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What's wrong with school?

(21 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 18-Jul-13 06:59:04

In this week's guest blog Sven and Marisa Poppelmann ask whether the one-size-fits-all education system has something to offer - or whether home education tailored to the individual is a better way to go.

Aka Thu 18-Jul-13 07:24:44

So much depends on the individual personality of the child and other factors such as birth date. My eldest grandchild, a boy, very quiet and sensitive was 'introduced' into the education system full time just four days after his fourth birthday, at the very end of August. Yet, there were children in his class who were five the day they started school.
The 'one system fits all' cannot work for all children, all the time.
There is much truth in Sven and Marisa's blog, yet there remain the question of building friendships, learning to socialise and having to 'bite the bullet' and sometimes do things and learn things that may not interest you at first. Life is like that.
And as far as getting a job that you always enjoy........

Wilks Thu 18-Jul-13 17:26:06

Sadly, our grandson will not have the opportunity to be home educated as it is illegal here in Spain with the exception, I believe, of Catalunya. As Spain is divided into autonomous regions each makes its own laws to some extent. There seems to be a move in the south, where most expats live, to change the law, but not here in the north. If anyone has any information we would be glad to receive it.

nightowl Thu 18-Jul-13 17:55:28

My younger son hardly ever went to school. We forced him to go when he was small and he always hated it. Once he was too big to manhandle into the car or out of it at the other end (about 9) that was the beginning of the end. Year 8 was the absolute end. His childhood was miserable because of his hatred of school and our worry about how we could help him. We considered home education but he rejected anything to do with education at all by that stage. He spent his teens in his room playing computer games. We were told by well meaning professionals to remove his computer because we were 'rewarding' his 'bad behaviour'. Thank goodness we didn't listen. We knew the problem was far deeper than a badly behaved child.

Over the next few years he educated himself widely and intensively online. He asked us to enrol him on distance learning courses and at the age of 19 he managed to get himself to college. He is now 24 and at university and loves everything about it. His general knowledge is far wider than mine. His grasp of the most difficult subjects leaves me standing. He has friends and is the funniest, most interesting person you could wish to meet. So I agree that school does not suit all children and often fails to recognise their individuality. I wish we had been brave enough to home educate our son before the problem became so entrenched. But then again, I think his experiences have made him the person he is. My friend, who is a teacher, believes he has a spark that might have been stamped out of him if he had been forced into a system that clearly didn't suit him. I think there is something in what she says.

Faye Thu 18-Jul-13 18:44:21

In Australia children start school at five and some children don't start until they are six. Four year olds go to kindergarten about three days a week. My granddaughter's kindergarten has a sign that says something along the lines of "for me to be ready for school at five, I need to be able to play at four." All of my children spent some time at English schools and were never behind after coming from the education system in Australia. I think four is far too early to be starting school and I can't see the benefits.

Mishap Thu 18-Jul-13 21:18:00

I have enormous sympathy with the idea of home education, as I have serious reservations about school and I think we need to go back to square one and ask the question "What is school for?"

The problem with home education is that some people do it well and produce lively inquisitive young adults who go on to be happy and successful. and others make less of a good job of it. But my impression is that, in the main, those parents who decide on home education do so with serious intent and thus are determined to make it work.

Starting school at 5 (or more like 4 in most areas) seems pretty pointless to me. In parts of Europe they do not start formal learning till they are 7, with no detriment to their achievements.

I often ask myself what I gained from my schooling, which I hated, and came up with:

- an awakening to the joy of making music together with others.
- a love of languages

That's it folks!

And on the other side? - what did I hate?

- being herded about in a group
- PE - oh how very grim!
- being mocked by teachers when I could not do something
- boring subject presentation
- misbehaving children who created chaos around me
- sitting bored through lessons that I was good at while others struggled
- sitting bored through lessons that I was bad at and not having a clue what was going on
- petty rules that are the product of large institutions
- sports day - groan!
- wasting those beautiful sunny days of childhood sitting in a classroom doing stuff I hated.

So...the question is could I have had those two good things in some other way that did not entail the associated misery?

The "one size fits all" formula is just not good enough.

Ariadne Thu 18-Jul-13 21:20:52

Add literature to the first bit, Mishap and the second list could be me!

j08 Thu 18-Jul-13 22:32:47

The kids in the pictures look like my grandsons doing their own things after they've been to school. You now, that place where they actually learn things. And learn to socialize.

j08 Thu 18-Jul-13 22:38:29

" Why make those children who are not interested in a subject sit in a lesson that bores them? "

How would they know it is going to bore them if they don't give it a try.

I think you could end up with some very "narrowly" educated children that way.

