Albert Einstein is universally thought to have been not only the greatest physicist of the 20th century, but its greatest scientists, and one of the three or so most important scientists of all time. He homeschooled, by the way, until college, but that’s not what I’d like to write about today.
Today, I want to write about persistence.
One of Einstein’s most important achievements was his theory of General Relativity, born in 1916. This is a complex and fascinating idea of how the universe works, thought by many at the time to be “insane”. It states that physical objects, if large enough, can create a sort of warp in the fabric of space and time, which Einstein called “spacetime”. The example often cited is the Earth, spinning in a jar of honey. The honey is spacetime.
Some 52 years ago, an experiment was begun to prove or disprove Einstein’s theory. Yes, that’s right, 52 long years ago. $750 million and 52 years later, NASA and Stanford University have completed what they call “Gravity Probe B”. The results? Per the magazine Scientific American, “Einstein wins again”. This is not unimportant, as all GPS navigational devices would fail to work, not taking Einstein’s theory into account. International transportation and communication today demand an understanding of this theory!
NASA and Stanford put fine minds to work, and a fair amount of money, over a period of more than five decades, all in an attempt to match one of the greatest thinkers our species has produced. They finally succeeded, in a clear and compelling testament to stick-to-itiveness.
As the tortoise calmly proclaimed, “slow and steady wins the race.”
Einstein was himself quite aware of this truth. He once said “It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
It’s usually a good idea to open up one’s ears when intelligent people start to share what works for them. Einstein is recommending something in very short supply today, a heavy piece of equipment that you will need to climb on board of and run like a master if you are to succeed at homeschooling, or in educating a child in any circumstances. The piece of equipment in question is persistence.
Educating a child does not offer one of those perks that our civilization seems to have become addicted to in recent decades. It does not provide much “instant gratification.” Our civilization has moved rather foolishly and self-destructively toward the goals of the Reagan years and a generation that came to be known as the “Me Generation”. It’s overall philosophy? Get what you can for you. Do it if it feels good. Take care of number one, and do it now, even at the expense of others, of general survival, of the truth. Just open up a daily newspaper or watch the TV news for an hour, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Whether fortunate or unfortunate, one simply can’t educate a child with this world view. Oh, in teaching well, you’ll have instantly gratifying moments, certainly. You’ll be the one to see the student’s eyes light up, the suddenly comprehending smile, the pent-up confusion explode into wonder and knowledge. You may see this phenomenon often…if you persist. As Einstein must have felt after thinking long and hard and finally crackling General Relativity, the moment of “eureka” is worth the journey. I believe you’ll find this every bit as true for teacher as well as student.
But it will take hundreds and perhaps thousands of such moments to truly educate one child well and fully. It is not the work of a day, but rather, of a decade. Such work requires unflinching willingness to serve a child. That is asking for quite a lot from an adult with dreams and work of their own to do. Nonetheless, that is a big part of what successful education requires. As to instant gratification, well you’re just as likely to experience a lot of instant “Why Me” as you homeschool your own son or daughter, believe it. There will be days that you will eye your child and wonder, if silently, whose child he really is. You’ll be kidding, of course. And you’ll need that sense of humor to get through the tedious days and weeks when your student’s eyes do not light up, and his smile has gone AWOL.
So where’s the reward? Where does “take care of number one” come in? Was Reagan right? Will life “trickle down” to others from you as you teach, as he claimed (horribly wrongly) that money would trickle down from the wealthy? In this case, since we are not talking about money, then yes, I think it will.
If we’re to survive as a civilization, I’m afraid the philosophy of the “Me Generation” will need to be retired, and in dishonor. Your children need you. The schools have utterly failed them, and they are only going to get worse. “Professional teachers” are generally able to secure only the worst possible results from a system that is nothing short of a train wreck, and out of their own misguided training.
Over to you, homeschooler. Mom and Dad, this is not a part time or short-term job. It is the work of a large portion of your life, a daily grind which must be confronted with far more than mere willingness. Your child will know if you’re just going through the motions. He’ll know it if you’re faking it. He’ll know if you’d rather be elsewhere. He’ll know.
As Mr. Einstein did, you’ll need to approach each day as a small part of a large and satisfying event, one that moves, perhaps, at a tortoise’s pace. You’ll need to accept that small, almost immeasurable daily gains will mysteriously accumulate into an adult gifted with a great fund of knowledge, both of self and of the world around him. You’ll have to embrace the idea that somehow, struggling with the student through that stupid algebra problem, or that seemingly distant and removed historical concept, you are building a future for your child, and for all those to follow that he will touch in his life.
Slow and steady.
One of my closest friends was an economics professor, now long since passed away. Toward the end of his life and at his request, we had a heart to heart, though I was considerably younger than he. He told me at that time that he had a genuine fear that his life had been wasted, that he’d helped no one. This was patently wrong; the number of people he’d directly helped outside of education was too high to count (myself included), but that’s how it is with truly good people – they never can do enough. Anyway, I asked him how many students he’d taught economics. The number was, after a very long career, well into the thousands. I pointed out that many of them had families now, and even grandchildren – and that all of whom had been impacted by the wisdom he’d communicated to his students about a very tricky and critical survival subject. Over the decades, he’d touched directly and as a teacher, or indirectly as a teacher tens of thousands of lives, and probably a good deal more. I mentioned that it is in such a manner that the world is changed for the better, over a span of generations. He seemed to appreciate the idea, and I hope it provided him some solace as he faced the great divide.
What had I pointed out to my beloved friend? The same thing I’d like you to understand, homeschoolers, students and teachers. Successful education does not rely on instant gratification. It does not require an inspiration, or a miracle a day. It requires tenacity. It requires patience, and an unwillingness to surrender. It requires an ever-watchful eye and ear for the moment, the instant when the student “gets it”. Those moments are the markers in the very long road, leading to a mature, capable, wonderful adult.
I would ask that you not concern yourself much with the speed or lack thereof of your student’s progress. After all, it’s his or her education, not yours. They will “get it” when they are ready, and at their own pace. I would ask that you make the subjects, the lessons, the strong shoulder and family car and fortune available to the student so that they are there when he is ready. I’d then ask that you strap in for the longest and most important ride of your life.
Slow and steady win the race.
As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.
But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.
In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.
CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)
Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.
Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.
Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.
Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.
Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.
For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.
We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!