Friday, 16 March 2012

In the march

I had a bit of a flubber there and thought I'd missed most of March. It's a month I used to ignore and just let pass by without comment and with relative indifference. These years it's a month I feel fond of. A liminal month, not quite winter and not yet summer. Perhaps it's spring? Perhaps not. March, in short, is me personified. I'm here, and every year I'm different. Some years I'm raring to go and full of the joys of, and other years I want the duvet pulled firmly over my aching head.

This March, this year, I keep seeing potential everywhere. I see potential spring. I note the graceful beauty of snowdrops competing with the divinity of daffodils. I watch as the barren brown branches of winter burst into brilliant blossom. I thrill to the colours enhanced by the return of the sun. I feel like a spring lamb, leapy and joyous, and all things are possible it seems.

I think the difference this year is that I 'get' home education. It's the very breath and pulse of freedom. It's the sheer exultation of learning. It's the bounce and leap of doing your own things and watching your own things getting better and better and more and more.

A friend quizzed me last night on how my child will get into university. "But has she done A levels?"

"She's done a certificate that equals three A levels."

On her face there was blank incomprehension. How could one vault over A levels? How could one do a University course to prove one is ready to - er - do a University course? Wouldn't a person who didn't fit the pattern, who wasn't made to measure, be unacceptable?

No. A university will offer a place because the people there have reason to believe that the student is capable of studying a course and is enthusiastic about that course.

If any university turns down a student on grounds other than those criteria... Well, would a bright-minded, independent thinker actually want to waste time there? Would you?

We have to go to school. No, we don't.

We have to 'do' exams. No, we don't.

We have to follow our dreams, respect our natures and our talents. Yes, we do.

And, if all else fails, there's the University of Life from which we - sooner or later - will graduate.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

A teacher's learned wisdom

A teacher writing a letter to the Writer's Forum magazine has discovered a truth that all home educators know or find out early in their home education journeys.

"Putting ownership and choice into our teaching of writing may just be the trick to creating our next generation of imaginative and happy writers."

Given the difficult ordeal of trying to make children write and read, teacher Fran Slimon decided to consult her class about what they would like to write. Their response was warm and accepting as they rushed into the classroom to find out which of their preferred topics had been selected for their attention.

It's surprising how few teachers realise the simple fact that you cannot force anyone to learn anything. You cannot make them love writing or reading. I believe that we are all programmed to learn to write and read but that we retard these natural assets by thinking that adults must and should direct the functions.

We think that children will not learn to love reading and writing and they must be made to read and write. How can you learn something which is forced on you? How can the natural course of events unfold unless you are left to uncover the treasures that reading and writing bestow in your life? How will reactance (a psychological response to removing freedom of action for an individual) not surface if you are pushing and shoving a child to do what that child is not ready for or doesn't wish to do?

Well done Ms Slimon. You have seen what is so clear. People do best what they choose to do, and, in the great majority of cases, people choose wisely.