You can take the boy out of the school, but can you take the school out of the parent?
There’s a constant balancing act here, to discharge our legal duty under Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act
7. 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 to reflect what I see as the needs of the real world and my children.
So for example, maths and english qualifications are held to be an absolute must by many journalists/employers/politicians *but* it’s not actually straightforward to get those if you aren’t in school. GCSEs are difficult because of the coursework aspect – many home educators go for iGCSEs instead, but there’s still the issue of finding an exam centre and working out how to jump through the hoops, which for people many years out of the exam system themselves is not straightforward.
But, and it’s a big but, should exams/qualifications really be the be all and end all of education? I can see that an employer wants to know how capable a prospective employee is, but should the education system just be set up for employers?
And, if we home educate at least partly because of our disenchantment with the constant testing and encouraged comparison within the system, why do we (ok, why do I) so easily drift back into the requirements of it?
All of this pondering is brought on by yesterday’s experience with quadratic equations.
Now, confession time. I’m a geek. A computer programmer, sudoku lover, I wander around with numbers and patterns in my head all the time. Shopping I’m keeping a running total of expenditure as I go round, driving I’m working out our average speed. I can’t help it, it’s just who I am. And I love quadratic equations – they are a good puzzle. So I was genuinely confused by the complete resistance I encountered from the highly numerate Small yesterday.
Hours we spent on it. Hours and hours. There were tears. Not mine, although I felt like it at times. And I was the worst kind of parent – after I’d done all the calm, quiet explanation, I shouted and threatened. I could *not* understand why he couldn’t get it.
Eventually, after about 5 hours on and off of this, I gave up. I wrangled him and the two smallest into sun kit, and we headed off out to geocache, as a much more sensible use of a beautiful sunny day. He carried my phone very carefully and navigated beautifully with the compass setting in c:geo (free app) and although we didn’t find the cache it was a lovely walk, we saw a lizard, and finished up with icecream and sand angels on the beach.
Then, once we got home and I’d put tea on, we sat down together and went through the whole quadratic thing step by step. And I realised that I’d been misunderstanding the problem – it wasn’t that he didn’t get the maths, he just couldn’t see the point of it. Right at the moment the point is to finish the year in mathletics, and I turned to twitter to find the wider point
Anyone got any real world applications of quadratic equations that will make sense to a 10 year old? RTs lovely.
— Jax Blunt (@liveotherwise) September 4, 2013
The tweet is still going strong with 27 RTs, and lots and lots of really helpful answers. The parabolic paths of angry birds are plotted with quadratics. You can use them to work out picture sizes for magazine layouts. There were links to articles on 101 uses for quadratic equations, youtube videos on parabolas and all sorts.
So, quadratic equations are useful. (It should be said that they were introduced via area calculations on mathletics, which does seem to be a fairly real world application, and appears to be used in farmville too 😉 ) And after our discussion last night, Small sailed through that section this morning, and polished off another gold bar with ease. I’ve yet to show him all the real world applications of it, but what I’m still grappling with is how I work out that balance, how do I work towards what society thinks my children need, without imposing the parts of school based education that are the worst aspects of it?