Monday, 29 August 2016

What I Think About School

Yes, I'm really gonna go there :-)

This morning I was preparing to write a post about what a wonderful summer we've had (and we have, by the way :-) ) and I will get round to writing this but in the meantime it struck me that the reason we have had such a brilliant summer this year is that the kids have been SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much happier and more relaxed.  We haven't needed to 'transist' from term time to holidays, it's been much more fluid and organic as one day simply rolled in to the next and we continued as we do.  
The kids have not needed to de-junk, de-stress and weren't exhausted before we begun. I am not utterly burnt out and sick of the sight of everyone and all the playground politics and wanting to get the hell away from everyone and everything!
As a result - I have said YES to pretty much Everything this summer - when I would normally have said No, only agreeing to a select, well spaced out few things that I felt we could emotionally and physically manage. Ring-fencing and guarding the remainder of our precious 'family time' with committed ferocity.
But this year I haven't had to.  We were all up for meeting with friends, getting out and about, having play dates, spending all day with other people (this has rarely happened for us in the past) and having consecutive plans day after day (again, not something we have ever been able to consider before as our Autism House and delayed processing have meant we simply could never pack our schedule in such a way before as DS & DD both needed time to de-junk and process in between activities and social interactions).

So, realising this has put me in a reflective mood.  

I am, a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge fan of Home Education.  I am not an unschooler, but I don't judge those who are.  The very beauty of Home Education is the FREEDOM and CHOICE you have. You don't have to agree with your contemporaries and That's OK!!  What an amazing and wonderful freedom that is to have which, I'm sorry, but you just don't have in school.  And you DO have in life, so what better way to prepare your children for that?

I've always tried to be tactful about my choice, to the point of being apologetic or hiding behind DS's special needs as a Reason for our making this choice.   It's a factor, most certainly, but I think we would have ended up on the road regardless.  Because, really, deep down in my soul, I HATE SCHOOL.

Now a few things I should quantify before I proceed are thus:-

I trained to be a Primary School Teacher.  Well, I went to university to train to be a primary school teacher, as it had been my lifelong dream and ambition.  I lasted a term!  Why?  Not the children (whom I adored and was committed to) but the politics.  The politics, politics, politics.   It was blatantly apparent, from the start, that mainstream (Government dictated) primary school these days is 80% politics, 10% grazed knees, 5% PTA fundraising & 5% academics.  And I think that's being generous.  School has become all about conformity, control and political agendas and not about learning, knowledge, independence and opportunity. 

So, I switched to an academic degree, as I knew I could never work in that environment.

Secondly, I was happy at school.  I was clingy as a young child but by and large I have happy memories of school - particularly primary school.  I have fond memories of my teachers and the days I spent there.  Similarly with secondary school, so many teachers inspired and influenced me and I still have many strong adult friendships dating back to my school days.  So my decision is not based on my own experience of school, which was not negative.

It is also not based solely on the school my kids went to - which was dreadful!  But not unique. They were particularly awful, in so very many ways, but not that different in others from many other schools in the area these days.  Times have changed, and not for the better.

For example, let me share with you some of the things my children 'learnt' at primary school........
(DD went to school from Reception to the end of Yr 2,  DS from Reception to the end of Yr 1)

New York is the capital of America (from the classroom teacher!)

Fairies DO NOT exist (from a Teaching Assistant in Reception!)  (I hadn't realised it was your job to decide my child's personality at the age of 5!)

The synopsis on the back of book is called "The Blurb" (I kid you not, Classroom teacher "I will now read you the blurb!")

It is acceptable to spend lesson time reading out leaflets from Holiday Clubs & Theatre club - and even to have ENTIRE ASSEMBLIES of Marketing from these companies, so the school can get a little kick-back

Your child must learn NONSENSE words to pass a phonics test, even though this confuses them and hinders their reading progress

You cannot move on once you have learnt your Number Bonds to 10 - no matter how bored or frustrated you become, you are NOT allowed to write out your times tables to 12, or do other sums, or even read a book from the reading corner, you must sit at your desk and either do nothing or continue writing the same number bonds (for 3 WEEKS of Maths lessons!!!)

