Posted by jlwile on September 17, 2012I just got back from speaking with homeschoolers in six different Alaskan cities (Fairbanks, Kenai, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage, and Juneau). In each city, I gave the same two talks: Homeschooling: Discovering How and Why It Works and Life is Amazing. I gave the first talk in the morning, and it was really for parents. However, there were some students in the morning sessions, and for the most part, they seemed to stay awake. The second talk was in the afternoon, and it was really for the students, but there were a lot of parents as well. Everyone enjoyed it, because I showed some amazing animations and videos (you can find links to them in the PDF linked above) and discussed in detail the science behind what the videos were showing.
Lots of great things happened during my time in Alaska, but two of them really stand out in my mind. In the morning talks, I showed several studies that indicate homeschooled students excel, both academically and socially. After I showed these data, I tried to offer some explanations as to why homeschoolers excel. You can see those reasons in the PDF file linked above. However, I also asked the audience to come up with their own ideas as to why homeschoolers tend to excel. I got many excellent replies, but I want to highlight one of them.
A homeschooling father mentioned a study that was done in 1957 by psychologist Dr. Harold McCurdy. What the father said about the study intrigued me, so I looked it up. The author investigated the lives of twenty geniuses like John Stuart Mill, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Blaise Pascal. He wanted to see if he could find commonalities in their lives that might have aided their intellectual development. Who knows how effective such a study is, but I found his conclusions to be very interesting. Here is what he said:1
In summary, the present survey of biographical information on a sample of twenty men of genius suggests that the typical development pattern includes as important aspects: (1) a high degree of attention focused upon the child by parents and other adults, expressed in intensive educational measures and, usually, abundant love; (2) isolation from other children, especially outside the family; and (3) a rich efflorescence of phantasy, as a reaction to the two preceding conditions.
By “phantasy,” the good doctor just means “imaginative play.”
Now as I said, I am not sure how effective such a study really is, so I don’t take these results to be conclusive by any means. However, what he describes sounds an awful lot like a homeschool! Homeschooled children are given a high degree of attention from their loving parents, often in the form of intensive educational endeavors. While not completely isolated from children outside the family, homeschooled students certainly have less contact with their peers than do non-homeschooled students. Finally, most homeschoolers I know severely limit the amount of television that their children can watch, which encourages imaginative play. In the end, then, it seems that homeschooling naturally provides a lot of what Dr. McCurdy thinks is necessary for the development of genius.
There is a flip side to the good doctor’s conclusion as well. He states it himself:
It might be remarked that the mass education of our public school system is, in its way, a vast experiment on the effect of reducing all three of the above factors to minimal values, and should, accordingly, tend to suppress the occurrence of genius.
If nothing else, I think the good doctor’s comments are worth pondering.
The other thing that stands out in my mind was really the highlight of the trip for me. It involved seeing a young man that I met during my previous speaking tour in Alaska. His name is Joshua Russell, and you can see him with me in the picture at the top of this article. I remembered him from my previous trip, because I learned that he and his mother flew in from Barrow, Alaska to hear me. The trip cost them each $660! I was rather shocked that anyone would spend that much money to hear me blather on for a few hours.
Well, when we met up this time, it was in Anchorage. It didn’t cost his family anything significant, because they had since moved close to Anchorage. He and his parents took me out to dinner, and I got to learn all about what this incredible young man had been doing since we last met. He’s been rather busy. He has taken six of my science courses as well as a fantastic marine biology course written by Sherri Seligson. But wait…there’s more! He decided to participate in a summer college program that allowed him to study both biology and trigonometry at a higher level. He performed so well in those courses that he was awarded a full-ride scholarship to any school in the University of Alaska system! At this point, he plans to get his degree in marine biology (well done, Sherri!).
If that’s not amazing enough, he gave me an essay that he had to write for a university-level English class he is currently taking. It was entitled “Inspiration,” and at the risk of “tooting my own horn,” I just have to quote from it:
When I was in Middle School, I must admit that I hated science. However, in my second year of homeschooling, I discovered Dr. Wile’s curriculum. After one year of using his curriculum, I became neutral on the subject…By the next year, science was my favorite subject…This change might have come around eventually, but I believe that Dr. Wile greatly expedited this process with his curriculum…So, as you can see, Dr. Jay Wile has had a large impact on my life…He inspired me to seek a college degree, provided a way for me to pay for said degree, and he has made my high school science education pleasurable!
I have to say that many times, I get so bogged down in the day-to-day business of writing, arguing with evolutionists, and giving talks that I lose sight of why I am doing all this in the first place. This past week, Joshua vividly reminded me. Thank you, Joshua, and congratulations!
1. Harold McCurdy, “The Childhood Pattern of Genius,” Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 73(2):448-462, 1957.
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