Faye Thu 18-Jul-13 23:39:17

My seven year old grandson has already been taken by his concerned parents to be assessed to find out why he is going backwards at school. He was always a bright little boy who loves computers and has many interesting things to do at home. His parents also take him and his brother camping, bike riding and walks along the beach and they often visit museums and art galleries. They are always doing interesting things and he loves spending time with his cousins and family friends.

School must have been a bit of a letdown for him and he doesn't find it very interesting and doesn't mix well at school. I think he is very bored and feel sad for him. His five year old brother on the other hand is enjoying school and doing very well.

nanaej Sun 21-Jul-13 11:32:49

My DDs thoroughly enjoyed school and it appears that DD1 and DGS1 also enjoy the experience and are learning and developing well as a result.

As a school teacher I have seen children thrive and some who have not. Good schools challenge all children to develop aspects of their personality/interests. Because schools have to cater for a wide variety of children there will be a few who find the bigness of school much harder than others. On the whole I think schools do a great job but of course there are some that are not so good at meeting individual needs.

Home learning is not something I chose for my own children. I did consider it but felt I could not provide the steps into bigger groups, social interactions with enough different people to build up their social skills and resilience. Also as a parent I have such emotional investment in my kids I was not sure I could have made disinterested judgments about their developments and needs.

I agree that schools are being forced to become 'sausage'machines by subsequent governments. There is too much 'testing' of small bits of learning which gives them a disproportionate importance. The current Sec of State is obsessed with an out of date curriculum that will not serve our grandchildren well in the 21C.

I will say, maybe controversially, that some children who find school difficult do so because of the parenting they have had .

nanaej Sun 21-Jul-13 11:37:18

I have read through some comments and I have to say that I do think that schools have really improved since I was at school! Teachers who were dull and ridiculed pupils(I experienced that a lot!!) would find it hard to continue in most schools today!

Greatnan Sun 21-Jul-13 12:27:05

Nine of my ten grandchildren love/loved school and did very well. The third grandson is dyslexic and constantly got into trouble through his attempts to hide it. He is now considering taking a part-time qualification as he sees how much better his siblings and cousins have fared in life.
I have unbounded admiration for the people at the 'chalk face' today - it was tough enough when I left teaching in 1979 but it must be much harder now.
Some extremely bright children do find it hard to slow down in a mixed ability class and become alienated. They might well benefit from home schooling, as long as the parents did not exert too much pressure to excel. Schools could be more flexible, and allow home-schooled pupils to join classes for certain practical subjects and sports.

FlicketyB Sun 21-Jul-13 17:32:58

I really would question some of the assumptions underlying this blog. 'Just in time' learning rather than 'Just in case', not needing to know the date of the Battle of Hastings because you can just look it up when you need to know.

How do you know when you need to look it up? If you read a Guide book that starts 'Construction of this castle started in 1066' How do you know that that is a significant date to look up while if construction had started in 1034 or 1072 for example it would not be if you hadn't already learnt that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066 with the resulting forcible change of regime?

Listen to a brilliant pianist who can improvise on any theme, underlying that brilliance and skill is the early grounding in scales and chords the constant practice exercises to drill in the right fingering and all that goes in understanding the construction of a musical piece before, even a gifted pianist can excel. All the grinding rote learning and practice is the fertile soil that nurtures the brilliance

I am hard pushed to think of anything I learnt in school in any subject that has not been of use to me sometime in later life. When DS asked why walkers are called pedestrians. My school latin provided me with the instant answer. What is more I could then discuss it with DS how languages change and incorporate foreign words because I had also done French and German at school. Holidays have been enhanced by a basic grounding in physical geography and science lessons have proved surprisingly useful on quite unexpected occasions. Only learning what you need to know when you need to know is the Gradgrind philosophy and school led me to read enough Dickens, which I did not particularly enjoy, to understand that reference and the fact that it is a recipe for a narrow utilitarian education.

That schools today do not suit all children I totally agree. In pursuit of economy and cheapness we have turned schools at all levels into warehouses with children stacked up and fed onto the conveyor belt all jumbled up and unsorted. The answer to that is not home schooling but many more much smaller schools where each child is known within the school and will be able to recognise by sight all the teachers and the majority of their fellow pupils. Instead now a child is known within their tutor, year or pastoral group but otherwise is thrown into a great melting pot of pupils and teachers they can never hope to identify and know and too many drown before they can swim.

