Sunday, 24 June 2012

Glory in the detail

As I see it, the benefit of a daily blog is that I can post the most monumental heap of trivia, yet I still feel satisfied that I am meeting that responsibility I have, of telling you about home education.

For it is exactly this. Education - life - is a routine of finding out. From all of the possibilities, options and choices, we discover what the day can be, what the learning can be, where we can go, what we can see, and how many points can you score on the dolphin tail flip game (4,560 if you are Shark).

Life and learning are now so intertwined for us in our ordinary day, threading through home, house, streets, shops, fields, woods, and the car park outside John Lewis, that I wonder if I can separate them, ever.

I don't think we're alone. The outings made by this family are much the same, sometimes tamer, as thousands of trips and visits taken by home educators on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. The books we strip from the library shelves are from the same wide range. The groups we join are of a crowd. And the experiences we have - doubt, anxiety, loud bravado, quiet confidence, miseries and joys - are much of the same patterns too. I'd even guess that for some of us, the worksheets we stare at guiltily - before deciding to bake cake and recatalogue the limestone rock collection (yes, we all have one of those too) - are each pulled down from the same online education resource banks.

I know, to some, this choice must look like a life lived haphazardly, without rigour, discipline, or accountability. But from my point of view, standing in this mountain of ordinary everyday opportunity, pursuits for any direction, it's like being in a truly educational/living experience.

Out of this detail is one day thrown something that seems such a small, unremarkable moment, that you barely observe it passing. You can never know what's significant, or where the learning will come from. But that insignificant moment can grow to a large part of a child's interest; it may form their single-minded passion; then it will inspire them, put them into new, challenging contexts, change their social identity, cause them to rework their former ideas and assumptions, bring out strengths in their character, and give them the humility and awareness to confidently declare an ambition: sounding simple and clear as a bell, it is a route you know your child must take, regardless of all. One day, I'm going to make my living selling vacuum cleaners. That's it. No matter how bizarre. You know the route they discovered is theirs.

I think these thoughts as I drive to collect Shark from her weekend of woodland adventures. The skies have blasted this house with storms, gales, and rains, so I only wonder what bedraggled heap I will find when I locate her, sodden in a layby. Yes. Her gear is soaked and wild hair sparks round her face. Across her wind-pinched cheek is a smudge of tribal earth. She waves at me, smiles, heaves her stuff in the car, and falls into the passenger seat as if discovering for the first time what a cushion can do for one's rear. Then she says camping in the wind, storm and rain is fantastic. Just, fantastic.

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