Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Anglo Saxons had it sorted

One day I shall stay here. With the Anglo Saxons at West Stow. This is such a brilliant place to visit, you all should go. They'll show you how to live.

I bet with them, life is straightforward. The kids can learn how to dye wool, weave cloth, put up a house, kill a chicken, and cook dinner. It would be an efficient and suitable education for the seventh century.

But maybe we're already living not that different. I tell myself we're in the twenty-first century vein of that tradition, apart from the chicken slaughter.

The reality is, for our primary aged kids, home education has daily been a very practical, community-based, outdoors experience. We haven't really done worksheets and sat around smiling over text books like you see made up for you in the Sunday supplements about home-school.

With us, and with hundreds of other kids around Britain, our kids learn by doing. They direct the day, make things, emerge covered in mud and grass, and experience their stories, histories, and sciences first hand. Personally, I hope by that route they'll lead creative, adventuresome lives and have creative, adventuresome minds.

But it's surprising how many people think we're doing this wrong. Deeply wrong. They still have this idea that to be suitable and efficient, learning must be conducted remotely, in a classroom. All kids should be wrapped up in a uniform everyday, and their learning must be conscious. If it is painful, that tells you it's doing you good.

Well folks, we might have sympathies for the Anglo Saxons, but you're living the legacy from the Victorian factory mentality.

The Victorians rounded up kids and locked them in classrooms by the hundreds. Maybe it was suitable for 1870, but it's not suitable for now. You've been told it is only because politicians have grasped the opportunity for control. Tell me it ain't so, when we can see uniforms for kids aged 4, homework disciplines from age 5, exams from age 7, institutional pressures on parents, and demands on teachers to get kids to perform to a grade in order to protect the school income. It all makes for a closed-in system which throws out kids who hopefully will, in their employable lives, shut up, sit down, and do as they're told.

Well, this isn't Grit's anti-school stuff. It's Grit's anti how schools have been grown over the last few years stuff.

If you have a creative, open-minded school, well done. There are many more still under the thumb of Victoriana. Where everyone knows it's unthinkable at age 5 to dump the timetables, scrap the uniform, kick out the primary exams, remove the homework, tear up the tick box forms, get the parents in, and take the kids to the woods twice a week with a storyteller.

Well, this is stuff home educators already know. Really, I'm saying it so I don't have to say what life can be like when one member of your extended family network believes in the virtues of the Victorian model of child-rearing. They are not impressed by your Anglo Saxon approach to getting your hands dirty.

They strongly believe in the clean and seen-not heard approach. The one that presumes children are unsightly, messy, and must be regulated and contained. The one that expects them to behave like mini-adults. The one that understands how adults must control them. Adults must wear starched collars, dispense swift justice, not reason but direct, and never, ever, share the interests, curiosities, or passions of children. These, by their association, are childish, and must be avoided.

Then life can be made difficult when one member of the household departs in a royal Victorian huff to sleep elsewhere, because they simply cannot put up with your life, staring them in the face. In case you were in any doubt as to the cause of the huff, they deposit a hand-written note to explain how childish you are and how unforgivably messy are your disrespectful, rude and unsightly children.

I think that is all I can say, except show you how vegetable oil is maintained in particularly fastidious households by Victoria. Wrapped round with kitchen roll, then stored in a leak-proof bag. Understand, my Anglo Saxon warrior girls, that if you do not do this, one horrible drop might spill, and spoil the whole cupboard.


lisbonlioness said...

Ain't nuffink like taking the kids to the woods... I am horrified at how tight their schedules are, particularly in Britain. If I had any offspring, I wouldn't want to see my teensy- tiny 5 year old in a uniform- what's that gonna teach them? Shut up and fit in, otherwise you'll stick out like a sore thumb- what a negative metaphor in itself!
I started school at 7 yo (Germany) and I remember stuff like painting, knitting, gardening, cooking and whatnot. Uniforms my arse! I certainly see why they might have their uses, but altogether I WOULD want my kids to stick out. And speak their minds, rather than dull down and function.I don't expect any more respect from children than what I give them. And with all respect I can muster for whoever wrapped that oil bottle... you're way over the top there, stranger! ;)

kelly said...

I'm assuming it's not Dig who is in a huff...bit late to be anti HE now for him isn't it?

I was informed recently that my children are "too wild". There crime was taking off their shoes and paddling in a stream (OK so the 2 year old actually stripped naked and caught a tadpole in his butt cheeks but the observer didn't know that.)

Faced with the choice of a worksheet or woods, I'll opt for naked paddling any time.

ladybirdcook said...

I'm always glad to see that someone is keeping the forgotten parts of life under control. Can you imagine the anarchy if the oil tried to take over?

ladybirdcook said...

@kelly - catching tadpoles in your butt is a skill that many of us haven't mastered. Hats off to that toddler, I am in awe!

Grit said...

thank you for your comments people! we are off again, hunting those nightingales, hoping to get woodland religion at 4am.

lucy.web said...

I love the way you do your home ed.

Yes, my children are, apparently, too wild and virtually unbearable to live with for long too. I'm so glad. ;)

Grit said...

hi lucy.web! are we raising independent-minded, opinionated kids who question how things are?! how brilliant is our achievement!