Cagsy Thu 25-Jul-13 13:40:05

My DD is home educating her boys - although the 4 year old is doing 12 hours a week at a kindergarten, as his 6 year old brother did. All my original concerns have melted away, they are bright, active children with a huge group of friends with whom they do so much. They are part of a community allotment and grow and eat food with others, go swimming each week and visit a climbing wall. They spend hours in the open air and can walk or cycle for miles. They're limited to about 1 hour of TV per week so it is very demanding on my daughter but she feels it's absolutely the right thing to do.
They join things like Beavers, Woodcraft Folk, dance class to ensure they have a wide range of activities and meet new people. Kids that age are like sponges so everything is questions, questions - why, where, when?
They seem interested in almost everything and eager to learn.
I'm sure many children in schools are doing very well too, but whilst we have a system (and politicians) who only seem to care about competing, grading and judging children against criteria many of us don't subscribe to, I'm glad that she's taken this decision.

Mishap Thu 25-Jul-13 21:20:18

I do agree that education is valuable and that such subjects as Latin open the mind and shed light on the derivation of our langauge.

But something seems to have gone wrong somewhere. The system feels like a processing plant and so much of what is taught is presented in a dull way because teachers are staright-jacketed by the national curriculum and demands from OfSted.

And sadly the arts and music have been downgraded to a dangerous degree - those things that make civilized beings of us and feed our better being are being pushed aside by subjects that have some measurable future finanical or career benefits - but that is not all that education is about.

The evidence that music in the curriculum enhances learning in all other areas and fosters self-respect and co-operation is irrefutable and overwhelming, but still it is side-lined. We now have generations of teachers who themselves had virtually no music at school and do not have the confidence to teach it even at its most basic level in primary school - it is a downward spiral and fills me with sorrow.

The enforcement of full attendance and financial penalties for taking children out of school for holidays really disturb me. If the system was enriching and fulfilling to young minds it would not matter so much, but children are missing the opportunity to perhaps visit a foreign country (at a time of year when their parents can afford it) in favour of the "sausage factory" that school has become.

I do feel most concerned about how our children are spending the one go that they get at childhood - such a precious time to be wasted fulfilling political whims.

KateFlint Fri 04-Oct-13 14:49:49

I'm homeschooling my son who is 7. He absolutely loves it - we follow the Letts books from WHSmith's to ensure he isn't missing out on anything basic. We then incorporate life skills with lessons. We swim, go to the library, visit museums, he takes dance lessons and will shortly be joining cubs. He learns to type on the computer by following a children's BBC format. He plays maths games on the ipad. He does art with his Grandma and has to write about his experiences. His dad is also a science teacher and chef so no end of blowing things up and baking. There is a massive amount of information available on the internet and also at the library. We took him out of school last term as he began to get bored in lessons and disrupt the class by singing so the decision was for his sake and the other kids in school. I took him back to basics and we are doing great. This isn't necessary for the end of his school years so I keep the day fairly structured and review it weekly to make sure we are all benefitting. Best decision we made but wished we had known we could do it sooner.

Mishap Fri 04-Oct-13 15:06:56

Well done Kate - a good decision and he sounds as if he is enjoying his learning and his childhood.

I am governor of a local primary school and often have to bite my tongue as I do not always agree with what is happening or what is dictated from above. But I am there because it is a lovely small kindly village school of the kind that needs to be encouraged as a way of preserving childhood whilst learning what is needed.

Nelliemoser Fri 04-Oct-13 16:02:02

I can't help feeling that a mixed ability subject classes in secondary schools would be a bad idea. Do they have them now?
If you are good at a particular subject you could get bored and if not, you could get left behind. I am thinking of me at maths here. I was useless.

It is clear I am ignorant of how secondary schools work these days. It was 1966 when I left.

PPP Thu 10-Oct-13 17:21:27

One of the problems of home schooling, which nobody has mentioned, is the need for a parent to be at home doing the schooling. What worries me is what happens to these women ( as it is usually the mother) when their children have upped and gone when they have spent the best years of their lives supervising the children?

BAnanas Thu 10-Oct-13 18:53:57

For boys (some) the lack of male teachers is a problem. Both my sons bemoaned the fact that there were few male teachers at both their junior and senior school, particularly when they reached puberty and beyond. That's not to say that they didn't have some very good women teachers but some female teachers I have encountered have made it clear that they don't enjoy teaching boys and this feeling has been picked up on, not only by my sons but their male friends. We had a particularly bad one in year six who just didn't want to deal with the boys, she was clearly more than ready for retirement and when accompanying the children on a week long trip to the Isle of Wight kept informing us the parents she had done this for x amount of years and really should have a medal for her efforts. In retrospect when they and I look back we can see just how feminised education has become. My younger son particularly enjoyed A level college far more than school and this was down to the fact that he was taught there by a greater propensity of male lecturers.