One Room Schoolhouse Effect


Early the other morning, Ania came into my room while I was still doing my Bible study to ask me to help with an algebra problem. I glanced at her book and read the directions.

“I know the boys did this last year, I remember them doing this on the board,” Ania said.

“That’s right. F.O.I.L.- first, outter, inner, last,” I said.

I showed her how to do the first couple of problems and she caught on quickly.

“I know how to do this from watching them. It’s easy,” Ania said as she took the book and went back to work in her room.

This isn’t a first in my home. Homeschooling a large family can have this effect- the one room schoolhouse effect. The younger pupils learn from the older. Ten years ago, Rafal was yelling the vowels from the playpen while I worked with four beginning readers one year.

A few weeks ago, we were having a discussion at the table about some events in history. Rafal isn’t studying the same time period as the high schoolers, but he joined us any way. Several of the questions, he answered about reading books and the history text, why? Because he had heard other people talking about it. He was a little confused himself as to where the information came from.

“Wait, did I read that book?”

“No, Rafal, you did not read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. You just heard us talking about it.”

“No, you did not read Fahrenheit 451, but you will when you are older.”

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For thousands of years, in thousands of places, families educated their own. This tradition changed not because a better method was found but because economic conditions required it. To work one had to leave one’s children; one’s children, furthermore, had to be trained for tasks no-one in their purview could be seen doing. For these reasons institutionalised schooling was invented’ and while it adequately addressed a set of economic problems it inspired a new set of human ones that are psychological, emotional, and even spiritual in nature. – David Guterson ‘Family Matters – Why Homeschooling Makes Sense’

This one room schoolhouse effect doesn’t just help with math problems. It covers a host of other issues such as morals and values that cannot be taught in a Sunday morning sermon. A child must be able to absorb the thoughts and values of his family to direct his moral compass at home. This can be accomplished by table talk, topics of discussion at meal time or as in the above a child just overhearing another child sharing what he read and his thoughts about the book.

This effect happens to non homeschoolers also, it happens in the same manner. What they hear around the dinner table, during homework time, working in the yard, swimming in the pool. It just takes a little more planning and effort on the parent’s part, but I have seen many parents be successful in setting the direction of the moral compass at home. Children are more influenced by family members who take the time to spend with them.

“Architect Frank Lloyd Wright told how a lecture he received at the age of nine helped set his philosophy of life: An uncle, a stolid no-nonsense type, had taken him for a long walk across a snow-covered field. At the far side, his uncle told him to look back at their two sets of tracks. “See, my boy,” he said, “how your foot prints go aimlessly back and forth from those trees, to the cattle back to the fence and then over there where you where throwing sticks? But notice how MY path comes straight across, directly to my goal. You should never forget this lesson!” And I never did, “Wright said, grinning. “I determined right then not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

As I finish writing this blog, I am watching Rafal find common denominators on the white board. Next, I am going to read some WWI poetry with the older boys. Can’t wait to see what Rafal says about that!

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