Monday, October 15, 2007

Day Two in the Home Ed House...

As it seems that you can only view the blog if you are registered as an Associate, I will continue to copy my Teachers TV blog posts here.

I wrote, and rewrote this one a lot! Sometimes it seemed too light. Other versions sounded as if I was trying to justify what we do (thinking any teacher would read it and think "oh yeah, so where was the learning then?!"), and the penultimate version sounded like I was spoiling for a fight!

This is a mixture of all of those!

I must just follow on from the comment I made yesterday about the old Witness programme shown on Teachers TV last week, "We Don't Go to School". As I said, it did show just one view of home ed, and interestingly, I dug out this quote from one of the ladies who appeared in the programme:

"It was a very risky thing to do and I agree wholeheartedly with the main criticisms of the show: it was far too wealthy-based (we counted 7 agas!) it seemed to suggest, allied to the last criticism, that you needed at least a degree to HE or the money to employ someone who has got one and equal weight was given to the older style of HE, hiring a tutor, as was given to the modern movement...It does not show home education as a new viable option for us all. But that would be immensely contentious and mainstream telly would not engage on those levels...It did dispel the socialisation myth and the exams myth to some extent..." By the "modern movement", the writer is referring to the more flexible, child led style of learning that many home educators chose today.

Put simply, and using the current buzz phrase, the learning is "personalised".

Let me give you examples based on my family.

My eldest is a very bright lad, already starting on GCSE geography at 12, and absorbs information like a sponge. He'll think nothing of watching documentaries on a history channel back to back for 3 or 4 hours over the course of a day. He retains the information easily and, more than that, manages to join it up with knowledge that he already has, which leads to some wonderful questions afterwards!

He also enjoys learning sites such as the BBC Secondary site, in which you are shown information and then have the chance to test yourself/revise afterwards.

However, he has dysgraphia, so some 90% of his work does not involve him writing: writing is a separate "subject" for him.

My 9 year old has Aspergers, ADHD, and a language disorder (Semantic/Pragmatic Disorder). With a high IQ but a very short attention span, learning is done in quick bursts, and always, ALWAYS has to be connected to something he is interested in. Tie something in to one of his obsessions (trains, cooking, business) and he is able to put more effort into keeping his attention. One of the things that works well for him is to use some of the many online learning, interactive systems available. Sites such as or for example.

Conversely to his older brother, he loves sites that just test you; finding getting something wrong the way that he remembers the right answer (being a perfectionist, any wrong answer sends him back to the beginning of the session to start again as only a perfect score is good enough for him!). He just LOVES the american voice, cheesy songs, and garish cartoon images of Learning Upgrade - the very thing that sends his older brother yelling from the room!

My 5 year old also has Aspergers. At the moment he is very keen to do anything with numbers, being very interested in addition and its outcomes, but shows no desire to learn to read (though he knows and can recognise the letters and their sounds). Its very hard not to push, but, as we follow this child-led way of doing things, I am sitting back and waiting till he is ready. Again, because I know he has Aspergers, I know that he will only truly learn when HE wants to; to force him otherwise is simply cruel.

Also, today, computers play a big part in our learning as - for different reasons - the computers serve to provide content in a way that is more accessible to them all.

Seymour Papert in Mindstorms, writes

"I believe that the computer presence will enable us to so modify the learning environment outside the classroom that much, if not all, the knowledge schools presently try to teach with such pain and expense and such limited success will be learned, as the child learns to walk, painlessly, successfully, and without organised instruction. "

Its not just schools that have/will change. Things have certainly changed since early home ed with the advent of the internet. We now live in an information rich environment which quite literally puts the world at the fingertips of our children.
This makes home ed a much more viable possibility - even for those who want exams - with online distance learning with tutor support, virtual classrooms and all the interactive (free!) learning sites that home educators today know and love.
To balance all this indoor work, we have weekly outdoor activities which alternate between indoor soft play, and outdoor park based play. At the parks, sometime the kids just use the equipment there, or we may take along the small sports equipment items that we have, courtesy of the Tesco and Sainsburys voucher schemes.

A school has to, by law, provide an education that is "broad and balanced". This obviously has to be the case, when any class could contain any number of children of different backgrounds (and I'm not just talking about ethnicity), different abilities, and different interests. It is a broad brush that is needed to cover that.

But as a home educator, I have the freedom to be specific, to be relevant, to be focused. My children will end up broad minded and balanced individuals, despite having had a specific and personalised education. I think it is that growing awareness, that it does not harm to be particular, that is going to shape the curriculum of the future. As Sarah Stephens of the GTC said earlier this year, commenting on the Gilbert Review, "'The strength of personalised learning as a practice lies in bringing together a wide range of complementary strategies into one package". I believe home education does just that.

I certainly know that on any one day, I end up using a "wide range" of stategies to deal with my four lads! I don't envy teachers juggling with 30!



Lisa G said...

My 10 yo could certainly identify with your 9yo, thanks for the tip on the learning upgrade site, American accents, cartoons... sounds like heaven for a girl who talks with an American accent and is obsessed with cartoons!
The Teachers Tv post sounds good btw, I wish I could write so well!

Wobblymoo said...

Brilliant Ann, well done