Monday, August 27, 2012

Relearned lessons – using the right tool

I was reminded this weekend of just how important it is to have the right tool. 

As part of getting our home organized we decided to get a shed for our backyard.  We selected a premade shed.  It will be about eight feet wide, four feet deep and the highest point will be just over seven feet.  It will hold all of our garden and yard tools.

The kit arrived last Thursday.  I dug out the instructions Saturday.  I skimmed through them and it appeared fairly straightforward.  The pieces would fit together and I’d tighten screws to lock the pieces together. 

The first step was to anchor the shed floor to a wooden box or a slab of concrete.  We already have a small slab behind our house.  Janine and I planned to locate the shed near a corner, close to the garden.  We went over to a local Home Depot and asked what we needed.  A helpful man walked me through the basic steps of drilling the holes and putting in the anchors.  It seemed easy.   We picked up a concrete bit for my drill and a box of anchors. 

Back at home the progress was slow, painfully slow.  The bit lasted for over a half hour.  All I had to show for the effort were two holes about three fourths of an inch.  I purchased another concrete drill bit and got a little farther.  But at this rate I could go for a couple more hours and wear out half a dozen, or more, bits. 

I took a break and did some research on the internet.  I learned that for young concrete, a basic drill and a concrete drill bit may work.  But concrete gets tougher as it cures.  It cures from the outside in.  Our house was built in 1957.  The previous owners, back in the 60s or 70s, had poured two layers of concrete.  We had old concrete.  Old concrete needs a special tool known as a “hammer drill.”  This is a special drill which makes regular impacts on the concrete through the bit. 

This morning I purchased another concrete drill bit, for hammer drills, and rented a hammer drill.  In less than five minutes all four holes were made, to depths of about three inches.  After all the hassle Saturday it was just amazing to see the hammer drill so effortlessly push through the concrete.  It was almost like a knife going through warm butter.

So what does this have to do with homeschooling? 

One of the great benefits of homeschooling is we are not forced by some remote bureaucrat to follow official procedures, to use specific text books or teach in a certain way.  We can use the right process or textbook for our children.  Each child often needs slightly different approaches, and sometimes majorly different approaches.  We can go fast or slow.  We can try different methods.  We can even put a curriculum on the back burner and pick it up months, or even years later.

The problem of public education’s approach to have just an approved method was driven into my brain while reading Left Back: A Century of Battles over School Reform by Diane Ravitch.  Page after page describes how the “experts” cane up with a new theory about the “best” way to teach children.  Education schools would twist and turn chasing after the latest fad while children would suffer with poorer and poorer education.   (If you have a couple hours and don’t mind being depressed borrow Left Back from your local library.)

Public education seems to want the “one true” way for teaching children when in fact there are many ways which seem to work with different children.  I am reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s TED talk on spaghetti sauce.  He recounts how for decades the food industry looked for the one spaghetti sauce that everyone would buy.  One researcher figured out that different people wanted different types of spaghetti sauce. 

As homeschoolers we have the opportunity to find and use the right approach for each of our children.  We’re not locked into a one size fits all mentality.  We can use the right tool to make sure our children get a great education.

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