Tag Archive | testing

Rescue us from norms!

It must have taken a lot of courage for Richard Macer to make the documentary about his son’s Dyslexia. (Hoping it will become available again soon) Especially at a time of his learning life when his future seemed to hang in jeopardy upon his SATs results. (A ridiculous practice I’ve condemned before – and which some schools and teachers are beginning to boycott) The family’s feelings were hinged on it. My heart went out to them.

Richard and son

In the programme they described some of what it’s like for a dyslexic in school, how inhibiting it can be in terms of academic progress, how their son’s brain seemed to work differently to others, as did dad’s, how this could be perceived either as a set back or a potential gift.

And I was screaming at the screen; ‘it doesn’t have to be like this’! No one’s future should be the result of performance in one moment of time at 11 years of age. It’s preposterous. And preposterous that the system has been set up like this and causes so many families so much distress. particularly families of dyslexic children for whom schooling fails so miserably.

Towards the end of the programme, after tears and relief that the son did okay in his SATs, dad made a comment about his son’s ‘faulty’ brain and I was really saddened to hear that. Because dyslexic brains are not ‘faulty’. And no one seems to be saying what’s glaringly obvious to me: That they are only ‘faulty’ within the context of schooling. Take the dyslexic out of school, take away the label Special Educational Needs, and meet the child’s individual needs in alternative ways (which should be open to everyone instead of the single track approach of academic practise that schools use) and the child can learn and achieve. Those dyslexics within the home educating community are proof of that.

The trouble with the system is that it measures to norms. It proposes a pattern of normal and then tries to make each child fit. Those that don’t fit are deemed as ‘behind’ or ‘failing’ or SEN. But what the heck is normal? And heaven preserve us from fitting it, for it is often those who don’t who go on to do great things; invent things, find cures, have ideas, create solutions. In fact a wonderful piece towards the end of the programme looked at a body of research to uphold the idea that our survival as a species is dependent on those abnormalities, dependent on those who can see beyond the norms and continue to diversify. It’s diversification we need for perpetuation – not normal!

So rescue us from norms, I say, celebrate those who are different – dyslexics among them, and see the limited schooling system for what it really is – the cloning of diverse intelligences into sad souless sameness.

And all the best to father and family.

 

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The academic snobbery of the 1950s still exists!

I’m reading an old favourite to put me to sleep at night.

My retro edition

The simplest of books are needed sometimes to slow my thoughts down after a busy day. Plot led ones are no good; they either stir me up or I’m too tired to remember what’s happened. Inspirational books set my mind racing when I’m hoping for the opposite effect.

So I’m visiting a bit of Miss Read. In particular her ‘Village Dairy’, a rather romantic reflection of old fashioned rural lives.

I read ‘Village School’ years ago when I was teaching in one myself and thought it so dated. Now I love the gentleness of it and realise that some of the things the old school mistress observes about the life of the times are almost relevant today. I think some of you homeschooling readers will see what I mean!

I came across this passage where she reflects on the lives of the country children she teaches, many of whom would rather be out earning a living in the country they know, rather than being forced to do ‘book work for which they had little sympathy’:

It is not surprising that today some (children) still resent being kept at school, particularly if there’s nothing new or absorbing to learn offered them’.

Sound a bit familiar? And these days they have to stay till they’re 18!

She talks about how many of them have in depth knowledge of the world around them and, out of the classroom, are building the life skills to go with it. And she maintains that forcing language, grammar, book learning and theoretical maths is of no use to them when, as they get older, they already know what they want to do and are already building the skills with which to do it.

This was in the 1950s! I still get what she’s saying in today’s world!

Obviously no child should be denied the opportunity to explore other avenues, other areas, other skills and interests than those on their doorstep or pursued by their parents. With today’s Internet opportunities they have that chance. But it’s always limited for the more practical occupations are still devalued by educational emphasis only placed on the academic. It’s almost as if the snobbery that existed back in Miss Read’s day, about the more practical and physical occupations being for the less intelligent, still exists.

The trouble is so many kids are not suited to academics, however intelligent they are, and do not learn well through academic approaches. And what saddens me even more is that we still look down on them for it, even in our so called inclusive way of looking at the world.

We perhaps need a much more practical and life relevant approach – as many home educators use – to what youngsters learn and how they learn it, in order to provide the inclusivity that politics boasts about.

Inclusivity does not only apply to ethnicity or disability, it applies to all learning needs and should provide for all learning preferences, personal strengths and aptitudes.

