Otto Salomon distinguished between class teaching and individualized instruction, and that evidently was a point of contention between the followers of Sloyd vs. those of the Russian system which insisted upon classroom instruction as a matter of efficiency. And yet, if you can once get it in your head that we are not all the same, that the timing of our development has very little to do with our ultimate capacities, you can see that as we go through classroom instruction we are led to miscalculate our own strengths, weaknesses and potentials. Those miscalculations may be great as a sorting mechanism, sending some students to academia and some to the trades, but they are a vast distortion of overall human potential, which is often squandered in our current system of public education.
In public education, reading is the big thing. Once children are convinced that reading is difficult for them, huge amounts of school time and money are spent to overcome the challenges of those children not reading at grade level, but there is a huge amount of evidence that when the time is simply right, children will teach themselves to read. The following is from Peter Gray, PhD.:
For children in standard schools, it is very important to learn to read on schedule, by the timetable dictated by the school. If you fall behind you will be unable to keep up with the rest of the curriculum and may be labeled as a "failure," or as someone who should repeat a grade, or as a person with some sort of mental handicap. In standard schools learning to read is the key to all of the rest of learning. First you "learn to read" and then you "read to learn." Without knowing how to read you can't learn much of the rest of the curriculum, because so much of it is presented through the written word. There is even evidence that failure to learn to read on schedule predicts subsequent naughtiness in standard schools.In contrast, the experience of those in the unschooling movement suggests that left to their own devices, children just simply read when they are ready for it. After all, the opportunities to read are ever present, and the inclination to learn everything children are able to learn from the natural environment is innate. And so, put into a more rational mind, schools, liberated from their sorting process, allowed once more to treat each child as the unique individual he or she is, could return to other more interesting things.
On another note, Abigail, director at Elliot School in Jamaica Plaines, MA sent this link to ann article about the upcoming Folk School movement. If you are not in any way a maker, then you are missing out on a very special quality of our humanity.
Make, fix and create...