About Me

I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure (using font only to enable access in settings with poor internet)

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Community/ Fellowship

This week, a friend asked me ‘What does community look like with a lifestyle like yours?’ The lifestyle referred to involves my husband and I both working part-time so that one of us is always home with the children; but ‘part time’ can exceed 40 hours per week, and may be comprised of unusual and antisocial shifts such that we can often pass several days and only see each other long enough to ‘hand over’ the essential information about the children. The question was motivated by concern for my wellbeing, and I believe, a specific concern about my spiritual wellbeing and the opportunities I have to develop relationships where I can encourage others and be encouraged in my faith. However, it was also a question that caused me a small amount of frustration, as it had a hint of a rhetorical tone, perhaps even an implication that ‘community’ is not possible when one lives as we do.

Beginning this reflection, it is helpful to consider the definition of community. ‘A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common’ or ‘the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common’. 

I think that is quite fundamental – one forms community with those who have something in common. Specifically, as it relates to my own life, I experience community in these areas (and I am deliberately combining secular and spiritual at this point in my discussion):

1)      With my neighbours, as we meet going about our daily business. This is perhaps mostly experienced with those who either have young children, or who can fondly reflect back to the time when their children were young. My husband and I often reflect that since having had children and both being part time, we know our neighbours far better than in the days when we got up, went to work and then came home basically to eat and sleep.

2)      On my route to work; I run the three miles there and back, and often pass the same people at the same times of day. Often this is not much more than a friendly greeting, but repeated short conversations at traffic lights can build into a form of relationship over the years.

3)      Meeting other like-minded parents out and about with their children. When I say ‘like minded’, I mean those who are likely to be in similar places doing similar things. I’ve blogged elsewhere about my astonishment how few families with children are out in the open air enjoying nature, for example. I have built relationships with several families who can be found sheltering under sycamore trees in the pouring rain, or jumping across the stepping stones, splashing in puddles, building shelters in the undergrowth and generally embracing the beauty that surrounds them, whatever the weather. It doesn’t take long before these shared pleasures form the basis of relationships where we talk about more significant matters than the amount of mud on our babies’ faces.

4)      In my workplace, building relationships with those who have shared motivations and interests. Specifically, I often become involved in mentoring of young women who wish to combine their academic pursuits with a healthy life-work balance. Often conversations will lead to a discussion of what things are truly of lasting value, and are an opportunity to give consideration to those matters of eternal significance.

5)      Through a faith-based organisation focussing on the field in which we work. Often the challenges discussed relate to long, irregular hours, evenings spent revising for exams or preparing research proposals, feelings of misunderstanding from within the church when one cannot always be regular at meetings (and this can be interpreted as lack of commitment) and grapplings with various ethical and moral issues that arise. Through a shared meal, and honest conversation about things that matter much to us, a real sense of community develops. Some of my closest friends are involved in this organisation, and the bond grows as we are able to be genuine about the things that matter most to us, and honest about the challenges of living an authentic Christian life in the workplace.

6)      Through home schooling events and networks locally. Both a general network which brings a diverse range of families with many different motivations and aims for home education, and a Christian home education group where we share some of the more specific ideological reasons for our choices

7)      Through blogs and networks online, relating to both home education and also matters relating to the outworking of our Christian faith in the midst of an increasingly secular, post-modern society. Whilst there is no substitute for real-life relationships and time spent together, I believe the internet is an extremely valuable resource especially for the home-educating family who may feel a little isolated.

8)      Through spending time with people who identify with our children and see them as an intrinsic part of the family. By this, I mean those who treat the children as individuals, and who are happy to go places and do things that suit them best – such as a walk in the park, a trip to an art gallery or museum, a brisk stroll along the beach etc. When the children are happy and included, then as parents we are much more free to build relationships. To try and push the children aside to allow time for ‘adult conversation’ does not enhance my sense of being in community, but rather of isolation and misunderstanding. I recently reflected on this after meeting up with some missionary friends of ours. And my appreciation that children are an intrinsic part of life, community, ministry, whatever you may term it was enhanced during ten weeks in West Africa where our children were key to the role we had in the village.

