Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ideal vs Reality

A couple of weeks ago we had our annual visit from the local education authority to check that Angel and Star are actually being educated. We are fortunate in that our LEA visitor is very supportive of home education and has known us for a few years, making his visit more of a social occasion than an inspection. Each year I send him some paperwork in advance, to give him an idea of what we are up to. This year I produced a curriculum outline I'd prepared a while ago for my own interest in imitation of one J-next-door brought home from school, along with a summary of progress over the last year. With our year condensed into two or three pages for each child it all looked so very tidy and systematic - completely disguising the messiness of the day-to-day reality. For example Angel's love-hate relationship with Singapore maths was reflected in my progress report with the comment "at times we have found the pace too fast, and have taken breaks as necessary". The reality has been a delicate balancing act of working out when she needs to be pushed out of her comfort zone ("you don't have to like it, you just have to do it!") and when she really does need a break, a balancing act that occasionally breaks down under my errors of judgement or her lapses in maturity. The statement "Star particularly enjoyed an Usborne Time Traveller book" suggests Star sitting nicely lapping up historical details with enthusiasm. Reality was that every time the book came out, she had to put on a time travelling helmet (cycle helmet), set imaginary dials and whizz several times round the room to travel back to the appropriate time. Occasionally there would be a technological error and she would have to interrupt looking at the book to repeat the performance. On particularly patient mother days, the experience would be enhanced by adding knee and elbow pads and wristguards. I never worked out the rationale behind this! Almost every statement on my progress report could be qualified by an explanation of the messy reality behind it - the interruptions, the sibling squabbles, the books that didn't fly (I like St.Athanasius Academy's 10% rule). Yet the progress was genuine. Both girls do know more across a range of subjects and have more skills than they did a year ago. Sometimes it has been two steps forward and one step back; some days have ended in frustration; some days have veered completely off track; and our "schoolwork" rarely looks like school. It may not match the ideal, but something is going right.

1 comment:

Karen E. said...

Bookworm wrote: "it all looked so very tidy and systematic - completely disguising the messiness of the day-to-day reality." Aahh, and isn't this the case with so many aspects of life: marriage, friendships, work ... thank goodness we don't have to dissect all of *those* for an outside inspector.