Friday, 20 May 2011

If primary schools were like this...

We home educate because we're smart-arsed, up-ourselves smug bastards.

Yeah. We provide our kids with more challenging experiences of the world than any school can match. We offer the little grits more autonomy and greater creativity than institutions allow, and we dump our juniors in a wider range of contexts with a wider society of people than they're likely to encounter huddled in a corner of the school playground.

So there. I never did aim to please.

But we chose this life not only because we are smug bastards. We looked around at the educational service offered by the state and thought Nah. Then we assessed the costs of private, rolled our eyes, and said, Let's have an adventure.

The state made the choice easier for us. Look at the last few years. Governments approached primary education by steadily taking away the person and replacing it with the performance. They took control over teachers, encouraged rote learning, linked child performance to school income, and hammered parents about the importance of exams. For 7-year olds.

That didn't seem a great service. Especially for the ages 5-11, when kids want to run about getting mucky and messy, and especially when we considered the alternative we could offer: skipping off into the countryside with a pack of other home ed kids, learning about wool by grabbing hold of a sheep.

Well, that's what we do today. With the Warriner School Farm Trust in Oxfordshire.

This is a place which starts to look like Grit's vision for primary schools. In that vision, kids don't wear uniform, we choose our topics, the classes are mixed-age and small, the rooms are cosy, the parents can join in, the leader's called Bev, and the premises are open but the day's sessions don't start until 10am.

The activities today are wool watching, sheep stroking, farm walking; then dyeing, spinning, and felt making. Practical, hands-on activities led by someone who never mentions key stages or worksheets. They simply have experience of their craft, know what they're talking about, and are communicating their ideas with passion, energy, and involvement.

We parents can bring into this day's theme anything from our strange and wide assortments of knowledges: science, maths, art, chemistry, the history of Anglo-Saxon sheep farming.

Wouldn't kids be happier, their learning more enjoyable, their experience of the world more satisfying, if all primary schools could offer more of this?

If all primary schools came closer to Grit's vision - and let's imagine that next week we signed up for the day of butterfly art, led jointly by a butterfly expert and local artist - then we might never have home educated, and that's the truth.

We'd still be smart-arsed, up-ourselves smug bastards though.


Deb said...

I overheard some homeschooled kids in the grocery store the other day talking about how the current coordinator of the HS co-op wants all the kids to dress the same and tuck in their shirts whenever there is an event.


kelly said...

You've been on our doorstep....but by now you're probably in Cornwall, or Birmingham.

We're moving soon, so our days are spent at all the local places, making sure they are etched into our memories for when they aren't on our doorstep.

kelly said...

I said doorstep twice.

How very sloppy of me.

Angela said...

I would have LOVED such a school, at any age. Mine made me sit and wish myself away. And when I asked strange questions, I was told to shut up. Either you, Grit, or such a school!!

Grit said...

oh i can imagine that going down a treat here, deb. tiger refused to wear THE NAME STICKER on the basis that it was, erm, sticky. i can't imagine she'd let allow HS uniform into her life.

hey kelly, we'll probably be back. (does banbury have a local museum?) and if we are before you go, then we can meet up to say hi. i promise no blogging about it, either!

angela you are always kind, but really school would be terrible with me. i can be a proper little madam with a clipboard when i have the mind.

Apple Island Wife said...

Our kids go to a school here in the semi-rural community we live in, in Tasmania. I don't ever see them huddled in a corner of the playground, I must say. But I think there's a grain of truth in what you say about getting kids out into the countryside. I know two families who home school. And I'm not averse to taking my kids out of school if there's something good happening. This has made me wonder about contacting my home schooling friends to see if we can just tag along for the odd day, now and again. Hmm.
Food for thought. Thanks. But for the record, we're very happy with our school... (And I'm on the School Association committee to make SURE I'm happy with them..)