Sunday, 21 March 2010

What story should I tell?

Today we're at Fishbourne Roman Palace in Sussex.

This is the story. While digging a trench for a water pipe in 1960, the workmen turned up some little tiles. They led to the discovery of a sequence of mosaic floors, and the unearthing of the largest Roman palace in Britain.

Archaeologists tell us that the floors span the age of Roman presence, showing early monochrome geometric designs to later, complex colour designs. One theory is that the floors show the time flow of labour and skills - from early specialised Roman mosaicists coming into Britain, then training up the local work force, and ending with a demonstration of the accomplished skills of the Romano Britons.

But I'm sure you don't come here for that story. You can get that elsewhere.

I bet you just come here to see if I end up backwards in a ditch, swinging punches with the security staff, or whether I smuggle the kids over the barbed wire fence to avoid the £20 entrance fee.

Yes, but they're not my story today either. It's when the day is done and we are driving home. In the quiet, warm hum of the car I make the mistake of thinking.

What was today about? Was it indulging my passions for the past and communicating this to the children in the way that I know best? Like saying, Leg up Shark! If I can lever you up like last time, I save a tenner.

Was it a story right now growing in the dreams of Shark, Squirrel and Tiger? The story where the dolphin comes alive? Or Cupid shoots an arrow and pierces the heart of a unicorn? Or maybe the one where the family falls into a time hole, transplants to Roman times, and must solve mysteries before the time hole tips us back, and hopefully here.

Those are the stories I don't know yet. They might live, silently, in the minds of my daughters, and one day, blow out of their mouths and seep from their fingertips; poets, artists and storytellers.

But maybe today was a day that sounds like a good, solid education. I'm reading aloud a story about the rise and fall of Rome, narrating matters of monarchy, republic and empire; of Caesars and wars; lions and conquerors. Don't worry. It's not too text heavy. And there are pictures.

But perhaps none of these stories count. These are difficult times if you home educate. People in power don't like it, because they can't control the story. Some folks wonder if we should be allowed to tell our own stories at all.

Right now, there may be someone in the local authority who thinks my stories are lacking, because stories that can be properly assessed must be told in lines on a page, with a box to tick at the end.

He may have a point. People in power are sure that home educators can't be trusted to tell the complete story. We would miss things out. Someone needs to ask questions, lead us to the conclusion, and see the worksheet. A story can be assessed from the worksheet, you can be sure. The roundness of the letters a, b, c, as expressed in the handwriting.

And because my children are home educated and therefore unknown and hidden, an inspector must have sight of Squirrel, and Shark, and Tiger, and check them for bruising.

Finally, the story must be repeated back to us on paper in a language, not mine, and narrated in targets we have missed and the curriculum areas we might like to review. Someone will be back next year to make sure we take their advice, address our failings, and comply. After all, Article 29 says that education must conform to standards laid down by the state.

Maybe it's best to let the state tell you the story. Then it can be assessable, quantifiable, controllable. Only this story, the one someone else tells you, someone in power, CRB checked and vetted, only they can provide you with any assurance that an education was done here today.

So I'd better be careful. I won't mention the unicorns. That's babyish, and my children should be past that developmental age. And I'd better keep quiet about the republic. Children aged ten do not talk about the difference of monarchy, republic and empire. Maybe age 16. Maybe not at all. Not my class of children, anyway. Leave that to the ruling class.

Clearly we're treading on dangerous ground. Someone will say, we don't want talk like that in this country. It's not the story we want to tell. Shh! Don't speak it. Be fearful of the consequence.

Then here's my story.

I showed my daughters the world. We felt the wind on our faces, trod in the footsteps of our history, and we each owned our time.


sharon said...

I think all children need to be taught the basic tools of education - numbers and letters - and then be given the opportunity and encouragement to explore where their thoughts take them. Seems quite simple to me but then I'm not a politician with an empire to build.

Michelle said...

I love all your posts but particularly love this one. xx

HelenHaricot said...

lovely post! we love fishbourne too

kellyi said...

I like it.

The Wind Blown bit I understand the most.

MadameSmokinGun said...

I love Fishbourne - weirdly I actually went there on a school trip myself and managed to soak it up and have been wittering on about it ever since (some years).

Is it really £20 to get in? Must get my top blaggers on the job - get a cheap rate deal for a gang of us. That way we often get lovely 'worksheet' things handed to us on our way in to things. Very useful for paper aeroplane competitions. Or the mums take them home for scrapbooks. Looks good stuff like that. Makes you feel all 'opportunity-providing' etc.

Obviously the kids not remotely interested. They just want to look at stuff and enjoy themselves with their friends - pah! Or ask the people who work there stupid questions like 'How did they do that?' Bloody kids......

Grit said...

hi people, and thank you for your comments.

aahhh the scrapbooks. stuffed FULL of collections from museums and galleries spread over several countries.