Sunday, 26 February 2017

Do I have to follow the curriculum?

Do I have to follow the curriculum?

Short answer. No. 

In school circles "the curriculum" is both revered and loathed in equal measure. A curriculum is (like say the national curriculum) where someone outlines what they think your child (or children in general) should know. In certain educational systems like the Charlotte Mason method, or Trivium you can buy different interpretations of what they think would currently make a curriculum. The issue with this is that it might be wildly inappropriate for your child. National curriculum in particular are not written by educators at all but by political people in Government who have vested interests (sometimes financial ones) in what children learn (or don't learn). One of the greatest freedoms of HE is that you don't have to follow someone else's idea of what your child "should" know. They can learn what they find interesting, what you think is important to know and what they might need in their lives. LA's tend to prefer national curriculum because they tend to come from a school background, but they don't have to be "appeased". As long as you are educating, from unschooling to Montessori to your own unique HE master piece the curriculum is not important.

You can of course borrow and use parts of sections of curriculum should you wish too (we recently had a look at the English G.C.S.E texts and my daughter is reading them (some she has read before). Some Charlotte Mason curriculum can be bought as well as other alternatives and again they can be useful, up to a point.

The issue comes down to standardisation. What a child should know, and how deep that knowledge can be is often determined by age. Age is an unreliable marker, as children do not tend to grow in neat little bits constantly but in slow-sluggish bits and sudden bursts. The physical development and mental ability are not the same thing and the emotional capacity are another thing entirely. 
By eight years old and off her own bat, my daughter had read 67 books out of a 100 Classic books in literature. It was on her Nintendo D.S. Yet while some she adored a lot she "didn't get it".  Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice seemed weird and pointless stories concerned with marriage and status. Though able to read these books she didn't yet have the emotional intelligence to connect to the text. I wonder if the reason I loathed Charles Dickens was because I was forced to read it at 11 years old and I had no context or understanding of Victorian Britain. 
Had I had some context, some knowledge around what we were reading, or just read it a year or so later I might have had a different reaction. 

The other thing is curriculum tend to get bogged down in not only what is taught, and when but HOW they are supposed to learn. This means a vast majority of learners never discover how they learn. Or feel "thick" because they simply are not wired to do it a certain way. This is the greatest failing of curriculum. It fails to allow children to discover and learn in their own way. It fails to place value on the natural ability of children to learn. In some circumstances getting a wrong answer, the way they taught you, will give you a better mark/grade than getting the right answer a different way. 

Some curriculum remove the child out of the equation entirely. They are written for ease of testing and marking, not learning or child development. The industry behind this is worth a lot of money and is based more on agriculture than child development. It is also about control. What someone is "allowed" to learn means that their are subjects that they are not "allowed" to learn. From human rights, taxes, the laws of their own country or state, health and well being, histories that they would rather keep hidden, a curriculum is as much what it excludes as what it includes. 

Home education is far too important to take seriously.

Monday, 20 February 2017

6 "Musts when Leaving the School System

6 "Musts when Leaving the School System

Before you de-register you have all these fears (and maybe even after). Yet most of the common myths/criticisms of home education don't really come up at all (except when others say them to you). Most of them will seem silly in 12 months.

1) Keep it in writing. (always get a receipt) 

Email is great and all that but some schools can be downright unpleasant about families leaving their school. An actual letter and handing it in (which is quite exciting actually) and getting a receipt proves that your child is de-registered and they they received the letter on a certain date. Some schools are not above lying, harassing and making outlandish claims. Now to be "objective" some might simply not know the law. Once you de-register you have no legal requirement to answer their calls, and it they doorstep you they are breaking the law. It is their job to remove your child from their register on the date they receive the letter. It is their job to tell the LA (Local Authority). They will lose thousands of pounds in funding when this happens. So if you are wondering why they "suddenly" want a meeting, you hit them where it hurts, in their funding. It is wise to keep things in writing with the LA as well. This is because they also lose funding when a child leaves the school system. Some can be lovely, however that doesn't make them not have targets (to re-school) or have NO UNDERSTANDING of non-school education at all. You can fill in their forms if you wish, but you do not have to. This leads me tidily to the next point.

2) Read up on the laws, rules and regulations about Home Education.

Most Facebook groups and a certainly lots of other groups have a bunch of files and are always updating them. It is not uncommon for school who in turn might try and get social services and people at the LA to lie, bend the truth and assume you don't know your rights. This is not something that happen often but it can happen. Knowing they can't doorstep you, knowing they can't "make" your child go back into school and reading up on your rights means they are more wary of when you politely inform them of the law.

3) Research different education methods.

School is one in a thousand education models. From unschooling to Montessori, Charlotte Mason and Project based personal curriculum's, knowing that you don't have to follow a curriculum set by someone who isn't even an education expert is liberating. Knowing that there isn't one "correct" way to educate any child will give you confidence. Even if you decide to do school at home, you may find you like some of the ideas or techniques that other methods have. This gives you something to do while you are doing the next important step.

4) De-schooling (no really).

De-schooling isn't just about the child decompressing from what was likely a different and traumatic experience (just because it is common doesn't make it any less traumatic). De-schooling primarily about the parents adjusting. It is about reconnecting with your child. It is about educating your self in what learning looks like (how did it look before school?) as well as letting go of that anxiety, pressure and "should". You know, "your child should be____". Should be holding a pen, should be not shy, should be able to do___. De-schooling is like cult de-programming. One morning you sort of wake up and realise that you don't want you kid to be X, in fact you could never be Y either. So you take what you have, your beautiful child and value them. Not when they can be something else, but right now. You can figure out everything else from there.

5) Join your local home education groups

It's not just having other families that can support you, and that you can support, it knowing you are not alone. They will be cliques and internal groups. It won't be perfect. Just knowing you can, even if you don't want to is really useful. They can organise trips and events and organise another avenue for you to kid to play with other kids.

6) Play more.

I don't mean just let your kids play (especially outside) I mean you. Play is powerful, educational and good for your body mind and soul. Don't just sit on the bench, at least not all the time. Get your face painted. Swing on the swings. Get your face out of your phone. Go on adventures, you can start small. Sing more songs, no matter how badly. Play dress up, drink imaginary tea. Turn the sofa into a battle ship. Build pillow forts.

Home education is far too important to take seriously.

“When you grow up and have children of your own, do please remember something important: A stodgy parent is not fun at all! What a child wants - and DESERVES - is a parent who is SPARKY!” -Roald Dahl