9)      Through specific Bible studies and Christian meetings – but I suppose for me this does come a little far down the list. As a family, we are currently in a slightly unsettled, far from ideal situation of being ‘between churches’ although we have been attending a place of worship every Sunday. I love discussing the Bible, how it relates to our lives, how we can seek to radiate the love of Christ to those around us, how we can raise our children in a God-honouring way, and just generally marvelling at all God has done for us. But I suppose I also enjoy a lot of this through points 5, 6, 7 and 8 above.

I’ve specifically been broad in these points, and jumped from the neighbourhood where we live, through to relationships formed on the way to and at work, through to relationships based around the shared pursuit of raising children, through to specific Christian groups (or ‘para-church’ networks) focussing on both personal and professional outworkings of our faith, and finally moved onto the organised church itself. I’ve chosen this order in part to stimulate thought.

Community does not take the shape of a neatly packaged box. 

Christian community, or as it is often termed ‘fellowship’, springs from the concept of ‘koinonia’. This refers to the idealised state of harmony within the Christian church. The Acts of the Apostles details the events which took place following the death and resurrection of Christ. I am often taken by how the disciples ‘had everything in common’ and would break bread together, and move from house to house sharing all they had. The relationship of Christians to each other is deep, and often is closer than that experienced in biological families; Christ Himself said that ‘by this all men shall know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’. It is counter-cultural and challenges the self-centred mentality seen in the world today.

But what does koinonia look like in 2013?

I will not attempt to replicate the detailed work of several wise Christian authors. But the point to be made is that there is not, nor cannot be, a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It is extremely easy for one Christian ‘box’ to be replaced by another. One form of meeting is replaced by another, but all that has really changed is the time or the place or the structure. The important thing is what is attempted to be achieved by such meetings; to facilitate the type of relationships where one can truly share one’s life, to move beyond ‘community’ into that deeper sense of fellowship, of koinonia, of being part of the body of Christ on earth. 

So how does it work for the person who works shifts or moves around frequently? Is true fellowship impossible? That cannot be so, but creative ways may need to be found to maximise the opportunities available. And often, for that individual, feeling tired and isolated, it may not be easy to think creatively at all. I do believe that the church as a whole must take care not to further discourage such people by making them feel strange, or uncommitted, or simply wrong in their choices. 

My understanding of the Biblical principles behind some of this is that we will be placed within a biological family, within a neighbourhood, perhaps within a workplace, where we are given the task of being salt and light (being a visible and distinct presence with a worldview based on our relationship with God rather than secular values). We cannot all be the same, nor should we be. There may come a time when a Christian reflects on their responsibilities and time-management and realises that difficult choices have to be made; this may involve changing or leaving a job, moving to a new neighbourhood, making simpler financial decisions etc. But one cannot extrapolate a Biblical precedent to say that we all need to be living in a stereotyped way.

For me, the biggest challenge, perhaps the biggest frustration is not from the long hours, irregular shifts or moving between cities or countries. It relates more to the attitude many have towards children, even (or perhaps especially) within the church. I’ve blogged about the concept of family-integrated church – of whether this is a realistic possibility or an unattainable ideal. I believe the challenges are two-fold. Firstly, there is a general lack of discipline in our generation which means that children do not know how to conduct themselves in certain situations; it is perhaps easier for them to be pushed aside or kept in a separate room so that the adults can focus on the ‘important’ matters. But the other side to that is that our expectations of our children are often too low; they know when they are being given a simplified version of something, and can feel patronised or excluded when they are treated as though they cannot understand what the adults are talking about. Personally, I find that other people get defensive when you do something different with your own children, perhaps seeing it as some form of indirect criticism. As well as placing a strain on a relationship, it also can increase my sense of isolation as others seem to see me as being somehow immune from fatigue, discouragement or exposure to the general cares of this world. (That I also resolve never to moan about my children, about tiredness or ill health, about lack of ‘me time’ etc is also a little counter-cultural, even within church circles). 

So, what can I conclude? Community is possible for all of us. As John Donne wisely said, ‘No man is an island’. We all experience some level of community with others as we live our lives; but for some this may not take the same shape as for the majority. Fellowship, that deeper level of Christian relationship, is also possible with a wide range of lifestyles and working patterns; it just may not fit the stereotyped expectations of others. For us, we are often involved in ministries/ discipleship etc with others from a range of different congregations. Is this right or wrong? Or neutral? I believe the church is bigger than one individual congregation or group of believers, although commitment to (and perhaps even membership of) a local church is clearly an important priority.

