Everyone is homeschooling

Except they aren’t…

There is quite a difference to visiting a place than there is living in a place. Same with homeschooling. I think there are people who are enjoying, even relishing visiting homeschooling, hopefully all those people we did playcentre with are revisiting the joy of child led play, and are people with energy and enthusiasm rather than everyday homeschoolers with their sense of mañana mañana, people who still have children compliant to things adult led… Maybe some people will stay in homeschool land for good, I’m sure many kids will want to. Helena and I have been visiting what teachers? or is it what the ministry? does. We have been watching the TV channel, Learning TV, that is there to help people who are nervous about their children slipping backwards (I’ll undoubtedly rant about that in some other blog). The presenters appear to be mostly teachers with very few ‘being in front of a camera’ skills. A notable exception to this being Suzy Cato who is brilliant. I was interested to watch the maths and science, just to see, just to check out if I was making my child be ‘behind’ – a little bit of my insecurity here, a little bit of not quite being over the relentless pushing of the concept of a standard.

I would watch Suzy Cato do most things, I bet she was lovely in dancing with the stars. It turns out Helena likes her too. She takes junior 5-8 maths and science. The first one was counting. Counting! We watched gripped, because it was Suzy, not because of the content. I was reminded as she talked about estimating of the time when I was looking after a 5 year old after school (Helena was 3) and he had this massive jar of sea glass and we were trying to estimate how many were in the jar – I was curious at the time to record how our estimates change as we count, and I still am. I have seen some grown up maths where you can work out the actual number of something by taking everyone elses estimates, there needs to be a certain critical mass of estimates though. So we, Helena, Dad and I, did a counting/estimating exercise with our jar of silver balls for cake decorating. Dad, being too clever did a bit of looking and counting before estimating…. but was out by a factor of 10! I got to make (modeling) a graph.

As you can see, as expected, our estimates got closer the more I had counted. There is nothing spectacular about this except that during the time it took me to count all 533 silver balls we were all interested, absorbed in the activity of counting and estimating. Dad was so off the chart as his first guess was 3000… and he stuck to it for the second guess because he had worked it out. Maybe it’s the psychology I like.

We also watched the 9 to 11 maths with a man called Fern. Helena liked him because he read a story, from the Figure it out series. I must leave ours lying around again and see if she is interested. Once again the content was relatively random and had no context but it brought up something I’d been meaning to do, purely for my convenience in communicating with Helena.

It’s so handy knowing 90, 180 degrees, and right angles. Helena could do all the rotations in her head that he was asking for, thank goodness as I don’t think I could cope with a lack of a sense of direction (it turns out I am good at this in a way I can’t explain) and an inability to rotate in her head!

These lessons in themselves were noticeably odd to me, we only do lessons (if you could call them that) which are relevant to what’s happening at the time, context is important, however they did act like seeds for ideas and we made our own context. You couldn’t do this every day though or the programmes would loose their power, they’d become hum drum, you wouldn’t actually have to participate because maybe tomorrow might be better, then you’d redefine what better is and end up just waiting -clickbait for kids.

We also watched a man take 9 – 11 Science and I was astounded. It started with edu speak – “ideas relating to participating and contributing in science that are woven through out this lesson will inspire…” er NO. It was all in sterile PowerPoint – grey and black with a few red titles. First we got shown and had read to us the learning intentions. Then we were told exactly what to draw on our bits of paper, so we could remember what he wanted us to in exactly the same way as him perhaps – wait I swear he said something at the beginning about our own observations. What’s more our drawings came with several incidental and lengthy explanations along the way eg. what micro meant, and not him showing us a micro plastic, no, no, all words. There was an incredible amount of stuff to read, be read, and all dry. It was a 45 minute lesson. I had to turn it off. I even showed my father, he could only handle 13 mins, more than me, before grumphing off muttering about how boring it was. Even the video was a computer simulation… there was nothing to relate to. No things, nothing physical, it was all abstract grey. There was one photo with people. It was awful. Helena didn’t make any connection to the citizen science she is doing with our beach clean up group and we spent hours sorting tiny bits of plastic into categories (over 700 cigarette butts) and this lesson was about Sea Science – rubbish in the sea and measuring it. He does work for a college, maybe he was just a bad choice.

Why did the Ministry of education revert to an out dated talking head model, with white boards when they had an opportunity to be innovative and they could have a least been at fun these are stressful times for many…. I think I’ll resort to real life to “encourage us to be curious, to ask questions and to use our own observations to learn more about the world around us” not TV or school. At least they had the option to use Suzy Cato (who filmed in a room in her house – already we are more relaxed, comfortable, interested) who is obviously a seasoned professional in the business of inspiring kids… jelly bean science complete with her failure to make jelly beans is brilliant. Maybe they could have talked to Radio New Zealand who use to do awesome educational programmes to support the correspondence school, they did gripping on the radio.Helena

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