Tag Archive | testing

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!

Have some fun on May 3rd won’t you!

Testing – not something home educators do much! 

Yeah – that’s right – most go through the whole of their child’s education at home without doing any school style tests. Yet those children still go on to pass exams at a later date and most of them end up where there school peers get to; qualified, intelligent, competent, some at Uni, some in work.

So it does beg the question what really is the point of all those tests in schools? They’re not for the benefit of the children that’s for sure. (I’ve often blogged about it)

The obsession with testing and measuring the children’s education throughout their school life is often a reason parents give for choosing to home educate instead. But it seems that home schooling parents are not the only ones who are sick of this regime. Parents of school kids and teachers too are all adding their support to a campaign to boycott the tests to be taken on 3rd May.

Maybe we should join in?

For I guess the group Let Our Kids Be Kids would probably welcome your support too.

Since we are all in support of a real living education I thought I’d mention it. And although many in the home education community have no time for schooling I do believe we share some of their values; to challenge government policy, deplore high stakes testing which gives schools no choice other than to teach to the test, to see a curriculum full of joy and wonder… not overwhelmingly focussed on grammar and spelling which makes lessons dry and limits curiosity, and allow children to be children again – playing, being outdoors, painting, singing, dancing, learning through fun.

Sounds fairly akin to home educating values don’t you think?

I think that’s what we all want for our kids, isn’t it? So maybe you could support their campaign, sign it, and hopefully lighten the days of some of the kids in schools who are not lucky enough to be enjoying the opportunity of home educating as our children do.

I love Michael Rosen!

 It’s because he comes right out with it. And the ‘it’ he’s been coming right out with lately is about the punctuation and grammar expected of primary school children.

Here’s a piece I shamelessly lifted from his Facebook page;

To summarise this morning’s adventures in SPaG-land: a) many teachers are teaching that ‘fronted adverbials’ are ‘adverbial phrases that come before the main verb’ as with, ‘In a great hurry, he left the house’ and these are not ‘clauses’ because they DON’T contain a verb. 2. On this morning’s mock SPaG test, my son had a sentence that contained a clause (i.e. with a verb) that came before the main verb and he was asked to choose if it was a conjunction, a relative clause, a noun phrase or a fronted adverbial. The only feasible one is ‘fronted adverbial’ BUT it contains a verb.

So now we have the possibility that we have two overlapping categories, ‘fronted adverbial’ and ‘subordinate clause’ i.e. a ‘subordinate clause’ coming before the main verb would be a ‘fronted adverbial’ along with an adverb, or an adverbial phrase. If a subordinate clause came after the main verb, it would not be ‘fronted’.

That piece of useless information, used to terrorise 10/11 year olds and their teachers is today’s bit of wisdom from Rosen. Thank you.

Poor kids! Have you ever heard such a load of English codswallop? Have you any idea at all how this is supposed to enhance a child’s experience of writing or encourage them to do it?

Neither have I. He talks about it again on his blog.

Now I know I’m not in the same league as Michael Rosen and his wonderful poetry and writings, but I think I can get my messages across fairly okay, but I have had absolutely no idea what fronted adverbials look like even if they leapt up and hit me in the face like wet fish! I have actually managed up till now without knowing. And even more amazing people read and like my stuff!

Connoisseurs of English will no doubt revel in these types of language recipes – but let’s save it for the connoisseurs, for when they’re older, and not push it on poor little kids who don’t give a fronted adverbial and would rather be out playing football, which incidentally would serve them a lot better.

Thank goodness for Michael helping to show this current idiocy in education for what it is.

And thank goodness there’s home education for those who want to opt out of it!

Does education have to be so tested?

Short answer; it doesn’t.

Longer answer; it only serves the grown-ups and their quest for climbing Stats!

Next question: is this of any value to the learners?

Answer; not really.

The problem is it’s all got out of hand.

The strategies the government enforce on schools to test, test and test again are supposed to improve the quality of education, supposed to raise standards, supposed to improve pupils’ performance by identifying areas of need, supposed to improve the level of teaching.

But the reality is that none of this happens. Test results don’t really raise standards or improve the quality of education or teaching because they do not give a clear picture.

It is human nature, in a range of circumstances, that we are testing here. Not robots. And with human nature you rarely can test for a clear result.

Results show a minimal performance on one day, in one scenario; a performance that is the result of so many influences anyway, some personal, some circumstantial, some related to others. So what are you testing?

And even if they do identify needs, which is questionable with the result of a mere test, these are not subsequently catered for sufficiently because there isn’t the resources to do so.

What we are dealing with here are people. Education is about developing people. People change daily, in response to their situation, in response to each other, physiologically, emotionally, intellectually. We can test memory – in one moment in time – and that’s about it. But what use is that in the next moment?

