Friday, 12 June 2009

“Where’s your plan?”says Mr Badman...

It is difficult to know where to start when it comes to the Badman report. Why don’t we want to be registered? Why don’t we want to open our homes to local authority officials or allow them to interview our children alone? Many people will, I know, be blogging their opinions on these – as we probably will. But this blog post is going to be about this recommendation:

“At the time of registration parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.”

I can give you a statement of our family’s educational approach, if you want. We’ve done this for our local authority back in 2004 when we started home educating. It was an explanation of the philosophy on which we base our children’s education. At its heart were two terms – child-led and autonomous.

I don’t believe that Graham Badman has never heard these two terms. So I can only assume that he wants to outlaw an educational approach based on them. How so? Well, the crucial point is that we don’t have “planned outcomes for the child.”

Perhaps this is a surprise to some people. Our son was four when we started home educating. Surely we decided on an approach to literacy, and set about teaching him to read? Well, no, actually, we didn’t. So, can he read? Erm, yes... How did that happen? Well, that would be another blog post in itself, but let’s just say that it was an unplanned, efficient, empowering voyage of discovery.

Now I know that teachers in schools are compelled to do a huge amount of planning. I work in a university and see the kind of detailed plans that education students on placement must produce for a literacy hour with a class of four/five year olds. OK. If that’s the system that the govt decrees and the teachers, parents and children comply with – then that’s up to them.

The state education system is a top down model. The govt decides the curriculum, the teachers design the lessons and the students consume them. In such a model you’ll find planning – and lots of it! But our whole approach to education is based on our children’s intrinsic desire to learn. They are in the driving seat. If they want to make plans (which they often do, actually, being the children of parents who love a plan!) then they do. They are not answerable to us should the plan not come off, or should they choose to change the plan. Indeed, we believe that practising these planning skills is a wonderful learning opportunity in itself.

More than anything, I want our children to remain free to discover. I believe that their enthusiasm for learning is precious. I will not see them robbed of it by an official who wants to hold us to some list of ‘outcomes’. I will not have their education (which I believe to be their right and their property) reduced to a list of tick boxes on a sheet. I won’t have that sheet held over us all. We don’t all share your obsession with measuring...

Graham Badman would have the govt believe that people who educate as we do are carrying out some kind of ‘unproven’ experiment on our children. "Where are the studies that show it works?" Well, to that I can only, politely, ask him to look at state schooling. Does that work? Really? For all the children? In every way? We are not cranks attempting to keep our children in ignorance. There is still some John Holt on the reading lists for trainee teachers, isn’t there? Look him up, Mr Badman. Look him up, Mr Balls.

Mr Badman and Mr Balls. You couldn’t make it up, could you?! They are surely some characters from a lesser known Roald Dahl book?

BTW, while I have been typing this my children’s unplanned activities (i.e. I had no idea they would happen last year!) have been:

Walking over to Dani’s workplace to photocopy a hand-made zine. P has been making this for the last week or so. It’s a zine of lists. She has been inspired by some sessions on zine making that we allowed her to take in the company of a self-confessed Anarchist, no less... Oh dear, is this helping our case?

L has been making short films of action figures with the video camera. Some of these are shop bought figures and some home-made aliens made out of Fimo.

Discovering a “way cool” caterpillar in the garden. This was L again. He took the camera out to record the event.

Scooting off to a local community association meeting to do some work for our approaching community festival day. We had no idea our twelve year old would decide to attend planning meetings for this year’s event. She’s done lots of work – delivering things, selling plants to fundraise, etc.

Reading me some snippets from First News. This was L again. He thought I should know something important about the mother of the person who won last year’s “Britain’s Got Talent”. Now I do.

Varnishing a stone from the garden that looks like an alien egg. Yes, this was Leo too.

Writing some X-Files case notes with a dipping pen and ink. Leo likes to use many different things to write.

Outcomes? Hold on, I’ll just pull their heads open and have a look...


mamacrow said...

Hmmm, I see exactly what you're saying, but 'plan' doesn't mean 'curriculum' or 'lesson plan' and 'outcomes' don't nesecarily have to mean 'will read at this level by this date'

From what you've described, your plan is to assist where required in enabling your children to plan their educuation related activities, choosing from a range of courses and local resources (you can insert handful of examples here),

helping them pursure their emerging interests (that would be enriching activities such as reading the paper with them on something that catches their interest, or also ferrying them places and paying for things).

Your planned outcome is that they continue to evolve as confident, self motivated individuals, and you can always put in some more specific short term things, I'm sure they'll have some ideas - learning to negotiate the public transport system independently for example, or pursure a second language.

We rather like doing goals for the year and so on in our house, and I included a bit on goals/aims in our orginal doc for the LEA and then updated it for the second contact 6 mnths later - this was things very much led by Papacrow and I (working on relationships with siblings, or continuing to learn to swim) and things directly from them (go up a belt in karate, play more tennis, learn more about frogs)

Sounds like you've got your aproach and philosphy thing down pat, and I included a reading list of our fave resources - including John Holt incidently - as I thought it would also give a good indication of where we were coming from...

I drone on about all this in the hope it might be helpful, and make the whole thing just a tad less... threatening? Of course feel free to ignore and tell me to bog off :D

Allie said...

The thing is, mamacrow, I don't want to be held to a plan - of any sort. How can I and also respect my children's autonomous choices with regards to their education?

And if my children choose to make plans then there is no reason that they should be obliged to share them with anyone - least of all some bod from the LA who they don't know from Adam. Why can we not trust children to learn?

For me, this is about being able to pursue genuine learning opportunities without having to consider what Mr Whoever from the LA will make of our choices. If my children decide to ditch an activity I don't want to be thinking, "oh, no, but that was one of our goals/aims/plans..."

Equally, I don't want to be diverting them from wonderful new opportunities because I have some nagging list of "ought to" things lurking in my mind. This would be a distortion of our whole approach to living and learning.

Gill said...

"Equally, I don't want to be diverting them from wonderful new opportunities because I have some nagging list of "ought to" things lurking in my mind. This would be a distortion of our whole approach to living and learning."

Yes, that's exactly how I'm seeing it too.

Elizabeth said...

Mr Badman says there is no evidence that autonomous learning works. There is a wealth of evidence throughout history that people learn best in rich uncoercive environments he chooses to ignore all that evidence. He is a person who has spent his life int the state educational system and the civil service he is unable to see outside the walls of those rigid coercive systems. I empathise with him on this, I'm grateful to have been compelled by my children to see outside those walls. I do not think that the views of one narrowly experienced person should control the education of the nation.

In my repsponse to the review I sent him details of the work of Deci and Ryan, two americans who with ohters have been researching self motivation since the 1970s.
Internal motivation is much more powerful than external motivation, their work also shows that external motivation has a negative effect on mental health.

The review report says a literature review was part of the process. Do we get to see that literature review? Do we get to see the evidence and the information from which he drew his conclusions?

Maire said...

Have just put in an FOI for the Literature Review.

mamacrow said...

'If my children decide to ditch an activity I don't want to be thinking, "oh, no, but that was one of our goals/aims/plans..."...Equally, I don't want to be diverting them from wonderful new opportunities because I have some nagging list of "ought to" things lurking in my mind. This would be a distortion of our whole approach to living and learning.'

I totally agree. When this happens we go with it and mention it when we rewrite/revise (at the mo, seems to be at 6mths). Plans don't have to be static...

Not disagreeing with you exactly, just putting in my pov :)

dawny said...

here here :-)

emma said...

dani - just wanted to say that the postcard idea is genius. We will be using them for the rest of the summer.