I’ve touched on a large range of different topics and am approaching 2000 words. So, I’ll stop here! I’d love to know your own thoughts and experiences of community, and how this relates to your own unique circumstances.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Quality Time

Today the boys asked me which was my favourite season. I think there is much that can be said about them all, but crisp autumn days must be among my favourite times of year. The clocks changed last night, which meant we had longer between getting up and going to church, and it was wonderful to have a long walk, running through deep piles of leaves, enjoying the way the sunlight danced and played through different types of trees, collecting wild apples and walnuts which had fallen during the high winds overnight, jumping over puddles, climbing on tree trunks, and generally celebrating all that is glorious about God's creation at this time of day.

As the boys ran ahead, I reflected on how thankful I am for days like these. Days when one neither regrets the past nor considers the future, but rather where what happens now is of greatest importance. When I was younger, there was a time when living seemed to be in the future. When I am old enough. When I pass this certain hurdle. When I finish this course. When I go to this or that place. When I'm older, when I'm married etc. Maybe you can relate to this. I think a huge benefit of home education is that some of these pressures are removed and each day can be embraced for its simplicity, for its beauty, for the moments that cannot be replicated or even repeated to another. People who spend less time with their children speak often of 'quality time'. But the error in this way of thinking is that one can manufacture such 'quality', that the moments can be created, chosen, planned and accurately predicted. To me, the moments of 'quality' occur in the midst of a 'normal' day. The quality is the pleasure of unrushed, free relationships. Of the fleeting glimpse of a rainbow before the storm. Of the lightening which makes the sky dark in the middle of the afternoon. Of the particular discovery of that day.

I've reflected much on how society pulls against such relationships, against such structures within families, against simplicity and enjoyment of the wonders which surround us. Many people consider me naive, that my ideas are unrealistic in 'this day and age'. Even this morning, for almost two hours in some large and beautiful parks, we saw our usual joggers and dog walkers, but no other children. I am almost tempted to ask the question on Facebook, 'What do people with children do on weekend mornings?' - but I fear I may be seen as being provocative, and I am not convinced I want to hear the responses anyway.

God has blessed me with time to enjoy days like these, and for that I am thankful. Like every other parent, I perhaps would have cherished an 'extra hour in bed', but the blessing of this quality time with my children in the beautiful autumn sunlight was of far greater benefit. Rather than focussing on what you don't have, what you cannot achieve, of what you feel you may miss out on, celebrate and embrace that which has been given to you.

I pray that this week God surprises weary homeschooling parents with moments of indescribable delight. I pray that God encourages families to consider what things really matter. And I pray that you start this week with a focus on those things of lasting value.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Nature Deficit Disorder

I've been reading a report by the National Trust on a phenomenon which they have termed Nature Deficit Disorder. I found it compelling reading; much of what is said there supports some of the conclusions I have developed since having children. It summarises some of the root causes of the problem - exaggerated fears among parents (both of road accidents, other injuries and of 'stranger danger'); the increasing amount of time spent in front of screens (the statistics on how much television and computer time the average UK child and teenager spends continue to shock me); the hectic pace of life which results in less time spent at 'leisure'.

Of particular interest here is the discussion about how children who are freed from their desks learn better in four specific ways:

1) Cognitive impacts (greater knowledge and understanding)
2) Affective impacts (attitudes, values, beliefs and self-perceptions)
3) Interpersonal and social impacts (communication skills, leadership and teamwork)
4) Physical and behavioural impacts (fitness, personal behaviours and social actions).

'So, children who learn outdoors know more, understand more, feel better, behave better, work more co-operativel and are physically healthier. Importantly, this is not just for able and motivated pupils: under-achievers also do better in a natural environment, especially when exposed to high quality, stimulating activities'.

Further barriers and potential solutions are discussed.

Consider the report. Are there any simple changes you can make which will allow your children more time outside to explore, and to harness all the benefits of increased contact with nature?

Monday, 14 October 2013

Secular versus Spiritual Wisdom

Lately I’ve been reading some secular works on the education of young children, and some of the social advantages in home education. If you read this blog regularly, you will know that I am a Christian who believes the Bible to be the living word of God, the absolute truth and final authority on all matters. Many of the books and resources that I read and refer to are by authors who hold a similar view. But lately I am reading academic works from those who do not make clear whether or not they believe in the same truths. Is there a paradox? I have some Christian friends who are cautious, indeed at times suspicious, of anything written from this perspective; they explain clearly the differences between wisdom that comes from God in heaven and ‘worldly’ wisdom which often has a very different motivation. However, I’d like to add a short note to explain my stance on this.

