On learning…

Some good chatting with Steve the other evening.

Someone asked me the other week if I believed it was what God wanted, for us to home educate. It caught me off-guard a little. Now I am a Christian so that wasn’t what caught me off-guard, but when I got home I was still thinking about it and thought, I wonder if anyone ever thinks “is it what God wants, that I should send my child to school?” or do we just send our children to school because that’s what everyone does?

I don’t want to go through life just doing without thinking. If I have the opportunity to make life better, I should take it. Or at the very least, research it. And then take it.

A lot of our parenting journey so far has been along these lines. We’ve fallen in to some things, granted, but on researching have decided that actually they’re the best choice for us. It’s not for everyone, granted, but that’s what makes life interesting.

Steve was talking about a recent government Think Tank’s decision that exam results should be adjusted dependent on age. He is pretty angry about this, primarily because he finds it incredibly insulting, being an August baby. To simply assume that because he was a summer baby that he would be less clever than his winter baby peers. Averages are very interesting things but my goodness they can be dangerous. The biggest danger though from adjusting exam results like this though is that you would basically be giving summer babies a great big reason to not even bother trying.

These days most 18 year olds leave school with a fistful of A*s but no clear direction on what they want to do in life. I can’t help feeling that trying to learn everything they’re being asked to learn over such a broad spectrum of subjects over the 14 years they are in school without having the flexibility to go into much more depth in areas that really catch their interest the majority of our young people are being done a disservice. A diet of didactic learning, repetition, and not enough one-to-one interaction with adults interested in passing on knowledge and skills is boring the life out of our children. It’s no wonder they leave school, experience the relative of freedom of university and go crazy.

Contrast this with the family in Alabama whose children are being gifted the freedom to follow the things they are interested in. Their mum “discovered they were less bored if they followed their passions studying subjects they loved.” And they’re doing pretty well academically too, generally starting college at 12 having discovered what it is that makes them tick.

Twelve.

And we struggle at eighteen years old. I was still struggling at thirty.

I don’t see how one teacher with a class of thirty or more children can even begin to discover what makes each one of her class tick, let alone have the capacity, freedom, time and resources to develop each child’s individual passions. I’m sure there are particularly amazing teachers out there who might be able to, but surely as Bean and Bear’s mum I am best placed to notice what my children are interested in, provided I give them enough opportunity to explore?

I guess one of the biggest things for Steve and I as parents, having made the decision to home-educate, is that we’re having to change the way we think about life. Suddenly we are fully responsible for our childrens’ learning, and I’ve noticed that, especially in the little things, we’re noticing ways in which we can use daily life to teach the boys new things. Of course it kinda comes naturally teaching the Bear about words, and colours, cause and effect, how to do things safely, climbing, running, all that kind of stuff that a one-and-a-half-year-old wants to learn about. But I suppose we are conditioned to not have to worry about teaching our four-and-a-half-year-olds to add and subtract, read, or write – even if a lot of parents do this anyway, hoping to give their children a head start in school, or worrying that their children may somehow be “behind” if they don’t. It’s the teachers and the schools that teach our children literacy and numeracy, right?

Not always. And not in our case, anyway! Amazingly though it’s been Bean who is figuring things out by himself. He is learning basic mathematics by using his fingers, realising that if you hold four fingers up, and put down, you only have two left. That may just be a very small thing, but when I tried to “teach” him a while back about adding and subtracting, he had no interest and could not grasp it at all. And now he’s figured it out by himself. Steve’s already hopping with excitement about the possibility of showing him how an abacus works, having had a revelation about mathematics being about shapes and patterns, not numbers.

We do word recognition in small steps, looking at his name and our names, he asks what words say when we see big signboards. He does dot-to-dot for shapes when he’s interested in drawing something particular. He’s learning all the time.

He’s probably learning the most when he’s monkeying around on his climbing frame – thinking things over, ready for the next time he wants to sit down and look at something.

I’m going to finish this post with a happy moment from this morning. Music, my other passion. My Bean was interested in, found, and remembered Middle C on the piano – happy happy me!

3 thoughts on “On learning…

  1. Check out Numicon for a fab way of learning maths through shape and pattern (no commercial interest). All the best with the home educating, I’m too much of a worrier to have done it myself, but what I love about SEN teaching is having to follow my children’s interests, otherwise they wouldn’t engage in learning

  2. Fab post- love it! I often wonder how children will learn certain things, like geography, history, things I was never very interested in at school… Chickpea and I started talking today about where everyone lives (we have family all over the world) and it was complicated to explain something so abstract, so I googled a map and we talked about it more. Now I have bought a map to put on the wall, we’re going to put pins in for different family members and hopefully will find more friends from around the world to pen-pal with and learn about their areas/ lives. I’m pretty excited about it, and it all came fairly naturally and seems much more exciting than my droll geography/ history lessons from school.

  3. Hi. Really enjoyed reading your blog. I want to commend you for the journey you are on and for the choices you are making for your boys. One of the greatest challenges I have within my role at work, is to find ways to enable teachers in a class of 30 children to allow them to let the children learn rather than direct them all of the time. That is a challenging thing to do at times for a number of reasons: having 30 children with often 30 different ideas and needs, having a curriculum prescribed by government, having tests that are used to judge the school, and parental expectations(which are often very different)
    Despite all of this, we can go some way to allowing children the choice to lead their learning. This is something we have successfully done in our reception year, but it is harder to do as the children get older.
    You are in a privileged position with many skills and talents that can guide your boys. If I can ever be of any help with their journey please ask. It would be a privilege. Happy un-schooling!

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