Tag Archives: Education

Learning by Rote

There has been lots of talk in the news at the moment about primary curriculum changes, two mentioned recently include children as young as five should recite poetry and children also will be expected to know their 12 times table by the age of nine in order to “restore rigour”.

According to WikipediaBy definition, rote learning eschews comprehension, so by itself it is an ineffective tool in mastering any complex subject at an advanced level.

Also according to Wikipedia: [Rigourous instruction] is instruction that requires students to construct meaning for themselves, [..] and apply what they learn in more than one context and to unpredictable situations.

Hmmm…

I’ve nothing against memorisation, but I think it needs to be done when the interest is there. It can be easier if you have number bonds and times tables in your head to call on when required but not knowing them or being unable to memorise them by a particular age has no bearing on future success. If a child has an innate need to memorise because of their interest, it will happen a lot more easily than being forced.

I also disagree with targets by a certain age, because all children are different. Average doesn’t mean that everyone should be at that point. Average means that half of children will be below that level and half will be above so by definition any targets based on averages will classify half of children as failures when they’re not… I know I’m simplifying the reality of levels and targets but I don’t believe they add anything to education so will complain about them at will!

On reciting poetry, I know I’m not from a ‘deprived’ area but most children I know could recite poetry before they could speak! Humming the rhythm of nursery rhymes, then picking up some of the words, then learning them all… My three year old can certainly ‘recite’ several poems: Twinkle Twinkle; Horsey Horsey; The Grand Old Duke of York… But only because she’s interested and has chosen to do so. Children being told to learn a specific poem that they don’t want to learn will only cause friction and tension and turn a child away from the love of learning that they’re born with.

Memorisation happens through use and re-use, through interest being grasped and held, through various methods depending on each child. The child who knows their times tables by age seven is no more advanced than the one who takes until age twelve, or the one who never memorises but has a grasp on the concepts so can quickly calculate when they need to…

Dear Government, please leave teachers to teach; parents to parent (and teach); children to learn (and teach each other!) Those who need help will ask if they’ve not been scared off by targets and labels of failure.

Please share your thoughts, I love to discuss and learn ideas that I’d not considered – because my love of learning is still alive despite my school years 😉

Number Bonds to 10

It’s been six months since my High Frequency Words post, and I had planned to do more printables but that just hasn’t happened. MG has got through many more key words without the printables, but I do plan to update the word lists for download at some point…

I spent a little time going through various PDF files I’ve either purchased or found free online from various places and I couldn’t find what I wanted to give MG a hands-on method for learning number bonds, so I’ve made a printable to share.

This printable includes tiles to make half of the number bonds to 10 so you can either print two copies, or swap the numbers round to show that, for example, 9 + 1 is the same as 1 + 9.

xxxxxx

The files come in three colour schemes: to match the colours of Cuisenaire Rods; to match the colours of Montessori Bead Materials; and plain for practice without colour-coding. I don’t think number bonds are particularly Montessori, but I’m following what’s used in school as that’s the education route that we’ve currently chosen for our daughters. Some people combine approaches, so the download might be useful.

I’ve chosen to give MG Cuisenaire Rods for number bond learning initially, therefore this is the colour scheme I’ve printed out.

I’ve changed the green in the Cuisenaire file since printing the set in the picture because I didn’t think the original green was light enough.

There are several stages to be taken to cover number bonds, but I can miss many of them because of what MG has learnt in school. For our home use with these unfamiliar materials I wanted to cover two things first:
1. Experimenting with the different ways any two rods exactly match the length of one orange rod
2. Matching the number tiles to the relevant rods

MG can already read up to two-digit numbers and knows the plus and equals operator symbols. Since making these, MG hasn’t shown an interest so I haven’t tested them but instead of keeping this post in draft for any more weeks, I’ll update on how we used them in a later post – or please let me know if they’re useful in the comments!

#3Books

Emily from A Mummy Too has set somewhat of an impossible challenge – choose three books you love most: one from childhood, one from adulthood, one as a parent.

Childhood
I stumble at the first hurdle: which part of childhood? How do you define “childhood”? I was reading adult novels as a pre-teen, but was a child until my twenties in other ways (not that I’ve ever truly grown up). In a quick burst of conciousness I could include: picture books listed here (and more besides); A Child’s Garden of Verses; The Hobbit; A Wizard of Earthsea; The Hounds of the Morrigan; The Wind on the Moon; The Ordinary Princess; Narnia; Enid Blyton; The Starlight Barking; Wolves of Willoughby Chase; The Snow Kitten; Asimov; Douglas Adams; Harry Harrison… and I’ve missed out so many.

