Sunday, 1 February 2009

In Grit's world, you're all home educating now

Grit is not just a miserable, boozed up, washed out, rambling old bag with kids. No. She is a visionary.

Now I have not seen the Virgin Mary on a piece of toast. If I had done, I would nail it to the wall and charge entrance fees.

It is a bigger vision. Imagine this. Your local school is open all year round. It probably isn't called a school. I don't know what it's called. Don't worry about it. Education centre. That'll do. Let's argue about that later.

The Education centre can offer any group a space for meetings, activities, community events. It can offer play spaces, outdoor events, facilities. We need a room to run a course on beading. Let's apply to the Education centre, find a group leader, get the course listed, and Tiger will sign up to that. I'll come along to learn what she's learning. I bet there's a beader among you who wouldn't mind sharing your skills for a couple of hours a week over the next six weeks. And guess what? There's no test at the end of it.

And every four or six or eight weeks - don't worry about that right now, either, just regular times, OK? - I receive a list of all the courses offered at the Education centre. A bit like the adult ed courses. Arabic, Archery, Animal welfare, Biochemistry, Canoeing ... everything we can think of, and more. Some of them might be theme-based, some of them might be certificated. Of course we don't make them all vocational, certificated, reward-driven. We want to take the cross curricular course about Insects led by the local insect Prof because we think it might be fun and Squirrel seems interested in butterflies.

And these courses are open to any of us. Not just kids. And not just adults. Some adults might want to take a course in salt-dough crafts along with their kids, just for the heck of it. And some kids, like Shark, might want to take the course Introduction to Oceanography because she has a clearly defined path and doesn't see why being aged 8 should be an impediment to that.

So far I bet that works. Now anyone can sign up to any course they want at any age at the Education Centre.

Teachers? We have quite a few trained teachers who won't step foot in a regular classroom ever again. But suggest a year contract to me. I'll lead a literature course, or a history course. It'll be like an interest group. People of all ages may want to do that, who bring their ideas too. And I bet you all have a skill, a training, a life long pursuit you would be happy to talk about for hours. Fancy a change from your regular job?

But of course the local Education centre doesn't supply everything. It might not supply a three year degree course in chemistry. But it might supply all the foundation work, modules and exams - yes, those too if they fit anyone's goals - anything you might be motivated to collect for acceptance into a University to do that chemistry degree. And let's face it, there's no choice of off-the-shelf curriculums you can follow if you wish.

You see in Grit's vision, there's no division between home education and school. We all choose what we want with our kids, and it's one in which we can trust children to know what they like to learn and what they would like to do.

And of course in this vision, you choose to book up your child's time from 9 to 5, or not. And if not, then on the streets at any one time, are kids of all ages. They are not forced to be locked away in an institution all day, they can be active citizens in our society, choosing to be supported in the learning that interests them as they grow and change, seeing learning as a lifelong pursuit which they organise and control for themselves. No one is forced to recite times tables. No one is punished for not learning a list of irregular verbs. No one, aged four and like Tiger, is frightened of going to the school toilet, or admitting they want to play with sand.

OK. I know it's only a vision. Don't push me on details. Like staffing, contracts, teacher supply and demand, drop out rates, student take up, certification, organisation, timetabling. I like my vision. It's a bringing together of the facilities the state can provide with the huge fund of knowledge, interest, commitment and abilities that ordinary people bring.

So my answer to the fourth question of the government's review of home ed is yes.

4. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

I should like support to mean support. And not assessment, intrusion, bullying, attempts to patronise or control. I want, not just for home educators, but for all children, an end to the relentless, unimaginative life imposed on them where they are bullied from age five, four, three, to dress in uniform, take tests, sit still, do as they told, repeat this, repeat that, don't do that because it's not in the exam.

I want support for all our freedom of choice. I want for everyone of us access to a local Education centre for the courses we want to take, with our children, for our children alone, for ourselves. I want access to a meeting space, to public exams, opportunity to use equipment, resources. I want to engage with skilled, interested and specialist teachers and I want to meet experts in their area, whether that is woodwork or butterfly spotting. I want a place to go for advice, for information on where to look for unusual courses, to longer term study, to careers and vocations.

One day, I might see a little part of my utopia come true. I can hope.

But for now, I shall go and make some toast.


Samurai Beetle said...

I think your idea is brilliant and I'd want my kids to go to this school.

The Finely Tuned Woman said...

I would have liked to have gone to a school like yours. It would have gotten me over my intense dislike of going to school. To this day I can't walk into a school building without feeling that trauma.

Jax said...

I think the only way it will happen is if we do it for ourselves. But I think there are more and more of us wanting to do it, so maybe we will see some of these changes over the next few decades. Maybe.

Sam said...

I'm in! :-D
I can do a "making things from rubbish" class, lol.

*sigh* I live in eternal hope.

Kitty said...

I think your vision is a wonderful vision. And that schools *should* largely be like that.

Oh and you know my No.2? He LIKES reciting times tables. He thinks it's fun!! Yeah, I know he's weird.


sharon said...

Pure genius Grit. I'd go to your school to both teach and learn, and possibly hubby and the boys would too! I'm sure my elder son would be very happy to share the 'wrong' gender-specific skills that either I taught him or he taught himself like sewing, beading, dress-making etc

PS I still recite my times tables when I'm working out math-type things (my accounts etc) and get cross when my younger son who has an 'A' pass in his TEE maths (roughly equivalent to A level standard) can't because he refused to learn them. And, in case you think he got his maths skills from me, I didn't even pass maths at O level despite two attempts.

Mud in the City said...

What a wonderful vision for education!

I have to say I'd add another element to it though - for all children to have parents as loving, interested, enthused and motivated as you are.

Dani said...

Yes! That is what I want too.

Grit said...

Thank you for your comments people! let's start a proper education centre!

Mieke said...

Ooo, I like that a lot, Grit! Seven years ago, in Holland, we looked at setting up a similar centre. We were inspired by Sudbury Valley School in the US. John Gatto wrote about them, too, here.
Under the Dutch system it proved difficult to do it within the existing law on education, but I know a few private schools have been set up, based on the SVS principle.
For me personally it wasn't autonomous enough and too much school, so we moved to the UK to be able to home educate in an autonomous way.
It would be wonderful it such an educational centre could be realized, we'd definitely make use of it!

Lanna said...

You're not alone in your thinking-- Apologies if you've already seen it.

Government institutions set up to, god forbid, serve the people--I hope we live to see the day. Thank you for posting your most excellent thoughts.