Tuesday, November 27, 2012

gettin' an ed-U-kay-shun...

EJ - our little leftie

I think most of you know I'm a fully diplomarised, notarised, motorised teacher - of the high school visual arts variety.... not that I've had much of a chance to teach my curriculum area - I've spent my entire school teaching existence as a casual/ relief teacher and haven't been teaching anything, anywhere in schools over the past couple of years.

Now, as a fully loaded (non-teaching) teacher, I'm naturally full to the brim with opinions about ed-U-kay-shun: I've got opinions on everything from WHAT should be taught, HOW it should be taught, WHEN and WHERE it should be taught - to WHY... yup when it comes to education I've got enough opinions to launch a hot air balloon!

This school term I decided to put my money where my mouth is (welllllll maybe not money per se...) After much researching and thinking and talking to various folk - including our kidlet's public school teachers, local homeschoolers and unschoolers, we made the not-so-radical move to 'own-school' our two kidlets at home for one day of the school week... no it's not exactly a HUGE move - but it IS a significant one.

why we are keeping our kidlets home for just one day per week?

Some may remember my loooong post all about our sassy boyo's dyslexia  and my whinge about how the NSW Government doesn't consider dyslexia a supportable problem (scheez you've got to wonder about the intelligence of policy makers haven't you...) Because of his dyslexia, our lad has some specific educational needs - I'm a staunch supporter of public education, but I'm an even STRONGER supporter of individualised, personalised education  (these two things need not be in opposition... hence we're keeping our kids enrolled in the local public school and doing all we can to ensure they are not swallowed up by our increasingly centralised, standarised, homogenised educational system). By keeping kids home for just one day a week,  we hopefully don't draw the attention of the home-school liaison officer (aka the truancy officer) - because what we are up (a mix of home and public school) is actually not permitted in NSW.

Since we started our 'own-school' experiment I've been fielding quite a few questions from curious friends and fellow parents - mostly they like to know what we do and how we do it (and if the kids drive me totally KRAZY by the end of the day!) wellllllll....

During our day together we do lots of one-on-one reading. We read what Sass and EJ have chosen: Sass is munching into a big pile of tractor, bike and 4WD magazines, he's trying out dog training manuals and slowly making his way into the novel 'Red Dog' - oh and he just purchased a fat autobiographical tale of Bear Grylls (oh save me! I have visions of small boyo attempting to abseil off a Sams Creek rock!) --  EJ is attacking 'Charlotte's Web', an encyclopaedia on dinosaurs, and the tales of Hans Christian Anderson.... she thinks 'The Emperor's New Clothes' is an absolute hoot! (obviously her mother's daughter...) Both kidlets also research/read on the ipad (mmmmm nothing like the lure of a device to get one motivated!) - I'm not opposed to using technology to support learning - key word there being support.

As well as reading, which is our focus, we do multiplication (aka 'times') tables -- did you know that rote teaching of times tables was dropped many moons ago in NSW State schools? .... I have no idea how kids are expected to learn times tables (by osmosis perhaps?) or perhaps it's no longer considered a necessary skill? (as mobile smart devices are now seemingly ubiquitous - who needs to memorise or indeed learn anything? GOOGLE IT!) well our poor kids are learning there times tables the good old fashioned way - recitation, recitation, recitation (wring, rinse, repeat)

and lest you think our poor two are chained to the desk all day - we also bake together (there's a heck of a lot of reading and measuring involved in following a recipe), garden together (again - oodles of applied literacy and numeracy), spend time in creative endeavours, as well as have fun with practical science and natural history, and of course they spend time with farmer Phil doing 'secret farming business'...

oh and Sass also spends time training his Honey-Hound....

Honey-Hound is growing up fast
and fetching is one of her favourite things (along with chasing the cats!)

All-in-all our approach to learning is very fluid, and as our kidlets are into serious sport activities, the 'own-school' day is a chance to slow down, relax, be quiet with our learning. The biggest bonus (and surprise) is how much the kidlets enjoy the day. I anticipated we might experience a bit of friction and for our kids to miss the interaction with peers - but no! they LOVE doing things at home. EJ loves doing far MORE work than she is allowed to do at school (yes - she lurves all things academic) --- Sass loves that he can try reading (and to read things he wants to) without being made to feel like a failure over and over and over again... oh and he loves that he can play with his dog in the middle of the day as a bonus for work done!

We've now been undertaking 'own-school' for a couple of months - enough for us to realise how we ALL enjoy this concentrated extra time together and how 'own-school' seems to be giving our kidlets greater self-assurance and independence... (and for me to appreciate the efforts of home- and unschool families)

To all folk taking ownership of your kiddies education I say BRAVO! all power to you!

ahhhhhhh they all grow up so fast don't they?......



  1. I love this idea - one kid has now finished school, the other 3 years to go, but I think at High School level too, one day at home to read and catch up and slow down would be fabulous.
    I too have real issues with the present system, sausage factory that fails so many...

  2. They certainly do grow up oh so fast, Ronnie. Lew will be a teeny bopper tomorrow! I can't believe it!!! Loved your post. Love that you guys are loving having a day at home together. Do you think you might try for more home time next year or is one day working enough for now? xx

  3. Ronnie, my admiration grows for you in leaps and bounds. I feel this is a wonderful move for your children and for you and Farmer Phil as well. Lucky,, lucky children!

  4. ronnie, this is a great compromise, i think. here, if the kids were in high school, the one day a week would keep them out of school sports, but other than that i see NO reason this wouldn't be a very successful approach to education. being a special education teacher in public school, i have the privilege of individualizing programming for my students. i'm still not convinced that public education is efficacious.

  5. Hi Ronnie, I can tell you EXACTLY how times tables are taught in public schools: my daughter's teacher informed me that as she didn't have time to do it, the job was given to parents to do as part of homework each week. Yes, there are many reasons why we pulled our daughter out of public education and put her into a Steiner school, but one of the big incentives was a teacher who said that if she couldn't teach the kids what they needed to know (at age 6) in class time, then she wasn't doing a very good job as a teacher... :)


thanks for all your lovely comments - your words are greatly appreciated xx