And recognise the fact, without judgement, that not everyone’s needs can be catered for through academic approaches, test related curriculum content, or even being in a school setting.

I guess it would be almost impossible to completely cater for the diversity of our young people. But how much do we even try?

I fear that we are moving away from recognising the need to try by making all young people fit into a system that continues to force children to learn through doing ‘book work’ (or in today’s terms – online work), just as in the days of Miss Read!

The testing propaganda…

All through our years of home educating we never once tested the kids.

That’s not to say they didn’t encounter tests along their route. There was the odd swimming certificate! And various dance and drama exams. And the tests they set themselves in the course of their learning lives.

And did this non-tested life leave them totally useless as learners? Did this mean they didn’t progress – just because we didn’t test that they were? Did this make them unable to function in the mainstream world, or at college or Uni? Was it the case that because they weren’t tested and measured throughout their learning lives that they were ‘behind’ the standard expected of them when they entered further and higher education? And were unable to sit tests when the time came?

OF COURSE NOT!

That is just propaganda told to us by those who want to measure (usually the government – for their own political agenda and schools for climbing up league tables).

The real truth is that:

  • Testing is NOT required for kids to become educated.
  • Testing is a waste of kids’ time – they could be enjoying new experiences and learning new stuff not regurgitating the old.
  • Testing RARELY aids the learner or the learning – it’s for the sake of the adults.
  • Testing is an INACCURATE assessment of a child’s ability and knowledge anyway.

So I’m really pleased to read reports recently that many are rebelling against proposed tests for the very young in schools. Heads, teachers and according to this article even the suppliers of the test, suggesting it is verging on immoral.

Read this one in the Guardian; https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/jan/16/tests-reception-children-immoral-england-play

‘Proposed tests verging on the immoral’ click on the picture and read the article

Most home educating learners go through their lives without doing tests. Yet, like ours did, they go on to be competent, skilled, motivated adults who graduate into work or Uni or mainstream life with the skills, intelligence and attitude needed to help them progress and get where they want to go. They are proof that testing is not really needed for educational achievement or progress through life.

Kids in school are tested, grouped, graded and I would say degraded by a practice that is for the benefit of a political agenda and one-up-man-ship not for the benefit of the individual. It harms a child’s progress rather than enhances it, as politicians would argue is its purpose. It is solely for adult back-slapping, or degradation. The poor kids are used as pawns in the establishment’s game.

And the more that parents, heads, teachers and other professionals rebel against it the better for children everywhere.

Forget testing; educate for Love and Independence

We are a nation obsessed with stats. We seem to need tests results for everything. And our kids are at the mercy of this adult obsession, for test results mean nothing to the kids, even though they’re the ones suffering for them.

The crazy thing is that the most important things in life, the things that are vital to our wellbeing, success and survival cannot really be tested. Things like love, happiness, warm relationships, responsibility, family, health. And neither can educational maturity be tested. You can test how much is learned. But you cannot test competence in using it – which is the whole point, surely. So why are we putting our kids through it and damaging their mental health with the pressure in some cases?

It’s a shocking deception. For we’re telling our kids, through the hidden curriculum incessant testing promotes, that results are the only valid thing about them, about education and about life.

Read George Monbiot on the subject here

Worse than that; it makes ‘failures’ of far too many kids who could achieve in so many un-measurable ways, like through practical subjects, creative subjects, game design, environmental skills and experiences. Achievements that could be immensely valuable to society – some more valid than an A* in English, for example.

So I think we should stop all this testing and start educating for the untestable!

Educate for experience. Educate them to experience happiness and contentment. Happy and content people make up a better society than those who are frustrated and dissatisfied as many youngsters end up.

Educate young people through experiences that will help get to know themselves, what their strengths and weaknesses are, to understand what they love and why, who they love and why, thus developing all aspects of their character and allowing them to see how they can contribute and what great contributions they can make with those strengths. Un-measurable strengths.

Educate for love. That is; educate to create strong bonds in a climate of mutual respect (rather than hierarchical one-upmanship), let them learn how relationships can be nurtured by nurturing an understanding of each other, of empathy and inclusion, not failure, comparison and shame.

Educate for independence by offering independence, rather than keeping them so controlled and inhibited by dismissing what they would (and can) bring to their own learning. Instead, abandon learning for tested objectives and leave experiences open ended so that they can take away the idea that independence (and education) is open ended and their own responsibility. There is no chance to practice responsibility in a place where youngsters have no say.

