I had a really interesting conversation with a friend this week about education. She was lamenting the changes to the eduction system that the current government is planning to implement over the next few years. I pay little attention to what is going on in our education system these days as my children are not at school. One of the reasons that I chose to home educate is because I could not reconcile myself with any part of the national curriculum.
I was fortunate enough to attend school before the national curriculum had been introduced it was, I think, bought into primary schools as I was in my last few years of secondary school. My only experience of this framework for learning, prior to having my own children, was through my mother who taught in schools for twenty five years, from the late 70s onwards. She did not really have a good word to say about it and when I considered being a teacher when I was about to leave school she, thankfully, put me off!
When my eldest child was born I wanted to get to know more people in the village we had not long moved to, a job came up in the village school which I applied for and got. I was a clerk to the governing body of the school, a job which took up a few hours of my time each week and I could mostly do when I wanted to. Whilst it did serve the purpose of getting to know more people in the village it also served to open my eyes to the national curriculum and many other facets of measuring that took place in that, and I am sure many other schools across the country. I would sit in meetings listening to how test results could be improved with what I felt to be little regard for the children. Over time it dawned on me that I would be giving my child over to this system and I really was not comfortable with that at all. The measuring and testing of children, it seemed to me, had become so important it had become the benchmark of teaching. If a child did not reach a certain standard in a certain week they would be deemed to have not succeeded, where in all of this was the children centred learning that I kept being told was at the heart of our education system. It had gone, replaced with a system for learning that I could not reconcile placing my child within.
It is important to me that my children can learn at the pace that is appropriate for them as individuals. I do not teach them anything, I facilitate. I provide an environment for them to learn. I did not teach my children to walk or talk, they learnt that themselves, the learning that takes place in my home is a natural extension of that. I don't measure them or test them. I have no idea what they would have been taught, at their respective ages, if they were at school. So I was further intrigued by a comment that was made later in the same conversation about education. We were talking about a child of a mutual friend, one who is two years old and has been taught the letters of the alphabet by his father, she labelled him bright. Really? What happened to playing. Are parents really feeling under so much pressure to ensure that their children achieve at school and tick the boxes in the right week that they have to teach their children the alphabet at two. I am not sure what made me feel sadder that act in its self or labelling the child, bright.