Tag Archive | life skills

Using opportunities for meaningful learning

We’re house hunting at the moment. This is an enormous learning curve – not curve actually, a mountain that we are climbing! A new experience for us, having inherited the house we’re in so didn’t search for it.

It puts me in mind of when we did the transition to this house, following a bereavement of course, and what a huge, if shocking, life learning opportunity it all was at the time for the kids. And indeed a good illustration of what home education can fundamentally be; an education steeped in the rich opportunities life throws at us that are such valuable learning experiences, far more educative than sitting in a school doing meaningless academics like frontal adverbials or improper fractions.

Using opportunities for real life learning

Our story; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, is an illustration of how this life learning happens and how we used even this experience of loss of a loved one, also uppermost in the news recently with the death of Prince Phillip, as a basis for developing understanding and meaning, giving learning a purpose. (If you scroll down the ‘My Books’ page you’ll find more on the book)

Life learning, that is using life experiences to develop various skills, gave the children a real reason for learning about the things they did; the historical, scientific, environmental, creative and mathematical concepts associated with everything; even death is scientific. And concepts like these run through everything we do if you just notice and explore them. Endless academic practise is not necessary for all learning, isn’t the only approach, and certainly doesn’t motivate children to learn as it has no visible purpose for them.

Even skills which have been made seemingly complex by the school style, objective led, test burdened approach, like reading for example, can be woven organically through the things kids naturally come into contact with.

For, if you think about it, why would kids not want to learn to read when they see us doing it, see us texting, messaging, using written communication through various keyboards. (Recent post on reading here)

In fact a home schooling friend said to me once that she believed her son, who hated any kind of formal English exercises, had learnt to read and spell through Gaming, by communicating with other gamers via messaging them, and the desire to be able to read the things he encountered on the computer. He’s successfully doing a degree in higher maths now so it obviously worked and I know for a fact that the family did very little formal academics at the time. Their learning was based around life experiences and building the skills they needed from what they encountered along the way.

Years ago, in Teacher-Training colleges, it used to be called ‘project based’ learning. You choose a topic to study with the kids and incorporated the basic skills they were required to accomplish at the time within those fun projects.

This approach has mostly disappeared now within the intense drilling for testing that occurs throughout the basic subjects, other projects like the arts or environment, just treated as add-ons. And the real purpose of basic life skills buried under the silly useless analysis and naming of various academic structures, like the parts of a sentence, just so they can be ticked off.

Who cares what the parts of sentence are called? Knowing that doesn’t make you a good communicator. And it’s communication which makes you human – life skills make you human, whether that’s understanding  what’s appropriate to say, how to be, or even bereavement. The current Royal loss presents a huge opportunity for understanding the life cycle, the politics, beliefs and traditions, the history associated with it, etc. etc.

Whatever happens to you at the time is an opportunity to learn, whether that’s knowing how to care, grieve, and empathise with others, read and decipher your messages, or use your technology well enough to move house!

All life presents opportunities for real learning, learning for the purpose of living a life, not learning just for ticks.

Educating the elite and doing sod all for the rest…

I’ve been in contact with a few home educating friends lately who have teens doing such entrepreneurial projects. Projects that give them purpose, that inspire and motivate them, with possibilities they could take forward in the future. Like little business. Writing and networking on the Web. As well as pulling in a few qualifications alongside.

And I can’t help thinking that these kids will make a success of their lives because they have so many diverse ideas and valuable skills gained from being in a home educating environment. Because while you’re at home you’re living life and living life gives you life skills and that’s what they’ll need for their future in today’s economic climate.

Schools aren’t big on ideas and life skills – not if they can’t be tested. Schools have become just too outdated in the way they educate; they’re still educating like they did when schooling began.

When schooling began, and information was scarce and academic skills were confined to an elite few, school was a place where you could transform your life with knowledge and ideas.

Now it seems a place that conforms your life into a no-ideas mediocrity. Except for the privileged few of course.

In this new age of no jobs I’m not sure how this is going to help.

Kids are going to have to rise above mediocrity. They’re going to have to have ideas in order to generate an income. They are going to have to think beyond the standardised boxes schools try to keep them in through grade obsession. Think flexibly and be adaptable, not stay in one tight and narrow framework like schools con them to do.

What we need to do is stop mass producing kids towards one outcome – mostly political i.e. for grades and league tables. And start thinking about how best to educate them to be able to live their lives in thoughtful, purposeful and independent ways, whatever form, that will enable them to support themselves, maybe create businesses, find incomes through a diversity of routes rather than a single track. Because the single track to single job prospect looks a bit bleak.

Politicians don’t seem to get the fact that they are just an elite few with elite lives. Yet they’re still making educational policies which make them even more elite whilst doing sod all for the rest.

The MAJORITY of the population leads lives that are very, very different from elite, which are full of challenges and mountainous obstacles and for some enormous poverty and non-employment.

What’s the good of more grades in that scenario?

Schools need to stop selling grades like they were a magic bullet. And start educating for life skills and ideas.

We once needed grades to prove we had knowledge and get us a job. Now kids need ideas to help them overcome the biggest challenge they’ll ever have to face; possibly no job!

What’s the best way to educate for that?