I’m going to chose Dragons’s Blood (trilogy) by Jane Yolen. I borrowed it from the library when I was around 10 and it always stuck with me, to the extent I managed to track the trilogy down again to re-read in my early 20’s even though I couldn’t remember the author at the time. It’s set in a world where dragons exist and are bred for fighting, where there are two classes of people: free and bonded and it tells the story of how a bonded boy manages to raise his own dragon in secrecy. It’s a fully realised world containing politics, emotions and characters that stay with you forever. Now I’ve written this, I want to re-read them again (and get the fourth book which I’ve never read…)

Adulthood
Here I have the opposite problem to childhood: I read a lot of so-called children’s novels and then there’s my soft spot for vampire ‘young adult’ fiction 😆 I used to read at least one or two books a week but sadly those days seem long gone, maybe one day I’ll get back into reading as much as I used to…

My favourite authors for the bulk of my adulthood have been Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Other authors who have wowed me include Iain (M) Banks; Philip Pullman; Garth Nix… Far too many others, including non- SF/fantasy/horror books if you were wondering…

I’m going to chose Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. A book by both my favourite authors, well it’s a no-brainer. It’s funny, intelligent, and… Oh, it’s just brilliant.

Parenthood
I’m avoiding choosing a children’s / picture book as I really can’t choose just one and I get to talk about those lots on this blog anyhow.

I’m going to choose How Children Learn by John Holt. It’s a very readable book based around a series of memos Holt wrote whilst he was working as a teacher. It not only gives a view on how education should (or shouldn’t) be but also lots to think about in how to parent too. John Holt obviously loved and respected children and is essential reading if you have anything to do with children in my opinion.

That was hard! Thank-you, A Mummy Too, I really enjoyed thinking about what to choose.

#3Books

First Words

Mighty Girl (4yrs 9months) is definitely in a sensitive period for reading and writing. She is loving the phonics work at school and outside school is attempting to decode words wherever she sees them – menus, street names, books… She loves to play pretend cafe and takes food orders and writes them down – I’ve been trying to think of food that can be written phonically like “bun” but she tries everything. It is an exciting and interesting process to observe so I’m saving some of her early writing here for posterity, so she can look back at it later (and Destructo Girl’s when she gets to that sensitive period).

Cafe orders LHS: sausage and jacket potato; RHS: bun and ice cream

Apple; Teapot

Mummy (when she runs out of space, she writes the letters at the start or above); come to my [party]; from

Ice cream

Thank-you has been copied from a thank-you note, hence the different shaped letters to her usual style. “TK” was her first attempt, then she asked for something to copy from.

This was written entirely independently when at the craft station at school 🙂

Work and School

I took voluntary redundancy at the end of May this year and here I am, less than 4 months later, back at the same organisation… It’s only for 8 days spread over 4 weeks and I did the first day today. In some ways, it was as if I never left. In other ways, everything is completely different. After one day I have a killer headache and although I do enjoy the work and am appreciating the change in routine from being a stay-at-home-mum, I don’t think I want to return to the ‘workforce’ just yet. I do realise I am fortunate to have the choice.

Mighty Girl started school last Wednesday, so has done nine school days now. Walking to school she says she doesn’t want to go and school is boring… When I collect her she says she’s loved the day and she wants to go back tomorrow! So far (early days I know) I am very happy with her school experience. I am not parenting my girls as well as I’d like to and having the break from each other is good for both myself and MG at present. I do miss her though.

On Tuesday it was Roald Dahl Day and everyone at MG’s school had to dress as a character from a Roald Dahl book. Erk, my first creative challenge. Fortunately I found an easy-looking idea for The Enormous Crocodile and we made her snappy croc arms together the night before.

Today was MG’s first day with before-school and after-school with her old nursery because I was at work. I left before drop-off time but Daddy said she was quite shy as no one else had arrived yet (I thought she’d be in the Casa before and after school but she was upstairs in the after-school area) but she was with people she knew and when we picked her up she was running and playing happily in the garden with her friends.

Destructo Girl has been sad that her big sister has been going to school so I sold nursery to her telling her she was going to school. She had three one hour settling in sessions as it had been three months since they were last there (MG had one one hour settling session) and generally screamed at being left but was okay during the session if a bit unsure. However, her first full day she completely loved. Daddy said there were screams at dropping off but the IC (infant community) staff said it was as if she never left – she knew where to choose materials and put them back and she joined in with everything. She was also playing happily in the garden when we collected them and chattered away happily about her day at school, singing songs. It’s made me realise that I’m not really doing enough with her. She loves singing and joining in the actions and she had that at nursery but I don’t do it at home. I must do a ‘circle time’ with her. She’s always been the one to get on with things happily while MG took all the attention but now she has one to one time with me I really should use it better. One of the things I really want to do is start some Montessori ‘tot school’ work at home, I should start with this Montessori Minute post from 1+1+1=1. Or this post on setting up a Montessori toddler environment from Living Montessori Now.

In four weeks I shall be back to being a stay-at-home mum again, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about that. I’m hoping this brief return to work will remind me why I left in the first place. And maybe the structure of a work day will influence a structure into all our days and a little less chaos 😆

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?