Most adults are not brave enough to allow any of this. They are stuck in their desperate need to have everything qualified. That’s ‘how to get on in life’ they threaten. Funny how so many people have got on in life without (Jamie Oliver springs to mind)!

Home education is creating independent, articulate, intelligent young people who are getting on in life having bypassed the incessant testing routines of school. Some have opted – as independent decision makers – to become qualified to further their chosen route. Others choose other pathways.

But home schooling is an un-measured pathway. Yet despite that, it seems to be producing un-measurable success in these youngsters! And proving that testing is not necessarily a prerequisite of becoming educated.

So what’s this obsession with testing really for, other than satisfying adult comfort and political manipulation?

A question many do not want to face!

Kids don’t particularly needs schools to learn!

For some, it’s scary to think about their children learning without schools or ‘proper’ teachers. Especially if that’s all you’re used to.

Getting your head round that idea is a problem for most home educating families when they start out.

They learn just as well on the floor, lying down, wriggling about, having a chat...

They learn just as well on the floor, lying down, wriggling about, having a chat…

Because parents mostly believe that in order to learn kids need the following:

  • qualified teachers
  • to be taught
  • to be in classrooms, sitting still mostly
  • to be told what to do, when to do it and how
  • to follow a curriculum
  • to learn in incremental stages
  • to be tested regularly
  • to learn through academics

But those who’ve been home educating a while are discovering that other ways of learning work just as well without any of this stuff in place. Successful home educated graduates are proof.

For example they’re finding out that, contrary to the points above:

  • Qualified teachers can help children learn – granted. But equally there are plenty of other adults, parents being among them, who can also help children learn by being engaged with them, by answering their questions and encouraging more, by being interested, facilitating experiences and spending the time. Time that teachers don’t have.
  • Anyway, children also learn without teaching, through the incidental activities they do, through conversations, explorations and investigations.
  • Learning can take place anywhere. At any time, doing anything, however wriggly and unstill they are, without ever entering a classroom actually – given the right climate. And many are proving it now.
  • And they don’t always require to be told what to do, when to do it and how, if at all!
  • So therefore a curriculum isn’t always necessary. It’s just a useful tool which you can use or lose, depending on how you want to use it rather than have it use you!
  • Some learning is built on understanding that’s gone before. some learning happens in a kind of non-structured patchwork that’s being proven to be equally successful. It depends which approach suits the child and family’s needs best. Stage- or grade-led learning is not the only approach that works. Or a guarantee of successful education.
  • Testing IS NOT necessary. I repeat; testing is not necessary. It doesn’t advance the learner. It’s just another tool you can use or lose depending on your preference. (There’s a previous post which explains here)
  • And there are all sorts of non-academic ways to learn; conversation, watching films or YouTube clips, experiential, practical and firsthand, trips, trial and error, field study. The more the learning experience ignites all the senses the firmer it will be established!

It takes a while to trust in this process. You have to open your mind, your eyes, and watch and learn how your children really are learning without any of the conventional requirements you might have thought were needed.

But trust this; there are thousands of home educated young people now proving this to be true!

(If you want to know more there’s a long chapter on learning approaches in my book Learning Without School Home Education‘)

The shite surrounding Home Ed registration!

The issue of registration is back in the news again. I sense the whole of the home education community cringing in response.

Not necessarily cringing at the thought of registration – that’s not the real issue. Rather, cringing at the barrage of inevitable accusations about us failing to provide ‘adequate education, or potentially abusing our kids, or generally neglecting their progress by not giving them tests every five minutes.

In other words all the lame and totally inaccurate and ignorant excuses those in high places trot out each time as justification for trying to regain control of what is a fairly uncontrolled but nevertheless SUCCESSFUL approach to educating thousands of children in this country. Children who are turning out to be intelligent and productive members of society; the graduating home educators are proof of that.

So why do we need to control home education if it is already working? Other than for state dictatorship of course!

The ironic thing is, home education is working well exactly because it is not controlled; not controlled by idiots in councils and parliament who are ruining education in schools by their obsessive, stats-driven desire to monitor, measure and standardise and present league tables. The success of home schooling is based in its flexibility, one that’s in tune with the child’s learning needs, needs often neglected in the system.

According to this recent report  Local Authorities are calling for laws that make it compulsory for parents to register their home educated children, citing safeguarding as their main concern and suggesting that parents who don’t want authorities to know what they’re doing should be watched.

In my experience it is not that home educators particularly want to keep what they’re doing from the authority; most of the genuine parents who choose home education instead of school are open and deeply conscientious about their child’s welfare and education.

