This is a petition to get the NSPCC to remove their inaccurate and biased analysis of Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) which attempts to create a link between home education and child abuse and neglect. Put simply the NSPCC incorrectly concludes that home educating parents put their children at risk by maintaining that local authorities follow the law rather than what they SCR’s actually show which is that local authorities put children at risk by NOT following the law, something we as a community have long campaigned for. SCRs conclusions clearly identify that in all cases analysed local authorities and other agencies failed children by not following national guidelines. Please sign this petition to force the NSPCC to address the real problem, poor LA practice, and target services where they should be: children known to be at risk of abuse and neglect rather than target loving caring parents doing their best for their children.
Our next Open Day: Saturday 7th November, 2015, 11am-1pm.
**SPECIAL DISCOUNTS ON FEES AVAILABLE THAT DAY ONLY**
**Flexi-schooling welcomed and encouraged**
Ofsted Good, June 2015.
“Students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is excellent. They demonstrate maturity, tolerance and mutual respect as they interact with each other and staff.”
“The proprietorial board (the trustees) and the headteacher are determined that the school should lead the way as to how music might be used to motivate students and support learning in other subjects. They have created an ethos of high expectations and very high aspirations for every student.”
Learning About Social Class: A Global Issue Today Edith W. King, Educational Sociologist
Sociologists recognize that inequalities spring from the social structures and social processes that create, maintain, or change the individual’s circumstances. Life chances that create inequalities are defined as the conditions of material existence. These conditions include food, clothing, and shelter. This also takes in the quality of life issues such as education, future employment and career opportunities. It includes lifestyle, access to health care, environmental issues, and social and civic participation. Meighan and Harber point out that social class has continued to be a highly ambiguous concept. They note that “the links between social class and education in the UK have been researched frequently and persistently.” (2007, p. 389)
Potent Forces of Social Class: When talking or writing about children and families Roland Meighan and I often discussed how this topic involved touching on the wider social class structure of a society or a nation. It is well known that the economic wherewithal of a group or a family is tied to accumulation of material goods. What is treasured and valued comes from the worth imbued to the material good, such as cash, precious metals and jewels, stocks, bonds, properties (real estate), through a cultural definition of what is valuable. Further, accumulation of wealth and status means power and superiority over others. Social and economic status tends to give one group power over another and leads to attitudes that one ethnic or racial group is inherently better than another because it is richer and holds a higher social status. Material wealth not only endows an individual or a group with greater social status; often it is accompanied by wider political power.
Socioeconomic status (SES) is characterized as a measure that combines a person’s education, occupation and income in order to derive that person’s ranking in the social structure. This definition brings us to another concept in sociological thought connected with social class and socioeconomic status or SES; it is the word “classism.” Classism is defined as discriminatory attitudes and actions towards individuals based upon their social class affiliation. Classism is considered a manifestation of discrimination and prejudice that arises from the wide inequities in the distribution of wealth in a society or nation-state. Sociologists depict most societies as consisting of the following major socio-economic classes: upper middle; lower middle; working class and a growing group labeled the underclass, those living in continual poverty over generations.
In recent years the inequities in the distribution of wealth have been so dramatic that the number of those considered to be middle class in more affluent nation-states have been shrinking. Those living on the edge of poverty, the lower working class and the underclass, have grown twice as rapidly as the people considered more affluent. This situation points to a widening gap between the rich and the poor. Social scientists, social workers, psychologists, medical practitioners, all, concur that the major cause of inequality in childhood is the condition of living in poverty. In other words, those children and families are living in lower class or underclass groups.
Children’s Literature and Classism: Through the books they read, through films and videos, children are introduced to the concept of social class, classism, and the inequalities created by social class affiliations. That vastly popular series, the Harry Potter books, as well as the films, exemplifies how children can learn about the impact of social class. The publishers of the Harry Potter books, Scholastic Publishers, estimate that 325 million copies of the first six books were sold by 2007 in the United States alone including,: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; The Prisoner of Azkaban; and The Goblet of Fire.
In the Harry Potter series, the Weasley family is continually described as a large family with limited financial resources. Particularly, Ron Weasley, Harry Potter’s comrade at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, is teased for his family’s inability to provide new robes, a fine wand, and a suitable owl for this fourth son to attend Hogwarts.
