Saturday, 6 October 2012

Thoughts on School

Although the boys have only been in school a few days over the last month, conflicts of ideology have already surfaced.

First or second day in for son number 2, and he came home discouraged because he had encountered maths he was unfamiliar with, an experience which could have dented his fragile confidence. I don't think it did, because he is currently experiencing great success in his Kumon maths at home.

The conflict arises because we have chosen to work at his pace, ensuring firm foundations before moving on. For him, this means he is just now working on his multiplication tables and, through repetition, is achieving real fluency. Although not usually keen on maths, he has willingly been picking up a times table game we have and working at beating his record.

At school, by contrast, lessons are driven by what is on the curriculum and tend to jump around more. Children who need more time to consolidate what they are learning can easily be left behind, or soon forget what they have been taught because they have not had sufficient practice to enable them to master each new skill.

I found it did not take long in school for my son to come to the belief that he was no good at maths. It has taken two years at home to work at reversing that self-belief. I hope a day a week in school will not undo our hard work.

I have had long discussions about worries with my third son the night before school. He had no-one to play with at playtime. He doesn't know which line to stand in. He didn't have money for a snack at break time ... Worse - He doesn't like writing! Well, that one was news to me, especially as he is currently working at home on his own storybook about a musketeer! As one of the youngest in his class, which is a combination of pupils in Years 2, 3 and 4, I am hoping he won't compare his ability unfavourably with that of older children he may sit alongside. :/

Other than that, I had forgotten how much I hate the stress of the school run in the morning. Driving back and forth with the baby in the car during the day is a hassle. And we have all been ill! I had also forgotten how the bugs come home from school, and a poorly baby - as well as a teething one - means a tired and rather grumpy mother!

Is it worth it?

My eldest son seems to be enjoying school, and the day a week is inspiring some project work, and has also presented the opportunity for a week away at an outdoor pursuits centre in the new year. So we will try it a little longer before we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I do enjoy my day off, and have been able to go to a baby group with my new little one, which we both enjoy.

Rafiki's Visit

My third 'unschooled' son was delighted to bring a friend home from his day at school last week. This was Rafiki - the little, cuddly class rhinoceros, who visits a different child each week and records his adventures in an accompanying scrapbook. Perfect inspiration for learning a little about East Africa - where my husband was born - and its wildlife. We read a lovely Barefoot book entitled "We all went on safari".

Through it, we learnt a little about Tanzania, its people and language. We also found out about rhinos. My son then made a lovely rhino out of clay and, later in the week, when we were having a go at batik, he chose to make a rhino design.

Lava Lamp

Aquila magazine arrives monthly in our house, and is an education in itself, full of interesting and informative ideas, articles, challenges, puzzles and competitions. From the most recent issue, my eldest two boys and I added to our understanding of earthquakes, volcanoes and pressure. As we read and talk, they remember feeling earthquakes when we lived in Turkey, and drilling for such an event in school there. As we look at the maps of the earth's faultlines and continental plates, we see why Turkey is so susceptible.

As a practical activity, we make a lava lamp, a practical suggestion from the same magazine. All three boys are fascinated by this make, which continues to stand on our kitchen windowsill with a supply of alka-seltzer tablets at the ready.

Simply half fill a bottle with water, and add a few drops of food colour. Then top up the container with oil. Break alka-seltzer (or other similar fizzing) tablets into small pieces and drop in a piece at a time. Enjoy the results!