Ellwood Cubberley was a proponent of eugenics–the belief that only certain people are destined for leadership and success, while most are rather common and fit for menial labor.

Fortunately in the midst of this meddling, Dr. Benjamin Bloom developed a new perspective for teaching and learning. He believed that ALL children could learn, if taught properly. Some might advance more quickly, while others might require more time, but the steps were the same, and the pinnacle was within reach for almost everyone. I like his outlook much better, don’t you?

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives is lengthy and a bit tedious to unpack, but the basic principles are simple enough. According to Bloom, we begin to educate children by helping them to remember basic facts and making sure that they understand the principles behind them. Then we help students become comfortable and adept at applying those facts and principles in a number of different situations.

In my school experience, that looked like, “Read the first three chapters and memorize the key information. Answer the questions at the end of each chapter. We’ll have a test on Friday.” Remember…Understand…Apply. And that’s where we stopped. That’s where Bloom’s vision ran into the glass ceiling set in place by the outdated Prussion system. If you failed the test, something must be wrong with you, and it was up to you to try harder and catch up. If you made an A, congratulations! Keep it up for 12 years, and you’d be qualified as a factory worker in the industrial revolution. 😉

What we need to understand (and apply) is that the top three levels of Bloom’s educational model are what makes the difference between factory workers and factory OWNERS, between people who pray someone might give them a decent job and people who create their own success…and it’s within reach for almost everyone!

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Homeschool parents can teach their children to shatter the “glass ceiling” by thinking on higher levels–by teaching them to analyze, evaluate, and create.

Analysis is the process of breaking things down–breaking a large problem into smaller components, identifying similarities and unique differences.

Evaluation is the means of judging between options. If there are three ways to solve a problem, evaluation is the process of judging the advantages and disadvantages of each and deciding which is the best option given the circumstances and resources available.

Creative thinking supplies new answers to old questions, devises new solutions to old problems, and puts old ideas to work in new ways. We learn to think creatively by synthesizing or combining all that we know in order to look at challenges from a variety of perspectives.

Can you see how these skills empower individuals to confidently create successful, productive, and expressive lives?

As we give our children a hands-on, real-life education, we should always be on the lookout for ways to inspire them to break through the glass ceiling of self-limitation. I can almost assure you there’ll be more on this topic in future posts!