As I sat waiting in the doctor's office last week, I read a fascinating article in an issue of Forbes magazine. In short, the article was discussing the problems associated with group learning as opposed to individual instruction. The author related the story of a fairly well educated friend who took a job on an auto plant assembly line. His job was to create a section of the auto body. The first day on the job he was provided step-by-step instructions and then set loose on the line to do the work. By the end of the day he was amazed to discover that a very small percentage of the parts he worked on were done correctly. The "quality control" at the end of the line found a multitude of mistakes. Fast forward to yet another job on a different auto plant assembly line. This time the author's friend received the same step-by-step instruction as he had on his last job. Only this time the instructor didn't allow the friend to move on to the second step until he had mastered the first. And he wasn't allowed out on the assembly line until he had mastered each and every step. His first day out on the line found him working without a mistake.
It didn't surprise me at all that the purpose of the article had nothing to do with homeschooling. Instead, it was discussing technology that could help overcome poor test scores by enabling teachers to do regular "quick checks" on a student's knowledge and mastery of concepts. I'm certain that I don't have all the details exact since I wasn't able to take the magazine home with me ... but the gist of the article struck me as a wonderful word picture. The opportunity to set your own pace, to await a student's mastery of step one before moving on to step two, has always been a powerful argument for homeschooling.