Last night I watched the final part of Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School for Boys and his attempts to get primary boys to achieve better in school with their writing.
I know it’s television and am always a bit sceptical about any fly-on-the-wall documentary but the outcome of the programme was so uplifting.
Basically Gareth was trying to show what home educators have known for years that in order to develop academically children need as many non-academic activities as academic ones, physical, practical and fun activities included.
Home educated children (and incidentally so many home educated kids are boys!) have been shown to be in advance of their school peers and many people’s assumption is that it is because home educators do lots of academic practice without the distractions of a classroom. But in reality the opposite is mostly true.
Most home educators do less. What they do instead is pay as more attention to developing all aspects of their children’s abilities, rather than simply academic ones, by providing broad, diverse and wide ranging experiences that stimulates the children’s bodies as well as their minds, that get them thinking for themselves, observing, analysing, making hypotheses and drawing conclusions, challenging themselves mentally and physically. This includes lots of practical, physical and experiential activities, including play, that are not always spoon fed to them via the computer, worksheets or multiple choice exercise, but are hands on real living experiences. Basically the kids are out and about in the world, with a wide range and high ratio of adults, a mixed age range of children, with a minimum of sitting doing academic exercises. But because these experiences develop their body and their mind then their intelligence benefits. Children need physical activity and they need to be outdoors. Actually – we all do! But in our panic – and the schools’ panic – to forever climb these wretched league tables we have almost abandoned all but the academic side of our children’s education.
Education is about the whole of a child not just the ability to read and write. Neglecting to cater for that is what’s making so many of our school children fall behind.