More evidence of the role of social class appears when we are introduced to Harry, in the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He is pictured as a penniless orphan despised by the Dursleys, who are portrayed as the typical British middle class family, living on Privet Drive in their spotlessly clean home with manicured lawn. However, when Harry learns that his deceased parents have left him a small fortune and he can finance his schooling at Hogwarts, and not have to depend on others, his social status changes. Subsequently, Harry is treated with more respect by the Dursleys and allowed to have a bedroom to himself, rather than living in the closet below the stairs in the family house.
Another situation in the Harry Potter books that informs children about the power of influence and wealth on social class status is J. K. Rowling’s portrayal of the Malfoys, both Draco, the son, and Lucius, the father. As a longstanding and wealthy wizard family, the Malfoys can be supercilious in stating their views about the social standing and monetary holdings of other characters in the Harry Potter books. Draco Malfoy refers to various characters as servants, has little regard for some of the teachers, and continually points to the Weasley family as being poor, of low status, and having too many children. An underclass appears in the Harry Potter series as well, in the form of the house elves, who work unseen and unpaid, living in the lower levels of the Hogwarts School or in the homes of wealthy wizard families; in reality, an enslaved people. (Heilman and Gregory, 2003)
Awareness of social class and classism in children’s literature is an area of the language arts and literacy that parents and teachers can access. Once an educator is alerted to this subject matter, the presence and the ramifications of social class, social mobility, and social inequality become apparent, even in classical fairy tales such as Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk.
Children and Social Class Inequality in the UK: Britain is a nation that has been deeply class-based for centuries. Early on British-born children are aware of their family’s social class status, religious affiliation and relative degree of affluence. In the first decades of the 21st century it was reported that Britain’s population numbered around 60 million. Refugees and asylum-seekers have been arriving every month adding millions of new immigrants to the British population. Many of these new immigrants are leaving financial stress in Eastern Europe or escaping armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq and West Africa. Furthermore, Muslim communities in Britain are growing. These more recent immigrants continue to struggle for a place in British society, much as those do in the U.S. Some of these people are highly educated and bring specialized skills and experience to ease their socialization and enculturation into the UK. However, other refugee families, their children, and single young adults are poorly educated due to the continual trauma of fleeing persecution and violence. Lack of education directly affects social class status.
Educational sociologists have reiterated that many middle class, as well as working class, parents share anxieties about social and educational inequalities imposed on their children. (Apple, 2004; Meighan and Harber, 2007) For example, young U.K. children were questioned about their understandings of social class privilege and access to enhanced educational opportunities. Some children insisted their education was better than ‘poor’ children’s schooling because their families paid tuition to attend the school. It was better because it cost money. This is an example of how children are socialized into the notion of the superiority of tuition-based schooling. These attitudes may reproduce tendencies to reject the recent waves of refugee families and asylum seekers.
In the summer months of 2015 the media reported that over 100,000 refugees, the majority from Syria and Iraq, as well as other Middle Eastern countries, coming by flimsy boats across the Mediterranean Sea, landed in the islands off Greece. Numbers of these refugees told reporters they were escaping from the terror attacks of ISIS (the Islamic State). Among the refugees were over 4000 children, some of them unaccompanied. An assessment by Save the Children (savethechildren.org), a British non-governmental organization (NGO), warned that these young people were at risk of exposure to various sicknesses, to trafficking, sexual exploitation and physical abuse when sleeping alone or pressed into cramped detention quarters. Furthermore, international media described the desperate situation of the Syrian refugee families who fled to the cramped refugee camps in Jordan. Parents with young children emphasized that their little ones cannot remember life before violence and homelessness. The toddlers suffer from seizures, malnutrition, and diarrhea. Medical care is severely limited. It is evident that wars and governmental financial instability in countries such as Greece and Egypt, in Eastern European nations, and across Africa, are continuing to create devastating problems for humanity.
Learning and teaching about social class and the effects of classism are vital topics for our contemporary curriculum. In this article I endeavored to point out how global terrorism intensifies social inequality. With the knowledge of the power of social class status (SES) we can bend our efforts towards ameliorating the circumstances of inequality in the lives of children growing up in times of terrorism. Here follows some suggestions for thinking and learning about social class:
,,. How has social class affiliation affected your students and those that you know ?
…What stories, plays or films can you recall where social class was important in the plot?
… Discuss the impact of social class and social inequality with others. What responses and concerns can you list from these talks?
… Do you discuss topics about social class or socio-economic status (SES) with your children and students? Have you considered that stories such as the Harry Potter series and Cinderella, for example, have social class implications?