Firstly, I read everything through the lens of my biblical worldview. There are books, magazines, and blogs which I glance at and then go no further as I feel the attitude with which they are written is simply not helpful, and that I will not be able to draw anything beneficial for my family from them (I must comment that this will include writings by Christian authors, which I simply do not find helpful or encouraging). With others, I can recognise truth, indeed wisdom, and then I ask myself whether this fits in with my understanding of how God sees things. Is what I am reading consistent with a biblical view on children, family life, marriage, humanity, society and so forth? Using the recent example of John Holt’s 1967 publication, ‘How Children Learn’ I will illustrate this.

What does the Bible say about children? How does God view children? This list is far from exhaustive!

Psalm 128: 3-4: ‘Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord’.

Psalm 127: 3-4: ‘Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth’.

In the words of Jesus,

Matthew 18:3-5: ‘Assuredly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.’

Matthew 19:14: ‘Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven’.

The following principles can be drawn:

·         Each child is known by God; indeed, each child is placed within a family as a blessing from God

·         God entrusts our children to us, to train them as arrows in the hand of a warrior (with purpose)

·         Each child is precious

·         Time invested with children is more important than much time invested elsewhere; Jesus’ disciples thought He had more important priorities, and He rebuked and corrected this view

·         The childlike mind is different to that of an adult, and finds it easier to trust and accept things about the world around them; Jesus does not suggest that children are too  young, simple or naive to understand the things of God, but quite the contrary.

Reading John Holt, I see certain things about his attitude towards children, and the attitude he is keen that the reader comes to adopt:

·         He respects children as individuals

·         He trusts children, and is impressed by the workings of their mind and their understanding

·         He sees each child as unique, precious, worth investing time in

·         He has a desire that each child should be nurtured and encouraged rather than forced into a mentality of failure and disappointment

·         He has a humility, recognising that in fact children can teach us many things

There is no appreciation in Holt’s writings of a greater purpose, of a perfect creator. There is no reference to the verses in Deuteronomy Chapter 6 which exhort us: ‘And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.’ – but his model of education approaches this holistic description (except sadly lacking in the spiritual dimension which one could argue is the most important of all). It is sad that a man with such a gentle, humble, and dare I say, enlightened, attitude towards children could not see beyond the created beings to the glorious Creator. (I could also comment that his attitude towards children seems to me more Christlike than some of the attitudes I have encountered within the church, where it can seem that they are a nuisance, to be seen and not heard, and certainly not to be encouraged to remain during the full worship service on a Sunday morning! But I’ve discussed this aspect elsewhere under my posts on ‘Family centred church’ and some of the writings and sermons of Voddie Baucham).

And there are elements that are absent by omission. No mention is made of discipline, for example, although a reasonable proportion of Bible teaching on child-rearing relates to consistent and firm discipline when it is needed. None of the children Holt described were his own, and he did not spend prolonged time with any of these; I wonder whether some of his approaches may have led to a home which is dominated by the whims of a wilful toddler. This is a limitation, but I do not believe detracts greatly from the value of the thesis.

Can a non-believer offer anything of value to a Christian parent? I sometimes am asked a similar question in relation to my own scientific academic work, and I believe the question shows a fundamental misunderstanding of a human being in relation to God. The letter to the Romans starts by describing how ‘since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse...for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.’ (Romans 1:20, 2:14-15). All people are made in the image of God. Much of God’s glory and goodness is made manifest in creation; even by examining the workings of a young child’s mind, it is conceivable that John Holt was able to glimpse something of God’s amazing creator, and perhaps in his heart may have cried out with the psalmist ‘I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139). Even if not, is it not within the bounds of possibility that his writings were able to capture some essence of God’s love, compassion, concern and purpose for children? 

