Monday, 25 January 2010

Target Setting

One of the things that Graham Badman wants to see in Home Education is target-setting. As the parent-educator, I should, he believes, be aiming each year towards certain measurable goals and I should be able to prove that my children have reached them. The problem is that I have no idea what my children will learn today, let alone over the next year. The beauty of the freedom that is Home Ed is that I can let the children explore and lead wherever they would like. I am often asked if I follow a curriculum and sometimes I answer, too flippantly, that I make it up as I go along. This, of course, merely confirms to some that the education of my children should not be left in the hands of one so disorganized and unplanned. But the truth it is that I couldn't possibly plan it, and when I try to, I find that unhelpful pressures which undermine both learning and relationship are introduced.
Take this morning. Monday morning, experience has taught me, is the best time for maths. A crisp, clear and purposeful start to the week. I have tried various approaches with maths, but what has worked well for the last two years is a simple workbook covering all the topics which would be studied in the relevant year at school. If it's easy, great, twenty minutes and we're done for the week. If it's a harder, we spend a bit of time figuring it out together. I'm happy that we've had sight of everything they would do in school. They are happy that we don't spend too much time on maths. Once the book is done, ususally around March, that's it for the year. This year I even managed to buy books from the same series for all three of the children so we could stay on the same 'lesson' and keep step.
This morning, middle son was looking at shapes and the last question asked him to draw all 8 different nets for a cube. A tall order! I found a web-page with a whole bunch of nets, not all of which would work. Click on the right ones, they coloured in, click on the wrong, a pop-up explained why. I left him happily predicting and clicking until he had found all 8. I also found a site with nets not only for cubes, but for the other platonic solids. I printed these onto some stiff paper and gave them to him, thinking how much this kinesthetic boy would enjoy some construction. However, this reminded him of his card model Globe Theatre, which he started in the Christmas holidays, and he fetched that and built for a while. Elder son was delighted with the nets and spent the rest of the the morning cutting and sticking and is most pleased with the results. (While all this was going on, daughter designed a village complete with church and house for the vicar. The church, of course, had a table for biscuits and a trampoline in the garden! Such an insight into her priorities!)
How could I have planned such an activity? Had I looked ahead I might have seen the question on cubes, perhaps found the web-page, maybe even pre-printed the nets. But I could not have predicted the mood, the interest. Had I prepared resources I would have had more invested in my children using them and I would have put pressure on them to do what I had planned. This creates resisitance and resentment and crushes learning. Better to let it flow, to trust and to make it up as I go along, no matter how flippant it may appear!

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