Friday, 12 October 2012

'How do you teach it all?'

Of course I cannot answer in the street!

Not even in the time I am standing in the Co-op queue waiting for Doreen. Have this instead. Make yourself a cup of tea.

1. Announce to Tinkertop, I am your teacher.
Yes! This course of action is best pursued if you are slightly unhinged. You need only engage a supersonic energy drive, construct a timetable, demand homework, introduce a uniform and replicate school-at-home for this one to work perfectly. Ignore Tinkertop's pathetic pleading. Chain her by one leg to the desk if necessary. While you are forging ahead, preparing, teaching, marking, assessing, planning, resourcing, you will also need a servant/dogsbody/cook/housekeeper to take on all your other life responsibilities.

Personally, not an approach that can work chez Grit. Apart from lack of a willing servant and the combined force of three kids who help each other slip the chains, the sight of a timetable blows up my head.

2. Click BUY on 458 internet curriculums.
Common solution to late-night home ed panic. The very arrival of a curriculum through the post - guaranteed to lead Tinkertop through all stages in Maths, English and Build-your-own-fridge - consoles the home educator as effectively as a cuddly blankie, a bottle of gin, or a face full of chocolate. Even when you actually open the parcel to the promised land of structured learning, then decide to stash it in the cupboard because it's too difficult, it continues to work magic. You can push off and do what you want, safe in the knowledge that one day Tinkertop will announce she wants a GCSE in Fridge building. Now you'll be in that cupboard! Ta-Dah!

Not an approach that works here, although I have tried. I did succumb to a Parts-of-Grammar board game that makes no sense and no one likes. (But I keep it in the cupboard, just in case.)

3. Use people in your local community.
Perfect for primary education on the basis that everyone can teach us something! Yes, that includes Doreen with the dodgy leg working the Co-op tills. Decide on a next-to-nothing tuition budget and see how far you get. Try the toy library, scrapstore, library storytime, arts and crafts events at local heritage centres, tours of museums and galleries, community festivals, cultural events, walks and talks groups. Then try the fire station visit, police talk, tour of the gurdwara, behind-the-scenes at the supermarket, the lady who fits the glasses at the opticians, the bloke who runs the canal enthusiast club and the local bundle of eccentrics who will be delighted to show a crowd of home ed kids the skills needed for clog dancing and chinchilla balancing.

A strategy that has worked well round here for years!

4. Ingratiate yourself with the insanely busy woman in the home ed group who organises stuff. 
Butter her up, say how marvellous it is that she organises workshops for Maths/Physics/Verb conjugation and how much Tinkertop loves them, even when Tinkertop defiantly sits sullenly with her arms crossed and a face like a slapped arse. Keep going. Remind Tinkertop (while holding her pocket money in one hand), that this tuition is organised, relatively cheap, and you can tick verbs and socialisation in one swoop, for which all you need do is smile and never ask of the PTA woman of your nightmares, Are you on acid?

Of course I routinely try this approach. It invariably ends badly. One of the offspring refuses to have anything more to do with the infinitive, or the woman on acid puts Crispin back in a more demanding scholarly environment where people take verbs seriously.

5. Share the load. 
Coerce a bunch of co-operative parents to each offer to teach something. Whatever is their special skill. Can be an excellent approach if your chums offer PhD Chemistry, Practical Archaeology, Theatre Studies and Maths. The additional advantage is that you get to crow that the whole tribe is raising your child (sounds vaguely ethical, hippie-friendly, and somehow morally righteous).

Works for us, after a fashion. Although I have noted the approach isn't so effective if the only skill set the parent group can raise is fibbing about watching Jeremy Kyle, scoffing bourbon creams in secret, and getting the TV to work.

6. Buy the services of a private tutor.
A useful approach if you are sick of pushing water uphill on the maths. Lower the cost (and the stress) by admitting your defeat and dredging together a group of parents who are similarly prepared to give up with the simultaneous equations. Then you can share one private tutor between eight of you at a satisfactory cost.

An approach with many attractions. The hazard is, your offspring might stare at the tutor with undisguised loathing while the tutor does the same to you.

7. Join a flexischool scheme. 
The advantage is, you can use school teachers.

The disadvantage is, they are school teachers. Teacher training is geared to taking students in a class of 30 through a painfully lengthy process with tortured testing points for extra box-ticking purposes. (However, I still reserve my right to dump my offspring in a flexischool scheme at a moment's notice. Even if the offspring hate me and I end up teaching the stuff at home myself.)

8. Get the kids to teach each other. 
Ignore Tinkertop and Moonbeam. Let them get on with it. The theory is, kids teach themselves, so your job is to run about satisfying their need to learn Ancient Greek (and not, you pray, run about preventing them from roasting Tiddles over the fire they have lit on the kitchen table).

Of course I have tried this child-centred approach! It works fine. For about half an hour. After the expert in marine biology becomes a tad too competitive with the expert on horse maintenance she may pin her down to beat the crap out of her. Meanwhile, the expert on rocks is off with the fairies and is conversing with a pine cone. (You may have better success, depending on your genetic mix.)

9. Demand support from your local council.
If you have had enough of conventional school but are not convinced by home education, this is a possible approach. Get the council to pay for tuition. You might even wangle a tutor for Tinkertop at home. Of course your child might also need to possess a serious long-term illness, disability, or an ongoing school issue, while you will need a track record of single-mindedly terrorising all local authority staff to get out of them exactly what you want and it's not called home education.

Not a strategy used at Grit's. Say the same for all dealings with administrative types, wrestling with fund-holders, having ambitions to set up a free school, or interacting with any official from any local council any second more than necessary.

10. Redefine the words teaching and learning then call it an educational philosophy.
The perfect option if you are a home educator. You can define education how it suits. You don't have to teach in one way, nor in any way that a person familiar with school can recognise. You do not need to adopt the role of an authority taking control of a discipline, nor divide a subject into parts to assess. You can say I don't know, let topics segue one into another, stop to allow time to talk, pick up non-conventional areas to learn about, and find someone who can speak knowledgeably and passionately about something they love.

Works well. I would like to say all of our home ed life can continue in this blissful state, but as we begin to imagine ourselves staring down the barrel of the exam years, I am minded to say, if you are just starting out with your five-year old, don't set out with the thought that you must teach it all. Indeed, with your five-year old, don't fret and struggle to teach much at all. Just relax, enjoy it, and let learning take its course.

Touch of number 4 with number 6 for the costume workshop: private tutor and organiser with much more efficiency than me.

1 comment:

Big mamma frog said...

"...even when Tinkertop defiantly sits sullenly with her arms crossed and a face like a slapped arse.... all you need do is smile and never ask of the PTA woman of your nightmares, Are you on acid?"

Oh yes.


And yes.

It's not just me then.