Yes, one must be careful in how far this argument is taken. And I pray that I have the wisdom to read what is helpful and to ignore that which is not. I pray that what I write here on this blog is a challenge and encouragement to both Christians and to those who perhaps do not know and love this God, but are keen to explore the fact that there is a spiritual dimension to this world.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

John Holt: How Children Learn. Part 2: Art, Maths, Science

Having recently been fascinated by John Holt’s writings on how children learn to read, I was equally keen to digest his reflections on ‘Art, Math and Other Things’. To me, the key points arising from this chapter are:

1)      We must not underestimate what children are capable of
2)      Children learn best when they can clearly see the reason for what they are doing
3)      We must allow children the time and space to play with new objects and tools before moving on to ‘teach’ them specific uses
4)      We should allow the natural flow of ideas that cross traditional academic disciplines 

Initially describing art, he notes that many schools were dropping the amount of time spent on developing creativity in order to focus on the more ‘important’ and traditionally academic targets in literacy and numeracy. ‘They should at least be exposed to the idea that art can be, not just a diversion, but a very powerful way of getting in touch with and expressing reality’. From my own perspective, I remember wanting to be an artist when I was a young child; I don’t know if I ever had the aptitude or skill, but I do remember taking a sketch pad and charcoal pencils around with me when I was aged about 10. However, art was not seen as a ‘real’ subject, and as I wanted to be a doctor, it had to be dropped. (Interestingly, my husband was given the opportunity to take photography to a high level during his schooling despite similar career intentions). The observation that ‘even very young children want to do things well, or at least as well as they see us do them. They are perfectly able to learn how to use many kinds of tools, including sharp woodworking tools, cooking tools, musical instruments, and cameras, that most people would insist they could not use’. Again, freedom and trust are encouraged, and one can clearly see the advantages in informal home education whereby a child can develop and explore in these areas. Holt concludes, ‘I will insist once again, and more strongly than before, that art is a very powerful and essential way for many children both to explore the world around (and inside) them and to express much of what they have learned and felt about it. It is not a ‘frill’ but a central human activity and need, one we neglect at our peril’.

Problem solving as a motivation for learning is discussed both in relation to art and in terms of the scientific and mathematical sections that follow. ‘Any situation, any activity, that puts before us real problems that we have to solve for ourselves, problems for which there are no answers in any book, sharpens our intelligence. The arts, like the crafts and the skilled trades, are full of such problems which is why our skilled artists, artisans and craftsmen are very likely to be sharp-witted people. Their minds are active and inventive; they have to be.’

Again, regarding problem solving and the acquisition of real-life, useful skills, he describes the limitations of mainstream education: ‘One of the fundamental ideas behind most of what we do in school is that children should and must spend many years memorizing a lot of dull facts before they can begin to do interesting things with them.’

Realising that learning for learning’s sake was not the answer, Holt felt that arithmetic was ‘a territory to be explored, not a list of facts to be learned’. Children were given time and space to explore the interrelationships between numbers, sizes and shapes; one example he gave was taking a roll of paper (such as that used in a shop till) and writing consecutive numbers at regular intervals up to 1500 so that children could see just how large numbers related to the smaller ones. However, he does remark that to try and reproduce some of his educational tools may run into the error of simply replacing one curriculum with another, and that flexibility in approach is key. ‘They need to see, again without hurry or pressure, how numbers change and grow and relate to each other.’

Importance of Free Play; More than ‘Messing About’
The section that really captivated me was the evidence regarding free play rather than immediately trying to ‘teach’ and expect children to apply principles which they have not really internalised. First, describing the work of Bill Hull and colleagues: ‘If, when a child came in for the first time, they tried to get him ‘to work’ right away, to play some of their games and solve some of their puzzles, they got nowhere. The child would try to do what he was asked to do, but without joy or insight. But if at first they let the child alone for a while, let him play with the materials in his own way, they got very different results... This proved to be so consistently true that the experimenters made it a rule always to let children have a period of completely free play with the materials before asking them to do directed work with them’.

A more detailed article, entitled ‘Messing about in science’ was published by Professor David Hawkins in 1965. He expands upon this concept. ‘There is a time, much greater in amount than commonly allowed, which should be devoted to free and unguided exploratory work (call it play if you wish; I call it work). Children are given materials and equipment – things – and are allowed to construct, test, probe and experiment without superimposed questions or instruction.’ An example is then given regarding pendulum motion. Some children were given simple frames with weights hanging on strings (the most basic type of pendulum) and were left to play around with the length of the string, the speed of swing etc. These children were able to work out for themselves some of the basic physics involved in this process, even though they might not be able to summarise these in terms of an equation or a ‘rule’. The article by Professor Hawkins concludes, ‘In starting this way I, for one, naively assumed that a couple of hours of ‘Messing About’ would suffice. After two hours, instead, we allowed two more and, in the end, a stretch of several weeks. In all this time there was little or no evidence of boredom or confusion. Most of the questions we might have planned for came up unscheduled. Why did we permit this length of time? First, because in our previous classes we had noticed that things went well when we veered towards ‘Messing About’ and not as well when we held too tight a rein on what we wanted the children to do. It was clear that these children had had insufficient acquaintance with the sheer phenomenon of pendulum motion, and needed to build an appreciative background, against which a more analytical sort of knowledge could take form and make sense.’

