I’m helping a friend at the moment. She has a 12 year old girl (I’ll call her Jasmine) who is being home educated and my friend works 4 long days a week. She plans for her to go back into a school when she can afford to pay for it. But at the moment she’s being educated at home. Before Christmas my friend had a more flexible job where she popped in at midday to see how Jasmine and her sister were doing with the work she set.

Jasmine’s sister is staying with her brother at the moment so Jasmine is on her own. This is where I come in. I oversee her education at home. If she were my child I would be following the child led, autonomous education (or unschooling approach as the Americans call it). But that takes time to establish because, before a child who has been schooled can begin to have autonomy over this own learning, she needs to do a lot of ‘deschooling’. The general rule is one month of deschooling for each year of schooling.

Children who are educated at school have no autonomy over their own learning and so fall into the mindset of ‘adults know better than me what I need to learn’.

For those that don’t know me, I was a primary teacher for nearly 30 years until I accepted that I just didn’t want to be part of the system that was failing so many children. I didn’t really fit in at all as I actively encouraged people to home educate. I would tell the children that the law (in England) doesn’t state that they should attend school, but it does say they need to be educated. Most parents, either by ignorance or convenience, send their children to the local school.

I have also tutored many children after school on an individual basis and found that most children fumble along in maths without  a firm grounding on the basic concepts. This is because they don’t get enough practice with manipulatives. Most teachers think using manipulatives is fine for the younger ones or those children who are the lower achievers in the class, but think it’s a waste of time for all the rest. Yes, it does take more time than filling in a worksheet or answering practice questions. It’s unfortunate that in England the schools have to follow such a tight schedule of the National Curriculum that there’s no time for individualised learning. Schools are penalised when they get inspected if they are not on track with the directives.

So if the child hasn’t grasped the concept in that lesson or short series of lessons, hard luck, we’re whizzing onto the next concept as laid out by the powers that be. When I protested at this system I was told not to worry because each child will revisit the concept several times as they go through the school.

“That’s not good enough!” I say. 

These children are individuals, with different learning styles, but are treated like cogs in a wheel.

Anyway, back to Jasmine. I realised that she has no firm concept of what a fraction is. So today we started from scratch. I made manipulatives using card and scissors. I created some games and she cut out some fractions and placed them over whole shapes etc.

She told me that in her primary school she was pulled out of maths lessons on a regular basis so she could practice reading with an individual. Huh? Yes, so that explains it…….

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