One of the principles that we attempt to run our homeschool on is that of mastery. Mastery learning is a simple concept that is not common in our fast-paced society. Put simply, it is staying with a concept until mastery is achieved. You don’t move on if your understanding is below an A level. Obviously, this method will slow you down at times, but it has many benefits. Full understanding, better retention, a solid foundation for future learning, and a motivating sense of success for the student. In the end, you will actually go farther. You are putting the formation of your student ahead of the demands of a timeline. Not only does he have a better chance of learning the material, but he will hopefully realize that the material is worth learning, and worth learning well. Let’s not force students to be a “mediocrity” in their education as C.S. Lewis put it. I first heard of this idea from author Joanne Calderwood, and then from classical educators such as Christopher Perrin who have applied it successfully with their own students.
Probably the most important subject to apply mastery learning to is Mathematics. I actually have an upcoming post on Mathematics where I will talk more about mastery. But I wanted to mention it now because of a change in our plans for the upcoming year. Dusty’s grade for last year’s math (Algebra 2) did not reflect a mastery of the subject. After discussions with Dusty and The Man, we decided that he will retake the course. Dusty was not happy with this at first, but after we described the need to have a solid understanding before moving to harder math, I think he accepted the idea and actually became a little relieved. He is beginning right away (even though we don’t start school officially until after Labor Day) and by doing a lesson a day, he should be done by Thanksgiving. We will keep his new grade for his transcript, but he will only receive one credit. At that point, he will move on to Geometry and will still have time to complete it by next summer.
What is education anyway? Is it the “covering” of material? Or the learning of information? Which definition will produce knowledge and character?