This post was inspired by a number of recent conversations. Then listening to a podcast on Bushcraft the subject came up and the idea for the post was born. The conversation started at work we were talking about children's development and their playtime after school etc. It was about how much time is spent on a computer and if we should stop them.
Now my ex's boy did not have a computer (we broke up when he was 6) other than a kindle; he was happy with the games this provided. He used it to watch some programs as we did not have a TV, generally he'd pick learning videos and documentaries about animals. Until he went to school that was, then he watched more kids programs such as 'Paw Patrol' etc. The joy of not having a telly was that he did not know what was on when, when he wanted to watch telly he could pick something and watch it. His life was not dictated by the time things were on telly. I promoted being out in nature while it was light; we lived opposite a park and five minutes walk from a wood, so this was ideal. Getting to the conversation then; I explained that I took him out wild camping and experimenting with Bushcraft, starting when he was about four. He loved it we would make fires and find insects etc this fuelled his interests and he wanted books on bugs and even started to make bug houses. I was talking about this and went into the story I will now tell you:
So we had a parents evening, in this parents evening the teacher said he had some concerns; oh we said! At this point I should add he had mild autism possibly some adjustment disorder, we tried to get him tested but there was not the funding and they stated he was too young. They basically put it down to just him! The point of this being he often had massive tantrums around any change or when asked to do something on top of other common traits. Interestingly though when he was in nature he was completely settled and became more confident. My dissertation was on horticulture and mental health and there is a massive correlation showing it benefits, this also extends to just being around nature too, I hope to write more about this and my efforts to promote it at some point.
Anyways back to the point (a minor tangent there);
we were at the parents evening. The teacher raised concerns the little man have been saying the he had been using an axe da da da. Now we need to bare in mind this was a school who promoted (apparently) the outdoors and had it's own section of woodland to practice forest club in! When I said this was true he had been using an axe in my supervision and had been very closely monitored to make sure he was safe, also I had a loose grasp on the axe for additional safety. Her response was priceless, basically she told me that this should not be allowed and was effecting his fellow pupils as they wanted to "have a go". Personally this is not my problem their parents should be able to handle this and is not up to me to parent their kids too, secondly I pointed out (politely of course) that it was not really any of her business what I did with him when he was not in schools. Yet she still had the audacity to advised against it! At this point I went into the whole spiel about it actually improves his presentation, and relaxes him after a tortuous day at school and how the school system does not cater for individuality and instead creates a parrot learning society ... I was cut short by the ex and consequently did not attend the next parents evening.
The point being here is I was identifying an activity that actively relaxed him and reduced his problem behaviours; hence reducing the risk of him lashing out (which he had been at school on occasion) and disrupting the class. Now I not saying they should have given him an axe in school as this would not be sensible he would need close supervision; the fact to take home when engaging in this activity he was calm and task focused, which they had not been able to achieve! This highlights the problem in our schooling system it's a one sizes fits all system which will never work. Personally I struggled in school with dyslexia and the teachers just carried on and put me down as a trouble maker. I just could not keep up with the writing so disengaged. Now if they had identified this and worked with me to identify a more beneficial learning methods for me life would have been easier. I feel teachers would benefit from the extra work in the long run as their students would learn easier and probably engage better!
That's is the school is the right environment we definitely need an overhaul that's for sure.
The problem is where do we go? I'm all for homeschooling myself and would like to adopt this system with my kids (when I have some) but in this day and age we need to make money! I would hope my wage would allow my partner to stay at home but this is not realistic. This being said we need some form of school for connivence as we just don't live in a society where homeschooling works for everyone. But this place needs to consider everyone learns differently and facilitate this, more importantly though we need to consider what the kids are learning. We need to nurture our children's interests and not force feed them what we think is good. Yes they need to learn the basics but a clever teacher can teach these in any format and in relation to the subject of theme they are engaging in. Simple maths which is all we need let's be honest any more they can study maths (if this is their interests) can be taught in relation to say bushcraft in the woods for example. Reading can be taught in relation to anything again. This bring us back to my ex's boy again; he struggled with reading! The school kept pushing it giving him homework around reading, this put him under pressure. I decided he was under too much pressure and just wrote in his homework book read by me, and if they had a problem with this then tough (not quite those words). When there was not pressure he relaxed and did not stress about the reading the teachers were panicking saying he was behind the class, again my response was it's fine he still not doing extra homework just leave him be. Then about fours five he started asking what things said, I helped him read it using techniques I had learnt for my dyslexia. This involved covering up parts of the word and saying the sounds of the word, he thrived and his reading rapidly improved. Now this is not because I am a genius teacher, it's the simple fact he was ready to learn and it was beneficial to him.
Parrot learning must stop!
Today schooling is basically learning what to say to pass the exams so the schools can achieve good results in the ratings and get their bonus simple!. Just like a parrot repeat after the teacher again and again, kids are learning nothing of value, they are not learning how to present themselves, create the ideas into reality, understand emotions, interact with nature, interact with others or even who they really are. It sad but this is the reality. It should be an experience that encourage their interests. By looking at it this way all kids would thrive there would be no underachievers because it would not be about comparing with others its about developing the individual mind!.
In the future I would like to see individual teachers like we have say piano teachers now. Communities would have say a Bushcraft teacher, Horticulture / Permaculture teacher, an Art teacher and say a Community skills teacher then kids would then book in classes with these teachers. This way kids could study and develop the skills that interests them by interacting with different kids and teachers through this system developing their social skills. This system would also prevent a lot of the so call disruptive behaviour we have today, which in my opinion is due to boredom and kids struggling with a system that neglects any individuality and pushes those who don't fit into this system to the sidelines. This way of thinking is not too far out and I feel would work brilliantly if I don't say so myself. It would give kids the freedom to explore their interest whilst learning at the same time! Looking at the etymology of the word Education it comes from the latin Educare which roughly means to educate, to train, to rear, to bring up; does the above system follow this definition better than sitting kids at a desk and getting them to repeat something they have not interest in and will forget after the test? ##I think so...