E+E Column: An Evolving Strategy

I’ve been reassessing the way we ‘do’ home education in our house recently. Not in the sense that I’m considering throwing the towel in and sending them to school but just in terms of thinking about how much of our approach to education is one of structure and how much is one that still heavily revolves around informal learning and play based activities. As the old adage says, there’s more than one way to skin a cat and I strongly believe that what works and is best for family isn’t the same for another. Hence why some parents choose to send their children to state school, some choose an alternative like Steiner or a private school and some choose to home educate. And then within each of these spheres, there are even more offshoots, philosophies and ways of doing it.

We go to a few different home education groups in the area regularly and as such, spend a lot of time around all sorts of home educating families, from those that buy a curriculum and follow a fairly strict school-at-home approach to those that embrace the unschooling philosophy and don’t do much or any structured learning, preferring instead to explore opportunities to discover and learn as they naturally occur. I think it’s fair to say that we fall pretty much smack bang in the middle of the spectrum. With my only school age child being just about to turn 6, I’m still quite relaxed about structured learning, taking my lead from the European countries and educational philosophies that don’t start formal learning until 7. Said countries tend to have better levels of academic achievement and general well being for children so it seems to be that they are good example of the research in practice.

Having said that, she is a smart cookie and eager to learn so I’m eager to capitalise on that and keep her engaged and challenged appropriately. She’s a fluent (and avid) reader, a keen crafter and cook and absolutely loves maths and anything that takes her outdoors. We’ve tried a curriculum for two terms, a bit of unschooling when the baby arrived and now are kind of winging it with a mixture of workbooks, project based learning, day trips, groups and educational websites. It feels like we’ve been chopping and changing a lot and I was starting to think that maybe we should just choose one method and stick with it but today I realised that that just wouldn’t work. A child’s educational journey is a constantly evolving one so it feels to me that sticking to one rigid way of doing things would just result in stagnation and frustration all round. My job is to identify what is required in the stage that we’re in and change our strategy to suit it. In the summer, we spend a lot more time outdoors so maybe it’s about packing nature discover tools and spotter books in my bag and grasping the opportunities as we find them in the woods, in rockpools and at the park. In the winter, there is plenty more time for stitting at the table, working out maths, plotting science experiments and crafting together. It was a reassuring realisation for me and one that I think can be applied to many different areas of life. It’s ok to change our approach and method of dealing with things. Situations change and people change and we need to adjust and adapt to keep up with them. And I guess that is what makes life interesting…

7.12.15

A more traditional day of home education!

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