Friday, 31 August 2012
Home education; individual or group
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of home education for me was the spontaneity; the ability to drop everything and focus on something that the child actually had an interest in at that moment, rather than expecting her to study what I felt she should be doing at that moment. In 2006, for example, she was working hard at calculus, when the news came that a whale had become stranded in the Thames in central London. We dropped everything and raced off to see this. Spur of the moment acts like that are seldom possible if you are responsible for a class of thirty children! Not all home educators feel that way, of course. Some are happier working in groups and planning things weeks or months in advance. This was brought home to me by a couple of comments made on the previous post here.
Here is a genuine question for readers. You and your eight-year old home educated child are visiting a zoo and a group of schoolchildren are being given the chance to stroke an armadillo. Your child is fascinated by this and wistful that she cannot take part. Do you (a.), slip into the area and mingle with the school group, thus enabling your kid to do something educational that she really wants to do right this minute? Or would you, (b.), ’have arranged a group HE visit with them‘ at some unspecified future date, assuming that it proved possible and that your child was still excited about armadillos a month or two down the line? Most of the parents I have known, would have chosen (a.), but somebody commenting here suggested (b.). I found this very odd.
I have an idea that some parents who take their children from school do not feel easy about assuming sole responsibility for their children’s education. Far better to continue fixing things up in groups, just like school. Fancy only thinking of your own kid’s education; surely education is a group activity! The same person who would not have dreamed of nipping in and joining a school group, because it might have been against the rules, said, ‘You're happy to have taken advantage of opportunities for yourself but couldn't care less about all those who might follow you into that situation?’ Well, I wouldn’t have put it quite that way, but certainly my primary aim was to provide my child with an education that suited her. Why on earth should I have assumed that anybody else’s child would happen to be mad keen on armadillos at that moment and be desperately anxious to stroke a real one? This honestly does not make sense to me.
I suppose that many parents do have a superstitious reverence for rules and regulations. I had an idea that this was more common with those who sent their children to school than it was with home educators, but perhaps I am wrong. The current fuss about the National School Film Week is a case in point. If we were still home educating I would guarantee to get us into a showing of any of the films which are on in October. I can think of half a dozen methods offhand. All of them would involved individual action and breaking rules, which would apparently not suit some home educators. If the aim of parents is to make a fuss and draw attention to themselves, then they can of course continue to flood the comments at the Film Education Facebook page with angry remarks about justice. If their aim is to get their kids in to see the films though, they could try either of the following ideas.
First, you could turn up at the showing and simply ask one of the teachers if you could join their group. Since many of those people will have booked up ten seats and only have five kids, you could explain about the £50 fine that they were likely to incur and make out that you would be doing them a favour to boost their numbers. Or you could just trust to luck and walk through into the cinema and bluff it. The cinema staff are unlikely to care who watches the film! A more reliable way would be to create a hotmail account in the name of a fictitious school and try to book up ten seats in that way. Ring up the National School Film Week and just act as though you are the secretary of this school. They are unlikely to have a master list of all the schools in the United Kingdom and even if they do, just say that you are a new academy school and that is why there is no record of you yet. Book ten seats and away you go.
I am frankly amazed at the behaviour of those parents who are currently cutting up rough about the National School Film Week. Not just because they are queering the pitch for those parents like me who would simply have got round these new rules and attended the films anyway, but because it suggests to me that they are humourless types who don’t really live in the real world. Of course organisations set up with schools in mind are not going to care overmuch about the interests of eccentric parents whose children don’t go to school. So what? If your aim is actually educational, that is to say if you want your child to see one of these films, then there is no problem; just work your way round the rules as best you can. It is a stupid rule, why not break it? If on the other hand you prefer to waste time that you could be spending on your child’s education by engaging in fruitless dialogues with idiots, well then you go right ahead and do that. I have an idea that many genuine home educators will be carrying on as I have suggested above and simply making the necessary arrangements for their children’s education. Why go out of the way to make life difficult for yourself and others?