Tag Archives: Alternate Education

On Schooling

It is difficult to be unbiased. I was good at exams, so school wasn’t a problem for me, and I was lucky I was never bullied considering my personality but looking back I can’t see what I really learned from the schooling I was forced through. I knew most things from primary school from having older siblings – I have memories of lessons where I’d be whispering answers into a friend’s ear (I never spoke at primary school) because I knew it. At secondary school I was good at what I liked and rubbish at what I didn’t like because I didn’t work hard, I wasn’t interested. I was good at swotting up for exams and passing things. I have done loads of complex subjects at degree level at both bricks and mortar university and Open University and I can’t remember any of it – looking back at old work is like reading something in an ancient lost language. So, in retrospect, schooling was fairly pointless and irrelevant to my life. Anything I have been interested in I’ve read up on, “played” with and learnt because I wanted to. I needn’t have ever finished my degree with OU other than feeling I needed to prove I am degree educated, as I got through my working life from what I knew and not from what I learnt once and forgot.

So yes, I am biased. In retrospect, and only after reading several books that got me to re-examine my education experience. My views on schooling are coloured by the writings of John Holt; John Taylor Gatto; Maria Montessori (although I need to read her actual works rather than interpretations of it); books on Home Ed; my local Home Ed community; TED talks from Sugata Mitra, Gever Tulley and others; I’m starting to read Alfie Kohn, Margaret Donaldson, Ivan Illich; blogs of Montessori home educators (mostly US); blogs from UK home edders; Home Ed and Montessori mail groups… I read to my interest, and my interest is away from the mass schooling system.

So, I do feel, given my feelings on schooling and my realisation that actually I didn’t get much out of it either that I should choose an alternative for my girls, that I should give them different opportunities to become the best adults they can be. Everyone is different, and I don’t believe that people who send their children to school are wrong or not giving their children a good education or are not engaged parents who have thought through the options and are giving their children the best education. But for me, I just have this niggling feeling that school isn’t the right place.

But MG talks about school all the time, she’s so excited about going, she wants to be at school. She definitely doesn’t get that from me! So, if I “follow the child” which is my ultimate aim (I’m not there yet, I try…) then school it is, because that’s her choice. And I remind myself that I am an engaged parent, I am an interested parent, I will have more time with her when she’s at school and I’m not working than I did with three days a week at nursery, all year round. Not to mention how lucky we are to live where we live, with the primary school that we have… So I shall just have my doubts and niggles, which I have to keep quiet around MG and DG, and just be the best parent I can be.

Montessori Madness! again!

Lori from Montessori MOMents blog is offering the Montessori Madness! book by Trevor Eissler in a giveaway. The rest of her blog is well worth reading too! Click here for a direct link to the giveaway.

See my previous post on why this book is worth buying. And because it’s so fab, here’s the video again:

Montessori Madness!

I first read about Montessori before I had any children or had started planning to have children and was ‘sold’ on the philosophy from the start. The more I read, the more involved in Montessori education I want to be.

Last week, I saw this video for the first time:

Ever since, I’ve wanted to share it with everyone I bump into. Trevor Eissler’s book, Montessori Madness is being offered in a worldwide giveaway by the fantastic Montessori Print Shop (load of info on their blog and site on use of Montessori principles, as well as printables that reduce the cost of buying materials that aren’t needed in a home environment). If the contents are anything like the video, it looks like a book I’ll be gently lending to all the parents I know (after I’ve devoured it myself) 😉

To enter their giveaway, click here.

My answer to the question Why is the best product in the world (Montessori Education) so poorly and timidly marketed? How can we change this? is: I think one of the problems is that anyone can use the word ‘Montessori’ without really knowing what it represents. When I told other parents that I was thinking of home educating using Montessori philosophy, many of the comments were along the lines that it’s very prescriptive (certain materials used in certain ways) or that Montessori ‘hated imaginative play’ or that it’s just for pre-schoolers. In the UK, we have an early years framework that requires play based learning until age 6 with children free to choose activities, so those parents who are aware of Montessori also think this is ‘the same’ as Montessori. Montessori schooling is considered an elite choice, so many don’t even think to look into it – and that’s from the small sub-set of parents who look into any alternative to State education for their children.

It seems strange that Montessori education should be such a ‘hard sell’ but I think sadly it is to do with cases where the word ‘Montessori’ has just been added to a school run by people with only a vague idea of what the philosophy is about. It seems like the connection between MMR and autism – there’s no link but people think it’s there because of media exposure; Montessori and hot-housing seem to be linked inextricably in people’s minds. The solution? I have no idea, but I think Trevor Eissler’s video is a very good step in giving the world a bite-sized introduction to what Education could be like.

But on thinking more, I wish I’d added that parents need to be made more aware of alternatives to state education, and that alternatives are not ‘hippy’ or ‘out there’ or just being alternate for the sake of it. How much media coverage is there on “X% of school/college leavers can’t <insert basic skill here>”? I don’t think the media is helping anything but instead of blaming schools, teachers,  parents, ‘the youth of today’ maybe more debate on the value of testing, tables, standardisation etc should be in the mainstream so that there are a variety of educational choices?