How can we resolve the conflict between two different theories for how to teach a young child?
Two vastly different teaching theories are floating around in debates regarding how best to teach our young ones: (1) let the child wander around and discover life or (2) teach meticulously by drill. Here is a resolution of these highly contrasting teaching theories; in this, we can all find common ground. Once and for all, let’s nail this teaching dilemma.
Teaching a child a skill is vastly different from teaching a child an academic concept. The confusion re: theories is cleared up by looking at the definitions first.
A skill is the acquisition of a ready, artful, swift tool to do repetitive tasks. (Phonics can be labeled a skill, then, under this construct.)
An academic concept is an introduction to, and growth in awareness of, the complexities of realities, systems, emotions, etc. that touch our humanness (i.e., growth in the study of science, history, government, social studies, literature, and all of the arts).
Views, like that espoused by Common Core (one more avenue toward the death of our nation) is that they wrongly view teaching the decoding skill of reading as an “academic” process (thus the mistaken idea that the way to get at the core of what is needed is to just teach that one topic of “reading” in the first year or two). The problem with this view is that there is no relief from the “skill-drill” of beginning reading. The child is nowhere furnished (at other parts of the day) with answers to the spiritual and intellectual ongoing needs and appetites of a child (who was made in the immense and deep image of God) from the get-go. These parts of a human being don’t wait to be developed only later!
Reading decoding (i.e. phonics) is a skill—to be taught just like piano, cello, tennis strokes, typing, dance steps, tailoring, electrical engineering, cooking, and mathematical times tables. These are all acquired through highly repetitious experiences of the same demand, all while under the hovering eyes of a meticulous tutor who is there to require the same step by step procedure (with a growing speed and accuracy) each and every time the student encounters that challenge.