Yesterday we had our semi regular trip to a friend’s house for history etc. We’re on book three of story of the world, and we’ve reached the French revolution, American war of independence and James Cook exploring Australia. So one family made brioche and reenacted the French Revolution, there were posters made for fair taxes and drawings of tea floating in the harbour and I did a map activity where we plotted the course of Cook’s three major voyages. There was also some discussion of art styles and a rather lovely set of painting of horses.
A varied set of activities for a rather packed phase of history. And Small and I fell out when it got to the map stage – he just didn’t want to take part. He ended up storming out in a huff, so I got very cross and made him do the activity when we got home.
Then I felt somewhat ashamed of myself. You see, before yesterday, I knew next to nothing about James Cook. And while we were doing the map activity, I had to use an atlas to work out where the various islands were that were intrinsic to the story. Despite my excellent schooling, many O levels (yes, actual O levels, I’m that old), several A levels and degree, I know very little about this period of history, and geography in general. I’ve survived very well without it – and when I needed to know about it so I could go through it, I covered it very quickly.
So why did I think that Small ought to learn about it?
Well, part of it is this old parent’s responsibility to educate thing. I kind of feel that I ought to be delivering education regularly. But when it comes down to it, I can’t force information into my children’s heads. I can merely offer it, and hope that some of it is interesting enough to them that it sticks.
And therein lies my hypocrisy. I know perfectly well that the majority of the skills that I employ day to day have nothing to do with the education I received in school. Once we’d got past the reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, nearly everything else is self taught. I did do a bit of computing at university, but most of what I’ve learnt I’ve either learnt through on the job training, or off the internet as I’ve gone along. Why do I think my children coudn’t do much the same?
There’s the very real fear that I’m letting them down if I don’t cram things into them now. What if they suddenly decide they want to be brain surgeons, and it takes them years to catch up with basic knowledge so they can’t go to university to do the relevant degree? Codswallop. If they really wanted to be brain surgeons, they’d acquire the information they needed to pass the requisite exams pretty quickly. It’s all about motivation – if you’re not motivated, it’s really difficult to do stuff. If you are, then it’s not.
So somehow, I need to find the faith to not end up in these battles with my offspring. Which doesn’t mean I’m going to relax the idea they should be doing something educational – I’m not. We’ve gone down the unschooling route before, and it does not lead to a happy household. We all need a certain amount of rhythm and structure, and I’m going to continue providing that.
But what I am going to do is ask them what *they* think they should be getting out of education. What’s it for? Surely it’s to fit them to society in terms of basic civilised behaviour, and also to equip them to manage independently when I’m not around to do everything for them. Which means being able to support themselves financially by whatever means they choose, as well as being able to cope with a house, deal with shopping, cooking, cleaning, paying bills and so on. And beyond that, it’s kind of up to them what they choose to do. Their lives after all.
Strikes me that this is a conversation society in general should be having about education too. Particularly with a chap by the name of Gove.