The law in this country relating to education states:
Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
a: to his age, ability and aptitude, and
b: to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
And case law states:
The responsibility for a child’s education rests with his or her parents. An “efficient” and “suitable” education is not defined in the Education Act 1996 but “efficient” has been broadly described in case law as an education that “achieves that which it sets out to achieve”, and a “suitable” education is one that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so”.
All of that was just to explain what your responsibilities are. (And I’d add, parents are responsible for education, even when your children are in school. LAs and headteachers don’t want to get sued for not providing it after all 😉 ) Very often when people set off home educating, one of the things that they are advised to do is write out an educational philosophy. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m not sure I ever did 😉 Looking back though, it’s easier to pick out the strands that have remained constant over the years. One is that bit about fitting children for a life in their community, and this quote from Time enough for love has always stuck in my head.
Perhaps our kids had a weird education…but a girl who can shape a comfortable and handsome saddle starting with a dead mule and not much else, solve quadratics in her head, shoot straight with a gun or arrow, cook an omelet that is light and tasty, spout page after page of Shakespeare, butcher a hog and cure it can’t be called ignorant by New Beginnings standards.
Now, I’m not quite sure why any child living on a frontier farmsteading world (it’s a science fiction book (amazon link)) needs to be able to solve quadratics in their head (or indeed any child in this rather more high tech world) but that apart, the point is about having the skills to get by, and bend the world to your own needs, rather than being bent by it.
So my philosophy is very much in line with the law. That I should equip my kids to cope and more than that, to be successful at being independent adults. This to me means not just academics, but independence and social skills, and the ability to earn a living one way or another. But I’m flexible on how we achieve that, and our methods have changed several times over the years.
My attitude to education was shaped by exposure to the writings of John Holt, primarily How Children Learn (kindle link) and How Children Fail (amazon link). I still think they are massively important books, and highly recommend you read them. But I’ve discovered that unschooling doesn’t really suit my family. So we mix and match. A bit of structure, a bit of autonomy. Small is probably the most structured at the moment, as he does some maths, some english, some history or geography or science most days. Broad and balanced, that’s us.
He also does extensive minecrafting, which has taught him lots about software, computers, and programming. He recently completed an Android app development course using Java, and reads lots and writes reviews.
Weekly both of the big children has responsibility for cooking one night a week. Big does the washing one day a week – Small often helps hang out and fetch in, though I’ve yet to let him loose on the machine. They are involved in meal planning and budgeting, and both aware of our business, Big increasingly so.
So I guess if I had to sum it up in one line, our philosophy is really that education is life is education – it’s difficult to split them apart.
It works for us fairly well. Except in that I’m a bit of a resource hog, so we’re drowning in stuff that *might* have an educational purpose, so I can’t possibly get rid of it can I? Worked nicely the other day though when Small sat down and read through most of What your year 6 child needs to know (amazon link) which I’d been sent for review. Books like that are massively useful actually, for giving you a one stop resource that can help you devise a rough plan. I don’t think it’s something I would use exclusively, but as a core to build an approach around, for the academic bit of education, it’s really not a bad start. I’ll be using the Year 1 book with Smallest over the next year or so, mainly for us to springboard ideas off. On top of that we’ll go on doing what we do. Including the children in day to day life. Spending part of that life in the past 😉 Building websites for sale, blogging for cash from time to time. Our life has a portfolio approach to it, and so does their education.
If you’ve an educational philosophy post to share, please pop it in the linky. And if enough people (five or so?) join in, I’ll write up a proper carnival post next week.