What testing does it stress pupils and staff, waste their time and makes them afraid. Afraid of doing wrong, losing respect, feeling shame, afraid of friends and colleagues, whatever. Fear is not a good climate in which to be learning or teaching.

Testing and constantly regulating is not conducive to productive learning. And what’s so destructive about it is that it makes parents feel that if the learning can’t be measured it isn’t valuable, which is diabolically wrong. 

As home educators it’s possible to educate successfully without ever doing any school style tests. And much of what you do will not be testable anyway but still be extremely valuable to your child’s educational development. Conversation is a good example of this. Conversations broaden minds, answers questions, expands knowledge, develops mental agility, extends language, stimulates and provokes motivation. But can you measure this? No! Does that make it less useful? No!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t review and reassess what you’re doing, how you’re children are learning, what they’re achieving, and what they might need to achieve, whether there are changes you need to make. Sometimes kids like to test themselves. Sometimes doing mock exams and practice tests is useful. Some like to set themselves challenges and targets to achieve.

But we need to be clear about what we’re doing it for and whether we need to do them at all.

Testing is the bane of education, it is not an enhancer of it. We’d serve our children better if we stopped testing and started trusting as I say in this blog here.

As a home educator, you’ll rarely need it. So if that’s worrying you, I should stop, and get on with the real business of providing many and varied stimulating experiences instead.

There’s no single ‘right’ way to educate

Having home educated our children people often ask what advice I would give to those just starting out. So with the surge in interest I thought I’d repost some ideas for those who are new to it.

One of the most important pieces of advice is to get your head round the idea in the title!

Schooling has made us think that the opposite is the case – that we have to educate the school way otherwise the children won’t learn anything. In reality there are as many ways to approach learning as there are to approach parenting.

The biggest advantage of home educating is that you can tailor your approach to suit your child and your circumstances. But to do that it might be that you have to change the way you think about education and learning.

Following are some things to consider:

  • There’s no single right way to learn. A good way to approach your home educating life is to always keep your child’s needs – and the way they learn best, rather than how others are learning – at the forefront of your thinking.
  • Don’t get tied up in trying to stick to one approach, e.g. either ‘autonomous’ or ‘structured’ for the sake of it, just use what works when it works.
  • Your child grows and changes constantly. This means you’ll need to change your approach as they do so. Review and adapt, meet new people and try out their ideas. A flexible approach is far, far better than a rigid one.
  • Discard the idea, which schooling promotes, that certain things have to be achieved within certain time frames. They don’t – and this won’t harm your child’s education. There’s no rush and it’s no race against others either. Your child won’t ‘miss out’ if they don’t learn something at the same time others do. Most of the HEors we grew with did things within different time frames and now they’re all over twenty it doesn’t make any difference.
  • And another aspect of time; we know it takes years for a child to grow – yet with education we seem to want results overnight. Remember that education is a bit like growing your hair; you keep staring at it in the mirror and it doesn’t seem any longer. But next year, when you look back at old photos you know it has grown. Education is like that – like when relatives haven’t seen the kids for ages and then say ‘my, haven’t you changed’! That’s how education develops – without you even knowing it’s happening.
  • And you don’t need to test that it’s happening either. This doesn’t help kids grow. Tests in schools are not for the kids’ sake – they are for the grown-ups and the politics. I was talking to an ex-head teacher the other day and she said that they prepared masses of notes and test results for the teachers when their primary children moved up to secondary but they were never looked at.
  • Education is a long-term thing. And there are no short cuts. The very best you can do is to make your children’s activities enjoyable each day, and be patient.
  • Another thing about time is that children only take one small moment to learn something. There is a huge amount of time wasted in a school day. Your child at home with you will have lots and lots of time for play and personal pursuits. These are as valuable, educative and developmental as anything academic.
  • Contrary to what most people think kids don’t necessarily learn from being taught. They learn from experiences and from being actively engaged in their learning. Find practical ways for them to be practically engaged.
  • Nowhere is there any law that says education has to be stressy, rushed, tense or unpleasant. It is far more effective if it is the opposite.
  • Each day your child is physically active, busy, practically engaged or creative they will be learning. Academic exercise is only one small part, best left till later.
  • Make each day a good one; happy, busy, fulfilling, relaxed – as much as possible and don’t worry about the not so good, because there’s plenty of not-so-good in school! Then, all those good days pieced together will eventually make a good education.

Since there is so much information dotted around this blog supporting home educators, rather than you having to trawl through my other posts, they’re going to be collated in one new book; ‘Tales From My Home Education Notebook’ – hopefully out in the Spring. If you sign up to the publishers newsletter here you’ll get first news of when it’s due.