in one quick year?
Today I had the children do a Level 3 Sats Maths paper. Earlier this year they were doing nothing structured at all while I waited for them to deschool, so how and why have we got all the way to Sats papers?
It’s for my confidence I’m afraid. A thing that sometimes doesn’t get said, I suspect for fear of letting the HE side down, is that not all children have fantastic overwhelming interests and occupy themselves autonomously in projects that seem (or can be written up as 😉 ) educational from morning to night. Perhaps this too is my fault for having sent Big to nursery at the age of 14 weeks, perhaps the externally imposed structure from an early age removed any self direction she might have developed. Certainly her brother is very capable of occupying himself and you can see him learning all over the place, and he didn’t go to (a very different) nursery until he was 2 1/2.
I don’t believe that’s the case though. Big is a child who wants and needs a lot of input from the adults around her, always has, and I suspect always will. On balance I don’t think nursery adversely affected that, but then I suppose I wouldn’t would I? I do recall another friend once stating in some exasperation “I am not an entertainment machine”, and there have been many times in the last nearly 10 years when I’ve felt that too.
And this is after trying a wealth of different approaches. After nursery there were a couple of years before flexi-schooling started, when I was at home full time with Big and Small. We went to home ed groups and camps, I strewed the house with workbooks, imported enough fact and fiction to open my own library, stocked the shelves with art stuff and science kits and demonstrated crafts left, right and centre. Nothing has really taken her fancy for more than a few days here and there. We’ve visited castles, museums, science sites, houses, done workshops, learnt to make baskets, attended forest schools and nature reserves, supplied instruments and activities and still nothing has really taken off.
So, structure and Sats. Partly because I was worried that if school ever became a factor my lovely bright daughter would be left wallowing behind her age mates, and partly because I felt that I was letting her down and failing in my legal duty to offer that suitable education.
What is a suitable education in my eyes? What was I failing to achieve? When it comes down to it, I don’t think that the facts that children may or may not acquire at primary school are particularly important. If you wish to learn information, you will do that when it’s important or relevant to you. Atm very little appears to fall into those categories for Big, and that’s fine.
Basic skills, to my mind, the foundation of education, are a different story. I know that children learn in fits and starts and that it works better when they are interested in something, but Big doesn’t seem to have those fits and starts very often, and she definitely isn’t interested in maths. Or English in terms of grammar, spelling or handwriting, and I’ve gotten way too jumpy to wait any longer. Plus attitudinally she deteriorates when she is not occupied, whereas when I enforce some kind of structure that tends to spill over and she becomes more productive the rest of the time as well. So atm she’s reading lots about Anne Frank, as detailed below. And because they both managed to acquire computer bans, they’ve actually played together without screens between them, which has meant tempers all around have been much more pleasant.
Last week we did the Sats level 2 paper, and they both achieved level 2A. Today we did the level 3 paper, and despite much stress caused purely by neither of them listening to me, they both sailed through for a level 3. This taught me a couple of things. I have immensely perfectionist children who get terribly stressed by things they feel they can’t do, despite me explaining over and over that this exercise was so that I could find out what areas they needed help in and I didn’t expect them to be able to do it all. And also that the national attainment levels really aren’t set very high. Small has just achieved beyond expectations for his age with very little tuition, and I suspect that if I could get Big to calmly attempt the KS2 papers, she wouldn’t acquit herself so badly either, even though maths is definitely not her strength.
So I feel reassured that a knock on the door from a LA inspector could be repulsed without me having to make anything up. They are certainly not receiving a worse education than they would in a local state school, and when it comes down to it, they may well be doing better. And I know where the gaps are in their skillset and what I need to cover over the coming days and weeks.
If I’d left it longer would Big have developed interests and started learning autonomously? I’ll never know I’m afraid, but there are still many hours in every day that I’m not filling for them, and I am following their interests as far as possible in the structure that I’m employing. So perhaps as the years go by, they will become more self-directed and I’ll be able to step back into a facilitation role. We can but wait and see. And blog it of course 🙂