As a parent of two lovely and very bright boys aged 4 and 5 (or, as they like to say, nearly 5 and very nearly 6) I feel the pain of all parents who don’t think the schooling is capable of adapting to all possible levels of children’s capabilities within the defined age/year structure that children are subjected to.
My 5 year old (year 1) has a reading age of a year 3 child, and is doing sums (numeracy) of year 2 and sometimes year 3. Yet his teacher has him doing number-bonds to 10 … something he could do 2 years ago. He’s been stuck here for a year already, not because he’s not developing, but because the school doesn’t think he can do it. He brings a new book home to read every other day from school and has read it within 20 minutes of getting home, he can answer quite difficult questions on the subject, characters, locations, emotions, etc. of the story. He writes lots too. Loves it.
It’s not that we’ve been schooling and stretching him at home … he just loves his books and numbers and puzzles and Lego and play and anything he doesn’t know. He wants to learn about everything! Same goes for his brother … if there’s a book he hasn’t read, he wants to try.
But the school can’t cope. Is the answer home schooling? What about private schools, where the classes are supposed to be smaller, therefore each child has a more personal and engaged relationship with the teacher? It’s not something I’ve thought about before, but if the school can’t offer either of them what they need, when they need it (no, he isn’t allowed to read that Red Level book because he’s in year 1, not year 3 … really?). More effort, it seems, is given to children with lower abilities whilst higher achieving children are left to their own devices … and what should they be doing, aged 4 and 5, without direction? Sit still, don’t talk, and leave your friends alone, they’re working. Right, like that’s gonna work!
As you know, I’m no slouch when it comes to thinking or trying different things. I’m no expert either. But I am a caring, thoughtful, and reflective parent who can see both his kids getting bored at school: they’re not pushed, they’re not used to finding things that can’t do, they’re not stretched. They are becoming the turned off children that Stephen Heppell talks about. The school is ignoring the passion and creativity they were born with, and the thirst to learn that Sir Ken Robinson says schools are killing. Worse than this is that, if they keep coming home frustrated and bored, they will stop liking it, start playing up in school, and become one of the trouble-makers … not because they can’t do the work, but because they could do it years ago and it’s, well, beneath them.
I’ve just read this article on Wired: The Techies Who Are Hacking Education by Homeschooling Their Kids. Go read it, then come back.
“The Internet has already overturned the way we connect with friends, meet potential paramours, buy and sell products, produce and consume media, and manufacture and deliver goods. Every one of those processes has become more intimate, more personal, and more meaningful. Maybe education can work the same way.“
Ought I to seriously think about the school (which is a good one, we moved to the area three years ago because the school was, and is good) and find an alternative schooling for them? Is taking them out of mainstream schooling the answer where we can be sure they’ll get more real-world and appropriate learning? is this only looking at the academic input of their lives, and will it effect their social development skills? There is so much to think of which, when you think about it, you don’t even consider when it’s just “taking the boys to school”.
“Problems arise, the thinking goes, when kids are pushed into an educational model that treats everyone the same—gives them the same lessons and homework, sets the same expectations, and covers the same subjects. The solution, then, is to come up with exercises and activities that will help each kid flesh out the themes and subjects to which they are naturally drawn.”
“Of course, there are plenty of private schools, charters, or gifted programs pursuing some version of what’s called student-directed learning. But most unschoolers told me that even these schools were still too focused on traditional standards of achievement. Unless every family homeschools their children—a prospect that even homeschooling advocates say is untenable—it will remain an individualized solution to a social need.”
I hadn’t heard of or thought of home-school groups before, and perhaps they are not common in the UK, but it’s worth looking in to, right?