The Mythology of Learning Gaps

Learning gaps are mysterious. We don’t know exactly what they are but we still don't want our children to have one.

Do you see a learning gap? (Photo Credit Dave Meier, Picography)

Do you see a learning gap? (Photo Credit Dave Meier, Picography)

Let’s examine this popular education myth and see if it is a genuine concern.

A Learning Gap is made up of Important Facts without which our children will have no future. We won't know the Gap is there until later in life when our child suddenly needs to know one of these Important Facts. Because of this Gap they will be unable to function. Their lives will be ruined, and they will have no choice but to start robbing liquor stores and being mean to puppies.

This sounds crazy, but that's the mythology we've built around learning gaps. We psyche ourselves out with a fear of the unknown - what if our kids need to know Something we neglected to teach them? Their lives will be over, and it will be Our Fault.

Let me help you with that. Your child doesn’t have a learning gap if they can’t answer these questions:

  • “How many teeth were in George Washington’s dentures?”
  • “Recite pi to 14 places.”
  • “Which former Latvian president held a degree from a university in Nebraska?”
  • “What percentage of the dust in your home is made of human skin?” (you don’t want to know!)

Your child does have a learning gap if after graduation they ask “How do you spell cat?”.

We get hung up on learning gaps when we forget what ‘education’ means. We think education is memorizing facts, and if our kids are missing an Important Fact, then they have a Learning Gap from which they can never recover. In spite of evidence to the contrary, we think Learning Gaps are permanent.

We are also assuming that kids who graduate from A Real School will not suffer from unsightly Learning Gaps. We've chosen to homeschool because we believe it is best for our child, but then hold public education as The Standard. This is a contradiction, and it means we need to revisit WHY we started to homeschool. 

Education is about acquiring skills, not just knowledge.

Reading and discussing a variety of topics is more important then memorizing thousands of facts without the ability to explain or apply them.

How many of us graduated both high school and college, spending something like 16 years in classrooms, listening to lectures, reading books, passing tests - and we STILL had huge Learning Gaps? So - what did you do when confronted with a Learning Gap?

I know what I did. I went to the library, make some phone calls, did some reading and research, or found someone who could teach me what I needed to know. Then I moved on with my life, none the worse for wear, and actually enjoyed the process of learning something new. I have the ability to ask questions and locate the information I need, I'm not afraid to say "I don't know", and I'm not afraid to do what it takes to find things out. As a result, I've spent time teaching my kids how to find information and get help.

Don’t let the fear of learning gaps cause you to obsess over course descriptions, curriculum choices, and test scores. You risk much more than a learning gap - you risk focusing too much on memorizing facts, jumping from textbook to program to textbook. Fear will cause you to skip over deeper thinking in favor of tests and quizzes. Fear makes you forget how important it is for your children to develop strong communication skills. Fear will drive you and your kids crazy. Worst of all, fear is contagious, and it will suck all the curiosity and joy out of your homeschool.

Your kids will have learning gaps.

So does everyone else.

We are all doing just fine.

Do you have fears about Learning Gaps? Let's talk about this myth in the comments -