Saturday, 22 August 2009

There is a path that leads the other way

One pro school argument I've heard is that school offers such fantastic educational opportunities, that you simply cannot match what they do.

Do I believe that? Like in an average school exam mill little Moonbeam has the opportunity to be beaten up in the playground for wearing the wrong socks, or the opportunity to be taught indifferently by a maths teacher coasting to retirement, or perhaps the opportunity for the French lesson to be taken by the maths teacher again because Miss is having a breakdown apres le hammer incident.

If the look on my face says to that pro schooler not convinced about those fantastic opportunities, I may hear about how the Year 9 group got to work with a real! live! artist!

And if I question that claim closely I find that last year in a desperate bid to crawl out of special measures the school sent in the community artists, and 5 out of 150 kids were given special permission to attend a workshop for an afternoon. Today the school still crow about it like they'd dug up Picasso and found he was alive and well and buried by accident.

Or then there's the fantastic school trip to London. Whoopee. The type of school trip where two hours in the Science museum is all you get and you spend one hour queuing. Or try me on the fantastic trip to Switzerland. The one of astronomical cost, where Bazza, Gazza and Wazzer were airlifted to a hospital for alcohol poisoning and Tinkertop came home pregnant.

Honestly, I have not yet found any activity in school that home educators cannot do better out of school.

Likewise, there are a ton of activities home educators can do that schools can't do or won't do.

In the worst case, what schools won't do includes science lessons. And don't tell me that's not true, because I've covered classes for the science teacher on sick leave after the gas taps incident. I've been told by year 10 kids that a cover teacher makes no difference, since they don't do the experiments anyway thanks to Mad Pete who cannot be allowed near rubber tubes. Either that or the four day risk assessment that must be carried out because Tinkertop might come near wood, or water, or whatever is this month's killer. So the science class watches the experiment on video and kids write up the procedure at home. Or at least the A-C candidates do.

Then again, home educators are saved from plenty of activities in school that would boggle your mind, if only you knew, and you would not want them replicated anywhere near your darling Tinkertop Moonbeam.

Seriously, there is such a range of activities home educators can choose or create for their kids outside school - and I would stick out my neck and say there is nothing we home educators cannot find - that far from me being overawed by schools as fantastic places of educational opportunity, I have to question why they exist at all. Unless it is to provide child care while parents go to work.

The only problem is, of course, is that to drag Tinkertop out of school, take on those educational responsibilities and support her while she teaches herself - to actually do this home education thing - you must effect a lifestyle change; you must compromise your cash, time and home. You must be a parent of bloody minded determination, thick skin, and fistfulls of knuckles made of steel that won't snap when you chew them down. And your place in the neighbourhood? Social status? Out the window, along with free time, a disposable income, posh friends who invite you to lunch, and all fantasies involving clickclacking about shopping centres footswathed in Jimmy Choos.

Which brings me to the nitty gritty of our home ed life - which is what this blog is about - and what the home educated Tiger and Shark have opted to do for the next few days. They will be working with an all-age group of kids and a team of actors and artists to recreate Midsummer Night's Dream on a five-day outdoor summer school. And it's only for home educated children, so the pro schoolies can go queue at the Science Museum. We'll wait until school starts again and the place falls quiet before we go to see Wallace and Gromit.

But here's the rub. Having Tiger and Shark running about in a field for five days dressed as fairies requires one big lifestyle commitment. From mamma.

And that one big commitment - not the food supply or a continuous smile of support no matter how crap everyone is - is to break her rule forever and sleep, for four nights, in a wet field in Hertfordshire without phone contact, computer, sense, or sanity, and worse, with a composting toilet, in a construction which looks shockingly like this:

Now those parents who next time try and tell me what fantastic opportunities are available to Tinkertop, while scuttling back to work and contemplating the purchase of kitten heels over lunchtime, I can see where you are really coming from, and what you are really saying. You are saying Lifestyle change? Not bloody likely.


sharon said...

Hmmmm - you might want to check those guy ropes before settling down for the night, they look a bit cockeyed to me.

So, no mod cons, hope Tiger and Shark appreciate your commitment to their education. What is Squirrel going to be doing if she isn't along for the experience? And will there be any beer/cake/chocolate for deprived Mamas?

HippyChick said...

What a great read :)

Maire said...


HelenHaricot said...

lovely blog. giggle to tipsy tent. sure a few more pegs will do the trick

The Green Stone Woman said...

Not everybody is capable or suited to do what you do. I, for one, who have been very much unsuited to do your job with my kids. They were better of in a school. That had nothing to do with selfishness, but with ability and insight and maturity.Don't judge everyone so harshly, grit.

Grit said...

hi sharon! isn't that tent fantastic? next we will be building walls from toilet roll tubes and kitchen foil. squirrel is bottling out fast and i hit myself over the head with beer bottles to render myself unconscious.

thank you hippychick, maire and helen!

hi irene! pro schoolers are welcome to come here anytime and realise why choosing school is a GOOD IDEA.

The Green Stone Woman said...

I'm not necessarily a pro-schooler. I like your method better, but then I'd like to be someone like you and be able to do it properly and not get mired down in a hopeless situation and make a mess of it.

Maire said...

To the Green Stone Woman, there are many ways and you grow on the job, I'm sure you would have been just fine.

I understand regrets though, three of my kids went all through school even though it broke my heart sending them, and the last had four years of increasing torture there, knew about home education just didn't join the dots.

We mostly do the best we can.

Rachel M. said...

I can't wait to read the results of THIS trip! Composting toilet! Camping for FOUR days! Priceless.

The only argument I might offer is the private school I went to was really great but it only went through grade 8 then I had to do 4 years in the public high school system where as you've already covered my "opportunities" were to learn Spanish the horrible grade of a D and did miserable in all Math classes because the classes were huge and the teacher was really old and never got around to any questions...

The private school was great because my mom taught there so she was always around if I needed her but I had enough independence from her and my class was never bigger then 5 kids. I realize this was a really unique education and didn't properly appreciate it till now.

Grit said...

i think you are right, maire; i do not know what is the magic ingredient in home ed, but it ain't necessarily the lessons we choose nor the places we visit, nor whether we are structured or autonomous. i reason it to myself that home ed has something to do with the parent listening, responding closely to the child, and providing a space where that small person can grow on their terms as an individual. and i trust most parents do that. i respect the fact that not all parents might choose home ed in that mix. it's not exactly the easiest, wealthiest and most comfortable road to choose!

heck, rachel, with a private school like that down the road, we probably wouldn't be home educating!

Rachel M. said...

I'm trying to think of some good things that may have come from high school.
1. I made 2 friends for life (probably could have done this in home school)
2. I enjoyed Choir for four years but I bet you could even duplicate this in home school.