If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I’m often on about the need for education to develop creative skills (read this blog and you’ll see why it’s important)
And it’s come back to mind again as I’m reading Grayson Perry’s book ‘Playing to the Gallery’. He is of course talking about art – but what he asks about art is exactly true of education; how do we tell if something’s good or not? Is it in financial terms – it’s potential to earn or have monitory value? Do we judge by mass popular opinion, or whether it works for us or not? Does tradition have a part to play in our assessment? Or do we judge by aesthetic qualities – whether we like it – which is of course tied up in all these things?
It struck me that those questions about artwork, equally apply to education.
When you home educate, out of the system of expected outcomes and assessment, you really have to consider answers to those questions. But whether you home educate or not – you should still be asking them.
Consider the financial aspect for a start. Business politics are now having a huge influence on schools and consequently education. Funding was always an issue. But in blinding us with budgets a valuable fact is being masked. The fact that you don’t have to throw money at learning to make it good – it’s the quality of the people involved that’s important and the time they have to inspire individuals. Home educators on very tight budgets are providing an alternative learning experience which leads to intelligent, social and qualified young people.
Our popular acceptance of schooling as the only means to education serves the political economy by looking after kids whilst both parents work – this is what many parents want. Whether it is an education that serves the children well is another matter!
Mass popular opinion also governs what goes on in schools, but being popular isn’t a sign that it is good, as Grayson says of art. We have been conditioned to think that the education children receive in school is going to be a good one because that’s the popular opinion and that’s the only one most of us know. But the politics of it has influenced the quality through demanding constant measurement and measurement has been interpreted as constant testing, which is neglecting true education in the broader sense.
There is also the matter of whether the kids like it or not. Do they have to like it? Certainly do – that’s if you want them to reach their potential, rather than just be child-minded. Deterioration in a child’s achievement, because of their unhappiness in school, has driven many a family to home educate where they can provide a better learning climate, where the child is comfortable and enjoys their learning, that doesn’t cost enormous amounts and can take any form you want it to take to make it good.
So how do we judge whether our home education is good or not?
To answer that you have to ask what education is for.
We had many a discussion about this over all our days of home educating and discovered that the answer lies more in the broader view.
The broader reason we all educate, both schools and home schoolers, is not necessarily for qualification as most traditionalists see it. But so that the children can take their place, independently, in the society in which we live. So they can contribute to it in their own way, be a productive, pleasant and caring member of the human race who is considerate and thoughtful and ever learning and developing their wider understanding of themselves, others and the wider world.
They may use qualifications to do that. They may not. But the archaic, dull and pressurised testing criteria schools use certainly does not have to play a part in it.
The approach you use as a home educator will be determined by your circumstances, your own beliefs, your child and their needs and the interactions you make. But be assured that the system’s way is just one way to educate and one that’s not doing many children a lot of good. There’s a myriad of ways to learn – some you might not consider learning at all, like having a conversation for example, but which are equally valuable. You don’t have to play by the system’s rules just because of mass popularity and you get more Likes on Facebook!
As Grayson says of art; we’ve all come to it influenced by the system which got us there in the first place. Same with education; we’ve all come to accept the education system because it leads us to do so.
Doesn’t mean we have to play to it, though, to achieve educational success for our children.