Unschooler Karen M. Gibson writes about gaps in an education, about a parent's worries that they will miss teaching that crucial something without which their child will be a total failure at life.

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The Teenage Liberation Handbook
How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education
by Grace Llewellyn
For everyone who has ever gone to school or is interested in the current national debate over educational reforms, but it is especially relevant for teenagers and the parents or caregivers of teens.
I cannot give you the formula for success,
but I can give you the formula for failure - which is:
try to please everybody.
~ Herbert B. Swope

    Gaps Are Good - Some Homeschool Advice
    Karen M. Gibson

    A few weeks ago some friends and I were talking with a new homeschool mother. This mother was very concerned that she was missing something in their curriculum. She knew they were covering all the major subjects but she still just had this nagging feeling that she was missing some vital area.

    My friends and I were quick to assure her that she probably was missing something. Between the three of us, we had a total of over 20 years of home education experience. And we all knew that we hadn't covered every thing with our children and that we would never be able to cover every thing. Every person, no matter how good of an education they receive, will have gaps.

    I don't think it's possible for us to *teach* our children every thing. For one reason, technology is changing so quickly that we can't possibly know what new knowledge or skills our children will need ten, or even five years into the future. Right now a major portion of my life, both private and professional, involves using computers. Computers weren't even a course when I went to school! I'm not even sure the entire school system had a single computer to use! So my education had a major gap in it. Every bit of knowledge that I currently have and use with my computer I have had to acquire myself. Your children will find it necessary to do that very same acquiring of new knowledge.

    Another reason why I don't think it is possible to teach our children every thing is that your child may have a major interest in an area that you either have no skill in and/or no interest in. One of my children has a great interest in science, specifically quantum physics. Me? I'm still trying to understand the concepts of vacuum and air flight! At age eleven he is light years ahead of me in physics understanding. Have I taught him anything about science? No! I've simply provided him with the books, magazines, videos, and equipment that he needed to learn the area he was interested in (although that has required a lot of research and questioning on my part). When that wasn't enough, I tried to find him mentors and outside activities to interact with. So far, I'm managing to keep up, but I predict there will soon come a time when my efforts will not be enough and he will have to begin doing the research and networking. Hopefully, by then, I will have provided him with the skills to do so.

    Lastly, and probably most importantly in my mind, is the fact that not every child needs to know exactly the same information as every other child. I don't believe in teaching each and every child the exact same thing. If your children are anything like mine, they have vastly different areas of interest and different skills. I sincerely doubt that my quantum physics son will ever find a need for knowing how to diagram a sentence, while my literary daughter might have just exactly that need. As I custom tailor each child's education, each child will have gaps, but they will be different gaps.

    As my friends and I told this new homeschooling mom,

    "Just keep repeating 'gaps are good, gaps are good' and relax."

    Every person has major gaps in their knowledge. If they know how to acquire knowledge and have the confidence that they can do so, they can fill in those gaps in the future, if and when it becomes necessary. And if it's not necessary, then why did they need to know that information in the first place?

    Copyright 1999
    Originally published in "HEART to HEART News," a homeschool support e-newsletter

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