Thursday, 28 February 2013

Taking control

To newcomers, I usually explain home ed like this, with my arms spread wide, as if to show the spectrum is wider than I can stretch my waving hands:

'At one end there are the school-at-homers.' (I waggle the fingers of my left hand, helpfully.) 'They might follow school subjects with the national curriculum, stick with timetables, and may want to slot a child back into school.'

'At the other end' (I waggle my fingers on my right hand, taking a deep breath and trying to choose my words carefully, so I don't blow anyone's mind to kingdom come), 'are those for whom the child is a natural learner. The child takes control of the learning, leads the family, and might pay no heed to any constraints like time or subject boundaries.' (I don't add, 'Or the opinion of the neighbours who think that 3am is not a good start time for a woodworking activity involving an electric heating circuit and their cat').

Then I say (rolling my arms about a bit), 'Most home educators? We're in the middle. Parents try a bit of this and a bit of that. Structure, organised workshop stuff, worksheets, maybe timetables, sometimes hire a tutor. But the kids are also free to do as they want while we parents run about behind the scenes and try to help on the way to their goals.'

(Usually then I stop, waiting to hear a response before launching into an explanation of the TCS brigade, the radical unschoolers, autonomous crowd and those for whom the words home education and home schooling might end in you coming away with a bloodied nose and blacked eye, so watch it.)

But I now add the line: 'What I've found, is that home ed changes. Every year. It can go in directions that you can't always predict'. Finishing by bringing my palms together and sliding my arms side to side, in the form of a giant animated prayer.

I could now say, every week. This week, the gritlets are locked firmly in a structure. I can't tell where it's come from. Whether it's by their desire, my connivance, or our mutual unspoken and pragmatic realisation that to slot in all the ridiculously diverse activities we've come to demand from Monday to Sunday there's no other option.

But I have mixed feelings as I stare at today: English 10-12; Maths 2-4. My nature is not the school at homer. I resent the hours laid out like corpses dissected by my efficient pencil. I want to leap out of bed with sudden purpose and intention to Let's hunt otters and fly planes.

Yet even I can see, a divided week helps Squirrel organise herself around outings, deadlines, projects and jobs she otherwise cannot do when the days are thrown jumbled into the air. Tiger too, has chafed to get that timetable. Even though, when she possesses it, she has a big squeal and rips it up. Then Shark. She merely observes the days, sees my divisions, then quietly gets out a pencil and ruler, and sets about to timetable her own.

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