How do you "unschool" a school teacher?
Here we are, we've made it to the end of our first week as home educators. I know that we are in our 'honeymoon period' and that, at some point the novelty might wear off, but this week has been amazing! And it's been interesting for me to really see just how much my children want to learn. My eldest son got an Xbox for Christmas, I thought I'd be wrestling him off it every day... he hasn't been on it all week. I haven't stopped him, he has just been busy learning. He says he will play on it at the weekend.
The first thing I did when I thought about home schooling was devise a cunning plan, a way to ensure that we could maximise learning opportunities throughout the entire year. Of course I did, I'm a teacher!
How would we shoehorn shape, space and measure into our chaotic life? Well, we can do cooking and building. And purposeful writing could occur if my son had his own blog. And what about science, and art, and history and geography and music and….Aughhhhh! Suddenly, the reasons why I am not a mainstream teacher became crystal clear. It’s all too much.
Being at home gives us the opportunity for a much more organic way of teaching and learning. As a teacher I have, of course, constructed my own curriculum and guidelines to follow! I can't help it. I'm hopeful that if we cover all of these areas throughout the year, an education of the 'whole child' will occur. Time will tell.
It’s not too difficult to unschool me, as I have never really fitted the state school system as a pupil or as a teacher. There were many times, even during my teacher training (which was excellent by the way), where I would pull faces that made my tutors giggle. For example, in an English seminar one day our tutor mentioned that children are learning phonics when they are so young that their ears are not yet fully developed enough to hear all of the sounds. (See my screwed up, questioning face!) Why? Why do that? Why not let young children enjoy stories and language without the need to dissect it? Why not wait for them to be fully ready?
When I consider my own relationship with the school system and the national curriculum further, I realise that I’m already “unschooled” to a degree. I didn’t enjoy much of my time in school, as a very shy and anxious child I found the whole experience overwhelming and I have been mentally scarred for the rest of my life by some of the actions of my teachers.
When I was 7, my class teacher ripped up my homework, which I was very proud of, in my face and threw it in the bin because he said I hadn’t written my name on it… I had.
In Secondary school, I was moved from a large comprehensive school in Hertfordshire to an independent school in Kent and my English teacher refused to have me in his top set English class, as I had come from a comprehensive school. He also told me that I would never do well and I would never pass my GCSE’s in English Language or Literature. Well, Sir, I passed both… without even reading the books. I would swear here, but that would be unkind and it's not nice to be unkind.
As a student teacher I never really understood what I was expected to say when my tutors would ask me, “what do you think this child needs to learn next?” Because in my mind I was screaming, “How do I know what they will learn next? It depends what they are interested in! It depends how much of their other learning I’m expected to ignore, and it depends on how well I teach whatever is coming next.” So as you can see, even learning about learning was a struggle at times.
In my career I have always been lucky in that my employers have allowed me to teach, but mainly free of curriculum limitations. I've been allowed to be creative and intuitive and this, I hope, has enabled me to be a better teacher than I would be in a classroom. I have also been able to teach children and their families together, which has been brilliant on so many levels.
When working for a multi-agency team in my early 20's I was really privileged to be able to attend some lectures at The University of Human Givens, in London. This is an eye opening, phenomenal place, that has influenced me greatly throughout my life so far. The basis for all of their work in the field of psychotherapy, is that we are all living beings, we are all humans and any therapy and learning that takes place must begin from this point. A simple idea, but one that I think has certainly been forgotten in the over complicated world of education. This is the basis for my curriculum and this is how I will be working. It’s also the basis for all of my group sessions.
So I have concluded from my ramblings today, that I’m not completely unschooled, but I’m certainly not schooled! I hope I am a happy medium. We have some exciting plans for this year including a 'dig for victory' project in our vegetable plot. Apparently we are building an Anderson shelter and all sorts. War time books have already arrived!
In science there seems to be a lot of fascination with fire and things that explode in some way! I will leave you with this short video clip of a popcorn maker that my husband and son made yesterday. It's great when you can eat your learning isn't it!