Educational blackmail

It’s all getting very intense. Covid, Lockdown, work, education. It’s such a jumble of worries for people.

Working at home, which may have had it’s attraction at one point, is pretty intense too as many are discovering, without it’s lighter distractions, interchange between colleagues, and even just the briefest ‘good morning’. Not to mention the change in environment the commute brought.

This is the same for children in education. Home educating, or doing ‘school-at-home’ if that’s what you’re doing, is also intense. Something home schooling families need to adapt to, some thinking that perhaps children should be ‘getting on’ every minute of the day.

I think many parents fall into this trap, assuming that children are busy ‘working’ at their education throughout the school day. But the reality is quite different. Probably a child in a classroom is only concentrating on making a concerted effort for a few minutes within an hour’s lesson session. The rest is filled with preps, teacher talk, chat and the other distractions of a classroom. And the end productivity is far less than parents might imagine. So, to take away the intensity, it’s best to be more realistic in what you hope to achieve whilst learning at home. There is plenty of time for other things.

This doesn’t mean that children are not gainfully employed. For all the other activities children are engaged in are just as valuable to their development as formal heads-down stuff, including play.

I remember that when we backed off a bit from the push to ‘educate’ over the summer months whilst the other children were off school and left the children to their own devices two things happened.

Firstly, things hardly changed. The kids were always busy, always wanting to do things, always asking questions, curious and learning. And secondly, when we got back to practising those skills we’d consider more formal and I expected a drop in their ability, there wasn’t one at all. In fact, they had developed in many ways. (See chapter 16 in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ where I tell the story of; What About Term Times, Learn Times and Holidays?)

There is much emotional hype about kids missing out on their education, both now with the Covid restrictions and also levelled at home educating families.

The real truth is that most are not missing out in terms of learning, they’re just doing it differently and this threat is no more than emotional blackmail on the part of educational politics.

You’re unlikely to be harming the children’s education long term by them either doing their learning at home for the time being, or by opting to home school. What you will be harming however is the political statistics which of course politicians don’t like and can disrupt school league tables!

Children learn all the time, from all the things they’re doing, even from the challenging circumstances we have now. All are opportunities for discussion, enquiry, conversation and questions. All of which increase learning skills.

But we don’t have to be intense about it. Neither do we have to be intense about doing school type work in these times that are so difficult and challenging.

An intense approach to work, a demand that the kids should be working non-stop from nine till three is unrealistic. Worse than that it is damaging. Damaging to their education as intensity is more likely to put them off learning, whereas learning is potentially such an exciting and inspirational thing. (I wonder how many teens in High school think that?) And even worse, damaging to your relationship with them.

Remember, politicians want kids performing as they prescribe because it keeps their political stats on track. But this has nothing to do with real learning and education at all.

And if you’re working at home too, go easy on yourself and dilute your own intensity with a bit of fun – play with the kids from time to time!

2 thoughts on “Educational blackmail

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