However, what they’re trying to avoid, by being shy of the authority, is the type of interference from the dictatorial approaches to education that is ALREADY RUINING IT IN SCHOOLS. That is clear from the constant flurry of articles from those in the profession like this one which says that children are treated as statistics.

And this one that suggests the child is the lowest priority.

And this one which illustrates teachers’ feelings that testing is so inappropriate we should boycott them.

Further irony surrounds the fact that the practice that’s doing the ruining is exactly the one Local Authorities want to put in place via registration: the monitoring.

But monitoring Home Ed would be a disaster, for who’s going to judge and what? And how are they qualified to judge if they have no experience of home schooling from beginning to end? And on what grounds will they judge, with what benchmarks? And how can ‘standards’ be applied to the individualistic and SUCCESSFUL range of approaches home educating families use to facilitate their children’s learning? You have to have done it to understand. It would be like trying to monitor and grade the diversity of parenting – of course that may be next!

I am totally convinced that the call for registration has LITTLE to do with the good of the children, just as the teacher in the article suggests children in school are little more than useful statistics to LAs and politicians. (No disrespect to the hundreds of caring teachers intended here – it’s just I know your hands are tied).

The call for registration is instead all to do with authorities gaining control over something that is beyond their comprehension, because most are ignorant, blinkered, institutionalised pawns, who have no first hand experience of home education, and who are subservient to the bigger establishment. An establishment that is becoming increasingly afraid of home educators because they indirectly challenge their failing policies by their very success in choosing to do without them.

The monitoring, measurement and testing of children and schools is RUINING the educational experience for many – children and teachers – that is increasingly clear. It may work for some, but not for all. Thankfully there’s the option of home education for that minority. But if we try and measure home education with the same benchmarks that’s ruining schooling, we’ll ruin that too.

No wonder home educators don’t want that.

Most home educators are intelligent people – we can make assessments for ourselves and see beyond political manoeuvres and don’t want our kids used as pawns in a political game. We care deeply for our kids – why else would we opt for such a demanding choice – has no one thought to ask that question?

Einstein is often quoted as saying that ‘if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid’, an image that marries so well with the system’s monitoring systems. 

Apart from the wider issue of the state wanting control over all we do, this is what the registration and consequential monitoring of our kids would do, as it is doing to children in schools, where many come away believing they are stupid not because they are, but because of the system’s stupidity in measuring every differing individual’s ability with a benchmark as singular as climbing a tree.

And this is exactly why many home educating families want to choose an alternative. And in most cases like to remain private about it.

Don’t worry about the SATs!

 I’m feeling for parents of school children at the moment. The complete hash up over the SATs lately must be really freaking them out.

I know most home educators don’t have much to do with tests, SATs and League Tables etc, but I remember when the girls were in school for that short time how anxiety about what was happening there was all consuming. Especially when it didn’t seem to be happening right. I gave daily thanks we’d made the decision to home school – a decision we didn’t regret for one single second – and get away from those invalid processes.

When we are young green parents though, wanting to trust that the big establishment which the schooling system has become is getting it right for our kids, it’s devastating to know that there’s a possibility – let alone proof – that it’s not!

So this is my attempt to offer you a little bit of reassurance.

Whether using school or home educating parents needn’t worry about SATs.

Not doing them is not going to impair your child’s education for life – as propaganda leads us to believe.

Most home educated children are educated to a good standard without ever knowing what SATs are, let alone being subjected to the stress of them.

SATs are just a way the government’s devised of setting a standard bench mark on children’s attainment in schools (which doesn’t work anyway). They are supposedly a way of monitoring teachers and schools and consequently making the politicians look as if they are doing something useful. They are of no use to a learner’s education whatsoever.

Many will argue that they are; desperate as people are to stick to institutional thinking. And argue that, as a result of them, provision will be improved.

But that rarely happens. And tests rarely reflect true ability anyway. What’s standard, for example? And just what are we testing – all questions that I’ve asked in other articles.

There have been some alarming reports in the press recently about what these tests are doing to our children’s mental well being. It’s probably also having the same effect on the parents and teachers! So I think there’s a case for boycotting the whole darn SATs system, let alone a one-off boycott like recently.

But if you’re one of the parents who is worried that your child’s education is going to be damaged by yet another drastic mess up of papers I shouldn’t be. It won’t. Your child’s education is the result of a whole plethora of influences and experiences over a long period of time, not the odd result.

And if you’re new to home educating I shouldn’t let the time wasting procedure of standard testing mess up the opportunity of a delightful learning day of discovery and experience – as education should be!