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Doctor Suggests Medical Education Should Learn from Homeschooling

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Doctor Suggests Medical Education Should

Learn from Homeschooling

By Linda Dobson


Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Anyone who follows news about homeschooling has surely experienced it. You read a nice article about homeschooling that someone has taken time and care to write, and you move on to the comments. Amidst the many ill- or non-informed comments you find it: “It may be alright for McDonald employees, but I sure don’t want my doctor to be ‘homeschooled,’ heh, heh. (The commenter likely is just as non-informed that he’s about the millionth homeschooling critic who has come up with the same gem.)

With this experience as a backdrop, I rubbed my eyes in disbelief before eagerly clicking the link to “What Medical Education Can Learn from Homeschooling” by Craig Koniver, M.D. Could it be? Yes, it could! A homeschooling doctor, thrilled with what he and his wife are learning about learning while homeschooling their children, suggesting that medical school could be improved by learning a thing or two about the homeschooling approach to learning.

See also Learn from Homeschooling to Improve Public Education

NOTE: The writer speaks of unschooling, which is an aspect of homeschooling devoid of typical school curriculum, teacher-fed facts, testing, and other schoolish elements detrimental to meaningful learning. Instead, learning is a natural result of real life experiences, innate curiosity, play and more.

Lesson One: The Hands-On, Holistic Aspect of Homeschooling

Those first two years of the basic sciences were grueling and stressful and for the most part pointless. Yes, pointless.

“But you need to understand the body and all of the under-workings first, if you are to understand how to take care of the body!”

I think that sums up the philosophy of the workings and order of our medical education system. If we don’t know this, then there is no way we can ever know that.

This style of teaching is based upon fear — fearful that if we don’t learn about all of the inter-workings within the body, that we will have no perspective when it comes time to heal the body.

But fear never gets us anywhere. I think most of you will agree that you truly learned medicine when you had to do it — likely sometime during your 4th year of medical school and the end of your internship. When you were forced to understand the inner-workings of physiology and biochemistry for Mrs. Thomas who was having a heart attack right now! And for Mr. Jones who has esophageal cancer right now. And for Mrs. Jackson who was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes right now!

The idea of learning the facts by themselves in an isolated manner makes no sense anymore. Even when you try to do this in a group with “made-up” cases. No, the very best way for us to remember how anything “works” is to learn it as it happens, in real-time, with real people.

Lesson Two: The Authenticity, Engagement and Real World Application Aspects of Homeschooling

I certainly don’t have all the answers as to how to improve medical education, but I do know from my perspective of being part of a world of unschooling, the most amazing learning and discovery authentically comes when children engage in the real world around them. My son taught himself to read at age 4 because he wanted to. My daughter published her first book at age 9 because she wanted to.

And that want and curiosity is critical. I could care less about why the Krebs cycle matters when I was forced to regurgitate it for a test, but when I am curious and interested in how the Krebs cycle plays a role with a real patient with a mitochondrial disease, I engage it and it becomes real.

Lesson Three: The Apprenticeship Aspect of Homeschooling

You know it was not that long ago that medical students learned directly from their attendings by following them around, house to house, engaged in real medicine from Day 1. We used to learn medicine by learning all of the facts in real time, with real patients.

But that type of apprentice learning was replaced by medical schools. And now each of us pays into this system a ton of money, time and energy so that we can emerge ready to begin the actual learning of medicine in our residencies.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Lesson Four: The Immersion Aspect of Homeschooling

We used to learn by an immersion style, one that forced new medical students to interact with real patients with real medical problems. I believe the mounting dissatisfied patients who feel disconnected and distrustful of the medical profession would decline if we embraced this immersion style of teaching and learning again. Because in that system, one learned by doing with a clear emphasis on patient interaction, not an emphasis on facts and test taking.

 The Homeschooling Perspective Changes Everything

Of course, there were plenty of comments on Dr. Koniver’s post, the vast majority of critics reminiscent of those who similarly flock to posts about homeschooling. Unfortunately, homeschooling, and therefore its impact on Dr. Koniver’s reflections, is something that must be experienced to be fully understood. As with the taste of strawberries, the description is not the described.

In the meantime, we must keep up the good work of spreading the lessons inherent in the homeschooling experience, patiently explaining how the “preparing for life” approach of current educational practices isn’t nearly as effective as real-life learning when it comes to children. And now, at last, the “homeschooling doctors” for whom I have impatiently waited.

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