Has Khan Redesigned Charlotte Mason?

The One World Schoolhouse, Education Reimagined, by Salman Khan caught my eye on the NEW bookshelf at the Driftwood Library this week. It perked my interest to see how he came to create the Khan Academy from the seed of tutoring his cousins on YouTube in a closet.  What is is vision for this massive free math program? Why invest so much  – to then make it free?  And, as I have been sharing, we have been struggling with math this year. 

No Nonsense Algebra has been a perfect fit for Nate – unless the answer key has a typo, and we spend a couple of hours sorting it out with friends on line. Or when we can’t figure out how to solve one of the answers together, even though it is the same type as was in our lesson. My answer so far has been to sit, myself, and watch several Khan Academy . Org videos. Nate prefers the NNA videos to the Khan videos – but he keeps saying a key phrase that bothers me – NNA doesn’t do it like Khan – so it doesn’t help me. Red Flag. If he understood how/why/what the problem was, he would be open to many ways to solve the equation. I don’t want him learning how to put a particular peg into a particular whole.  We’re back to memorizing formulas. That’s not problem solving, that’s monkey work.

With Jon’s math, I haven’t needed Khan personally, and didn’t realize one would use Khan for elementary math. I thought the videos started in Algebra, until I read his book.

I was on page 23 when I had to physically get up and get some way to mark the pages and still play nice nice with the library. So many times he had said things that ring true. The crazy part? He sounds like a modern digital age Charlotte Mason. Although he never mentions the words – it is like he has discovered homeschooling – what we’ve been doing for years, and wants the public schools to follow suit. Never a bad word to the Public System, but a huge passion to get them to change – to homeschooling methods.

Some of my favorite tabs:

Page 23 – “There are only two things I want to hear. Either give me a definite, confident answer – yell it out! – or say, ‘Sal, I don’t understand. Please go over it again.’ ” I agree with this statement. People ask us if we test, or how do we know if they are ‘getting it’. They are getting it, because are are constantly talking, narrating, sharing, having conversations – about our learning topics. I can tell when their eyes register with gloss, and I can tell when their words are few.

Page 28 – Of short lessons – “But the truth is that well – credentialed educational theorists had long before determined that ten to eighteen minutes was about the limit of students’ attention spans.” He talks about this as if he himself is discovering this. Charlotte Mason has been a huge proponent of smaller verbal lessons, reading things through one time, being intentional with our time.  I giggled a lot as I read about his No Frills Videos and hearing him reason out the length of lessons.

Page 36 – Embracing Technology – CM didn’t have a chance to speak about videos, Nooks, iPads and Laptops.  Salman says “This suggests something that is at the very heart of my belief system: that when it comes to education, technology is not to be feared, but embraced; used wisely and sensitively, computer based lessons actually allow teachers to do more teaching, and the classroom to become a workshop for mutual helping, rather than passive sitting.” Our whole home is a workshop for mutual helping.

Page 42 – Of our Delight Directed Unschooling – but not unlearning ways – “Too often, however, the suggestion is made that “taking responsibilities” is somehow an independent thing from the learning itself, and that responsibility can be put on the shoulders of parents and teachers without necessarily involving the student. Both of those notions are false. Taking responsibility for education is education; taking responsibility for learning is learning. From the student’s perspective, only by taking responsibility does true learning become possible; studies of mastery learning dynamics make this clear.” I wanted to stand up on my chair and say YES!  This is why we ask more questions than we give answers. Why we fill our home with resources and tools to spark passions, flame the fire, hold them accountable. YES!

Just a couple  more:

He gives a chapter to How Education Happens, talking of how the idea of chunking subjects up and separating them do not make sense.  This is one of the hardest things to explain to a new homeschool mom, and I think his chapter does a great job of it. Why switch gears every 45 minutes, when we could spend a day on a topic that covers many things like Geography, Literature, Science, Language and Math. If we are studying them all while pursing an interest, why have a separate class for that subject later? He says, ‘the connections are severed”. I whole heartedly agree.

I quit tagging – and moved on to just soaking it in after about page 53. A quote by St Augustine. Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. Salmon goes on to say – “There is no such thing as a “Perfect” learner.  There is no such thing as a student who “gets”every subject the first time through.”  He goes on to talk about the gaps in learning. The rest of the book discusses how the Khan Academy grew, and how they used it in schools, and how it is being used today. The book gives you the tools to use it yourself.

And this is where we are with Jon, and a bit with Nate.  I think some of the struggles half way through the year with Saxon 7/6 are revealing the gaps in his understanding. He doesn’t remember how to do something, because he doesn’t understand what they want him to do, how to solve the puzzle. One of Salmon’s practices is to have a student earn a 100% before moving on. We’ve been lax with this with Nathan, but I am seeing the gaps there as well half way into Algebra. Lessons are taking a lot longer time, and the percentage of questions correct are pulling me to think he is not fully comprehending the skills enough to practice them well.

I’ll share in my post – where this book, and our struggles are leading us towards. 

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About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
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4 Responses to Has Khan Redesigned Charlotte Mason?

  1. I guess I am going to have to go check out Khan. 🙂 We are in a math stalemate right now. My son is bored with the Saxon 5/4 but is not quite ready for the next book. Thank you for the post.

  2. Mary says:

    I love this post! I am going to look for his book at our library. Thanks! I love the Khan Academy Algebra videos- they really help ME.

  3. Wholeheartedly agree with Kahn’s and your feelings on education!

    When I was teaching in the public schools in the early to mid-1990s, one of the big pushes was to teach all subjects revolving around a theme and how separating subjects into separate learning times wasn’t the best option. The #1 problem with this is that they either didn’t provide any method of doing this (and the internet didn’t exist, nor did we have computers to help us do this), or if they did provide something that tried to tie in all of the subjects, the content was poor and there were huge gaps and lots left out. It just didn’t work well.

    The time it would take for me to tie all of our school subjects together in one learning theme would be monumental. I dare Kahn to attempt! 🙂 (Not being rude here, just realistic!) There are some homeschool curricula that tie together history, literature, art, and music, but to tie in math and science is much harder, especially to have it taught sequentially with “rhyme and reason.”

    I applaud Kahn for his philosophies on education, that we who homeschool have known about for decades now. I think his ideas are wonderful! But even in homeschool curricula I’ve seen that is supposed to “tie it all together into one theme”, I haven’t seen anything beyond the preschool and early elementary level that is able to do it well.

    • pebblekeeper says:

      We keep our feelers open to when subjects combine. We still have seatwork products available for Grammar, Writing, Geography, Social Studies, Science and Math. However, if we are studing Art History, and we need to go find out where the artist traveled on his boat across the world to study, and learn about why he would travel that far in his time frame, I do mentally check off Research, Geography, History, & Art. If the boys narrate and create a decent notebookign page with their findings – then I check off writing too. I know what direction their learning is leaning towards so I encourage them to add those goals in while they are notebooking. i.e. Nate is working on outlining and note taking, so those are easy to incorporate right now. However, not all days are full like this. And daily disciplines need to be met. Intentional Learning is our only job right now. Like you said – sometimes it is far harder to grasp at tiny broken straws reaching in a lesson just to include other subjects. But when it comes naturally – see it, embrace it, and do not feel the need to double the work that day, or cut a great conversation/research time short for the need to ‘finish school’.

      On Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 10:02 AM, Petra School

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