Your Homework will not be marked - in fact no-one gives a sh*t about it, it has NO VALUE and ZERO PURPOSE the government has just decided you must be set it, every night and weekend, after 6 1/2 hours a day already in a controlled environment.  Under no circumstances must you be allowed free time, actual play or to think

You will spend hours upon hours on topics such as Nursery Stories (which include such mind-numbingly dumbed down tasks as writing an apology letter from Goldilocks to the Three Bears - y'know, just in case you didn't 'get' the moral of the story...), Pirates, The Seaside and Mini Beasts (they're called Insects for flora's sake! Insects & possibly arachnids!) These will have NO VALUE in your life and will probably be entirely composed of stuff you already know (unless you have lived in a box until you went to school...)

Your school trips will be cr*p as no-one can take groups of school children anywhere age appropriate, interesting and educational any more - because the behaviour is simply not at an acceptable and manageable standard, and the Risk Assessment is too prohibitive.   You might go to a farm, or make a pizza at Frankie & Bennys (and you'll have waited ALL YEAR for that!)

These are just a few of the 'Highlights' - I could go in indefinitely! But these are just a few examples, off the top of my head, that helped us along the road to our decision to Home Educate.  I realise this is not everyone's experience but it was mine.  It was ours.  And I think I am fed of apologising for or defending our decision to Home Educate. 

For us, my children get a better standard of education at home.  Simple fact.  
They both read at appropriate levels.  DS would be in a lower stream for reading at school but within age appropriate range, which is HUGE considering he has ASD, ADHD, Dyspraxia & probable Dyslexia (none of which were recognised at school by the way.....they just gave him glasses, which the opticians have now told us he doesn't need!).  DD reads at almost adult level - she has read all the Roald Dahls, David Walliams, CS Lewis, Roman Mysteries, Horrible Histories and so on (she's 8).
They both know their times tables to 12 and their maths is age appropriate or higher. And yes, they carry the 1!!!
They do science, music, forest school, museum visits, gymnastics, swimming, history, geography, art, languages and religious studies.   
And their education continues all year round, it doesn't start and stop with the seasons.  This summer DS has come on enormously with his reading and we are working through a series of science books, they've done Scratch programming independently, completed the Summer Reading challenge at the library, worked on French, German and Spanish (DD), done independent research and projects on Great Britain for their Geography Club meeting and written weekly to 2 summer penpals each :-)
They are also happy, healthy, confident and well socialised (and yes, they choose their own friends and play with them independently, away from me).   

I was asked the other day if I have a Time Table ready for September.  It made me laugh out loud, literally.  I'm also frequently asked how we "fit it all in".  Home Education is SO misunderstood.  We don't replicate school (because we HATE school lol ;-) ).  Think of us more as a university and the parents are the tutor.  The children are active in their own education, and we are their guide.  The learning never stops - everything is an opportunity.  They will get out what they put in, and they learn that Oh So Valuable lesson early! And if I needed any more proof positive that it works (I don't, but hey :-) )  then this summer has been IT for me.  Because we haven't had the backlash, the fighting, the BOREDOM.  These kids have Life Skills, they are Self Reliant, they can Self Regulate - in short they can Find Things To Do because they are interested in Life and their LOVE of Learning has not been cut short by enforced regimentation and legislation. Oh, and neither of them have Tablets! Trust me, it's a beautiful thing xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

1 comment:

  1. I love love love your honesty about both home ed and schools. (OK yes we hate schools too!) I concur regarding the reading. J was told he basically couldn't read picture books at school and for four years now at home his reading list has been somewhat akin to your DD's.
    He has even begun reading the Odyssey and taking his time digesting the meaning! 😉 xx