John Gato, erstwhile winner of the New York Teacher of the Year award, is often quoted as being irritated at the junior high and high school pigeon-holing of education into time slots that are ended by gongs. I join him in the dislike of the rudeness of the gongs, those alarming bells, but I depart from him in his not seeing the necessity for the time slots required to learn academia in all of its basics—line upon line, precept upon precept, day in and day out.
Often a swashbuckling radical statement can be made by an engaging speaker and grabbed by audiences that don’t have time to carefully work out the full practical implications of such a statement. Happily, however, even if we find a person’s argument flawed we can apply the argument to other applications and occasional forays, and still benefit by these rousing discussions.
I believe this is such a case. Just because we study basics in the day at a pretty rigorous clip doesn’t mean we may not return to linger over a topic in the evening. In fact, that is what lifetime education is all about: curling up with our books in the evenings so that they may enrich and direct our lives during the day.
Now let us forge on to the incongruities of Gato’s statement:
A piano lesson may take one hour. A ballet lesson takes one hour. A tennis lesson takes an hour. None of these are ended by gongs, bells, or high-alert whistles—our mutual irritation. But if the piano lesson were to take all day, attention would break down, and we would hate facing piano lessons tomorrow. Even if the piano lesson were allowed to linger until all our interest waned (which may be the real underpinnings of Gato’s desire for all education) at two hours, what would we face tomorrow? Because we left no anticipation for tomorrow, chances are we would not be drawn to the topic as readily. Satisfying the emotions via this lingering diffuses the impetus for further study. In fact, Suzuki found that the exact opposite is true. The Suzuki system tantalizes the children by only letting them do things in short spurts; the instrument is taken away from the student before the interest wanes.
Everything in life exists and progress within time limits. Living life without time limits results in a life of chaos, sloppiness, and lack of personal discipline to command oneself to do what one would rather NOT do, and that includes even interrupting one’s own mental curiosities and mental momentum—to gain maturity. Are we not irritated when business meetings run over? When the ticket agent reads a book instead of focusing on issuing the ticket? When the restaurant’s notice says it re-opens at 3 and in fact it is still closed?
There is a time and season to everything. To isolate children from real life and tell them for six long years encompassing junior and senior high school that their emotions rule the day, that even their mental emotions are somehow so sacred that the responsibilities of life must take second place, is no gift to a child—to say nothing of what such a school would look like with students sprawled all over the window sills and floors and even absent because they are counting cows on the way to school, while professors run all over the place from one student to another, repeating themselves ad nausea, in pandemonium.
Progressive acquisition of a wide academic alphabet of basic skills in as many areas as possible gives one the tools to later (after all of one’s responsibilities are met each day) linger and take advantage of momentum in a specific personal mental pursuit, on one’s own discretionary time. The homeschooling movement has now seen the results of education via the radical and now “tried-out” theories of mental wandering, lingering, short seasons of a temporary and transient momentum (we’re “good-to-go” for one day, but crash for three), unschooling, vs. the results of the British tutorial system where math was immediately followed by fencing, followed by Latin, followed by history, followed by literature, followed by lunch, followed by ascending the throne and taking up the crown.
If you look carefully, behind every supposed child prodigy, you’ll find rigorous massive daily training via time slots. If you want some help in implementing a mother-easy program for making sure your homeschooling happens every day, order our eBook or booklet on How to Make Homeschooling To-Do Charts.