Working out what an education should contain, or impart, or facilitate, or encourage, is a fluid set of criteria. There are times when education is about nuts and bolts (time telling, fractions etc) but there is also a huge swathe of learning to be done around learning itself. The new critical skills (communication, application, cooperation, evaluation, problem solving, reasoning, enquiry etc) represent, to us, all that is good about home education. It is exactly these learning skills that we are trying to encourage. Jiggy is only 8 still (very nearly 9 as he would tell you) but for now knowledge itself is secondary. Especially for a naturally enquiring child who can read well. The barriers to learning that we encounter are about attitude, confidence, behaviour and are also up to whichever wicked fairy is sitting on his shoulder that day. If he was still in school he would not have been tested on the skills that he is learning and would therefore have failed. You can test as many times as you like but if your criteria is that a goldfish should climb rather than swim it will fail.
Being a home educator is as much about noticing opportunities for learning as it is about scheduling. Take the following photo for example:
Is that the same as “Go and put on your coat and we can have a walk looking for bluebells?” Well, yes, it is in theory. It also ticks a communication box – the fact that one may not want to look for bluebells is being communicated admirably. However, co-operation? Not so much!
So, although that day wasn’t a good day for co-operation many of our days, increasingly, are. Here was a great one, bearing in mind that he doesn’t like painting either (it was a watercolour workshop)
The fact that we are making such good progress in so many other ways means that the occasional lapse in cooperation (such as lying on the path at the Otter Park today and refusing to listen to the talk) can be forgotten. Knowledge about otters is not nearly as important as not lying on the path. It is all about balance, priorities and general direction towards the end goal which for us is a rounded, capable, humane, enquiring adult who can live kindly, independently and respectfully.
And maybe not in charge of otters.