What a child is doing when they might appear to be ‘messing about’ is in fact developing their own models of how the world around them works. Often these models are developed through trials and failures, by subtle changes in application, by continually re-evaluating what was previously considered to be true. ‘When the mind is evolving the abstractions which will lead to physical comprehension, all of us must cross the line between ignorance and insight many times before we truly understand.’ Of course a child is unaware that this process is occurring, but it is producing a very solid foundation upon which more complex work can be built. I think many of us as adults are aware of times when we have rushed ahead on something, getting impatient or frustrated with the fundamental principles, when in fact we might as well be wasting our time if we haven’t given due time and attention to the foundations. Something along these lines, although difficult to precisely analyse, appears to be occurring in children. ‘This applies just as strongly to reading, or numbers, or arithmetic, or history, or geography or language, as it does to science.’

Diversity of Ideas
This concept of ‘Messing About’ or taking time to play and explore objects and ideas has many other advantages. Referring to his work in science, Hawkins wrote, ‘we were eager to see where and by what paths their interests would evolve and carry them. We were rewarded with a higher level of involvement and a much greater diversity of experiments.

A couple of detailed examples are given whereby children (firstly an individual child, and then a small class of children of diverse ages) pursued ideas through many different areas. For example, a boy who first became interested in scuba diving, then in deep sea diving for wrecked ships, through to ancient history and lost civilisations, through to archaeology and through several other areas in the interim. The point made is that nobody would start a history lesson with scuba diving, but this was how the child developed his interests. Of course, such an approach simply will not work in mainstream schools; there is not the time or space for each child to develop his own chain of ideas, and furthermore, the teachers tend to artificially draw a dividing line (perhaps more so in secondary education where there will be separate courses, classrooms and teachers) to separate ‘history’, from ‘geography’, from ‘literature’, from ‘humanities’ etc. 

So Why Does Everybody Not See This?
I found reading this book a breath of fresh air and reason, especially when compared to the voices I more frequently hear, the voices of my slightly anxious friends who are continually trying to justify their own choices with regard to childcare and education. But of course not everybody thinks this way, and not everybody can. Interspersed throughout the book are comments regarding the opposition that any challenge to the status quo may engender. My interpretation of the main challenges preventing all education being based on a child-led model with much free time for ‘Messing About’ is thus:

1)      There is an attitude in our country that teachers know best, and that parents should delegate all educational responsibility to the ‘professionals’

2)      Along these lines, the political drivers in education are usually not motivated primarily by the best for each individual child

3)      Therefore much of what I have written about here represents a paradigm shift; it is different to what we have been taught from our own education, and challenges our prevailing worldview.

4)      Some teachers have unhelpful motives – either in terms of balance of power, or of a need to be needed – that may reduce their ability to truly see what is best for the child

5)      Many teachers are afraid of frequent tests of attainment that judge both their pupils and themselves; free-play seems like too much of a luxury

6)      Possibly some teachers are afraid of losing control, of not being able to follow neat and precise lesson plans, of being placed ‘on the spot’ of having to think outside the box. (I know during teaching in Higher Education, some educators prefer the teacher-led, prescriptive, traditional lecture format even when more student-led and interactive technologies can be adopted; often this relates to the confidence of the lecturer and their familiarity with the subject matter. It is harder to be flexible)

7)      Some teachers may not have the freedom to adopt a flexible approach, but instead may need to show evidence regarding how individual elements of the curriculum are being addressed

8)      True understanding and acquisition of principles cannot be easily measured; both parents and teachers would prefer to have ‘proof’ of the child’s progress

There will be others. I wonder what your initial reaction to reading this is? Is it an unattainable, utopian ideal, or a model you could embrace? I’d love to know your tho