Messages from readers are such a joy to receive – most of them anyway!
I had another recently from a parent telling me how useful my posts were in helping them keep a balanced view of their child’s education.
The interesting thing was that it came from a parent with a child in school; the posts about home education helped keep schooling in perspective too.
One of my best friends was delighted to hear this – she’s been telling me the same thing for years; how we helped her see education a bit differently and consequently support her child in school. So her words have been endorsed – she had the pleasure of saying ‘I told you so’ when I rang her today!
She had a dyslexic child who had the classic labels; ‘lazy’ ‘thick’ daubed onto him in class. But she had me in her other ear saying that they were wrong. Hers was a bright child who was just not having his learning needs met by a system which disregards individuals (and very often dyslexics), clumps everybody together within a narrow framework of measurement then, when the obvious happens and some don’t achieve, say it’s all the kids’ fault.
It’s not, but she, like most parents, assumed all teachers and schools knew what they were about.
Sadly, not always, they also have agendas other than the needs of an individual child. I’ve worked in them – that’s how I know – and that’s one of the things I told her.
I also know that there’s no magic training that makes a person a good teacher, no magic technique for teaching that makes teachers recognise children’s needs more intuitively than many parents, and most teachers have no training in dealing with children with special needs anyway.
If you’ve got a child who fits happily within the very narrow criteria schools use for measuring success, you’re very lucky.
Most children don’t actually fit, but that doesn’t mean they ‘fail’ either; instead they are failed by this system.
Anyway, thanks to her faith in her child, her intuition (and my words, she says) she enabled him to succeed against awful odds, go onto Uni and he’s now started his first job. So I asked her what were some of the things she did as a result of our conversations and her observation of our home education that supported them through the many challenges they faced within the school system.
These are some of the points she mentioned, which we’d talked about when we were homeschooling:
- Stay on the side of the child (particularly when the child feels the school is not), listen to them, believe in them, rather than unquestioningly believing what the school wants you to believe.
- Remain focussed on the needs of your child. Not on the needs of the institution. Basically we should remember that the school is there to serve the education of your child – your child is not there to serve the school! Challenge them!
- Understand that children take different amounts of time to learn something, gain skills, to develop and mature. This is quite normal and they are not abnormal if they don’t fit into a prescribed and generalised timeframe. Just because a child hasn’t learnt something when the curriculum says they should, does not mean they’ll never learn it, or that they’re failures, so don’t panic or worry or pressurise. Try and keep it lightweight and be patient.
- Listen to your guts and your intuition and your child. If you sense something is wrong then it probably is.
- Don’t always assume that the school and the teachers are right, are professional, or are to be unwaveringly respected. We are trained in obedience to these institutions (banks, schools, health care centres spring to mind). That’s how celebs got away with abuse – no one could believe that these icons weren’t right or good. Basically we know and respect when someone’s doing a good job – and when they’re not. All professionals have to earn respect by their continued integrity and respectful behaviour. Question them if it’s not.
Home educators are told that they have to by law provide an education suitable to a child’s age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs they may have. I often wonder just how many schools really do that!