Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Trojan Horse method of home educating

They are digging up the High Street again.

'They' are little men in fluorescent yellow jackets and bright orange diggers with trigger-happy traffic lights and a power-hungry need to control the main entrance into the City. If ds1 was 4years old he would be wetting himself with the excitement of it all (and I would be standing there impatiently trying to persuade him to come home). Instead it just made me late for work...on my first evening back this term.

[We once had an appalling video 'Diggers and Dumpers', set to really dreadful music. It lasted about 30 minutes. But it was played at least 4 times a day. I think it may have contributed to my maternal mental state and my dislike of diggers.]

Today I stapled the kids to the table and we did some work. Actually, no, only kidding. What I did was very gently guide them towards some maths books (ignoring the groans) and then I fed them cake and then read some stuff about Ancient Greece while they coloured in pictures of Ancient Greek things and then I encouraged them to make a Greecian pot out of clay(only ds1 took up my offer). So, as you can see, I am only very gently imposing my will upon my offspring. And the cake does soften the whole process, a bit like a Trojan horse being let in through the walls of Troy.

But I am still very pro autonomous learning. I am a big fan. But we- I - swing from totally autonomous, to semi-autonomous (never as far as totally coerced/imposed) and back again. I think, perhaps, there is a place for all systems in moderation, though deep down I would love to relax long enough to go totally with the flow. And to be fair, it's only when 'the flow' is 8 hours playing in the Wii that I feel some gentle guidance coming on. I do tell my kids, most days, that they are very very lucky compared with the kids at school. Secretly I'm hoping that one day they'll show me a sign of gratitude (fat chance!).

The introduction of more guided activities has come about because I've realised that ds2 is wanting something a bit more than to be left to his own devices all day. Of course 'child left to own devices' isn't actually what autonomous education is about, but it's a very easy trap to slip into, especially when mother is in the mood to lock herself in the bathroom and eat a family-sized bar of Dairy Milk while growling like a rotweiler at small child who has suddenly decided they need a wee 'No you can't come in! Go pee in the garden! I AM BUSY!'

And the imposition of some sort of structured activity has also come about because of ds1. There is a rising panic in me that realises he is now almost of Secondary School age. Why that should make any difference I don't know, but it does. To me Secondary School Children are big scary children who can write essays and spell and do complicated maths and actually know their times tables (though I do wonder if that myth I have in my head is actually true). When you have a child who still writes many of his letters and numbers back to front and puts capitals in the middle of words because he can't remember how the lowercase letter goes...well, I just have to chew that panic 20 times, swill it around and do my best to swallow it, with a large gulp of hope.

But if ds1 hadn't been home educated...oh I dread to think how school would have been for him. Knowing someone who is currently going through the SEN route for her 8yr old who can't read (and therefore can't access ANYTHING in the school system), I suspect we may have been in a similar position had we 'done school'. So I am thankful for my decision. I need to tell myself that I have a wonderful,confident, happy, knowledgeable and articulate 11 year old, who just needs to work a bit on his spelling {g}.


Carolyn said...

I SO know where you are coming from on this one!!!! Autonomy is the name of the game here, until I have 'one of those days' and then the boys are subjected to me droning on about maths books and spelling. Lol but usually we just make bread and cakes, walk the dog, collect the eggs and chop wood!!!!

Lynn said...

I enjoyed reading that! I too have a wobble when I see the difficulties Emily has with her writing.I wish I had kept some of the work she was producing after 4 years in the system for comparrison though.I KNOW that would set my mind to rest,because although she is still having the same problems you mention your son has it is light years away from the work she produced from school(and the stress that caused her).I have to remind myself she has done it all herself with no "work" here at home at all.

Then I notice the other areas she has made leaps in and I settle a little.

BIG school would be on the cards here in sept(scary, she grew so quickly)

Carol said...

And I thought it was only me!!!!

Funnily enough, my lot seem to want more structured stuff at the moment but we seem to slip in and out of that..........usually as a result of MY lack of energy!

Eldest daughter is taking a couple of IGCSE's - and deadly dull they are too........just alot of box ticking if you ask me.........but she's doing them just so she can get onto the art and design course she wants to do next year at college. Mind you it is amazing how after 4 years of not doing essay writing, story writing or anything much formal, she is able to do it all - and to a high standard, despite her dyslexia. She has "progressed" without having to do all the schooly stuff in between. So I try not to worry about the younger ones.

To be honest, I've heard others tell stories like ours and thought "well, yeah, maybe your kids, but my kids wouldn't be able to do that!" But in the case of my daughter, it is happening . Once she knew what she wanted to do - her choice, not ours - she's just got on with it. I'm convinced her time out of school has made her :-)

So keep the faith..........your ds1 has alot going for him...and they'll learn to spell (at least well enough for the spellchecker to recognise the words) in the fullness of time :-D

Sam said...

Another one here with the wobbles. Good to know I'm not alone, and also to read that there's still hope! :-)

Big mamma frog said...

Looks like I just need to hang in there! I do stres about where we're going to be in a few years time when the thought of exams and career routes rears it's ugly head. The thing is, sometimes you don't believe any of it it going to happen until it's YOUR child that's doing it. After all I didn't believe children could teach themselves to read without any adult input until ds2 did exactly that at age 6. We'll see. But it is reassuring to find others in the same situation.