Edith W. King is an educational sociologist and American Sociological Association emeritas professor. King has written extensively on diversity and gender education, international and cross-cultural education, and qualitative research in global perspectives. Among her many books is the recent Encounters with Social Thought (Amazon:Kindle 2012) and Social Thought on Education (Amazon:Kindle 2011). Edith King serves on the advisory board of numerous professional journals and educational publications and is the chairperson of the Worldmindedness Institute.
References Apple, Michael W. (2004) Official Knowledge. N.Y. Routledge, Heilman, Elizabeth E. & Anne E. Gregory. (2003) “Images of the Privileged Insider and Outcast Outsider.” In E. Heilman, (Ed.) Harry Potter’s World. New York: RoutlegeFalmer, pp. 241 – 260. King, E. (2014) Teaching in an Era of Terrorism. 4th edition. Amazon: Kindle. . Meighan, Roland and Clive Harber. (2007) A Sociology of Educating. London, UK: Continuum. Save The Children. www.savethechildren.org.uk Strimel, Courtney B.: “The Politics of Terror: Rereading Harry Potter.” Children’s Literature in Education, Vol. 35, No. 1, March 2004, pp. 35-52.
Van Arsdale, Peter. (2006) Forced to Flee: Human Rights and Human Wrongs in Refugee Homelands. Lanham MD: Lexington Books.
Dr Anna Cunningham and Dr Julia Carroll of the Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, Coventry University, and Dr Daisy Powell of the Institute of Education, University of Reading have built a funding proposal for research into how EHE children learn to read. They have taken good advice and spoken widely including Dr Alan Thomas / Dr Harriett Patterson and Dr Helen Lees. They have already identified an initial research constituency but are looking for more particularly from the Midlands and South East. Any help in getting the information around to the EHE Community would be welcomed. I’ve added a particpant information sheet to the files and in the following post.
How did we not know about this place!? Good fortune struck at the Manifold Flexi open day. Alison Sauer and I met Sally Alexander, Headteacher of the Kimichi School in Birmingham….”Rethinking education with Music at its heart”. Sally is an inspirational educator and committed to developing flexischooling http://www.kimichischool.co.uk/our-school/. Plenty of flexi places available.
Lovely time at Manifold Primary Academy yesterday talking about Flexischooling. Working in partnership with Hollinsclough Primary Academy and flexischool it’s sure to be a success. Manifold have 13 prospective places available for flexischooling families. Initially this is for primary age children but the intention is to develop in conjunction with Hollinsclough a secondary offer http://www.manifold.staffs.sch.uk/ . Get in touch with the headteacher Jean Fletcher for further information.
Weston Lullingfields CE Primary School https://sites.google.com/site/testschoolssite / CREATIVE LEARNING DAY 24th September 2015.
Alison Sauer and I enjoyed and really lovely and productive day at WL meeting governors and staff. The school was in the midst of a full OFSTED inspection but Judi Clarke, headteacher and her staff stuck to their guns and continued with the CLD. Mixed age groups of children engaged in carousel of practical learning activities inside and outside the school buildings. Everyone had a great time and lots of learning was going on. Early indications are that OFSTED also approved! WL is wonderfully placed to take on flexischooling families and we would recommend anyone interested to get in touch with the school. Currently 33 children, staffed with positive, caring practitioners in an idyllic setting.
FLEXISCHOOLING CREATIVE LEARNING DAY. WESTERN LULLINFGIELDS CE PRIMARY, SHROPSHIRE. 24th September 2015
As part of our school mission to offer an inclusive education for all children, Weston Lullingfields CE Primary School is now offering Creative Learning Days with places for children who are educated in ways other than at mainstream schools alongside our full time children.
Who are we?
Weston Lullingfields is a very small and friendly school (currently with 33 children), set in the beautiful North Shropshire countryside. We have had a year on year improvement in the progress and attainment in literacy and maths. More importantly, our motto is “Small School, Big Family”, and we pride ourselves on the individualised care and learning we offer all our children. One of our newest recruits, who joined us after several unhappy years in their previous school, described us as having ‘changed her life’ in her end of year 6 speech. It’s been wonderful watching her blossom into a confident, brave and happy young lady.
And that is what we want to do – give children a reason to love learning, the confidence to make friends and challenge themselves, and, ultimately, prepare them for their next steps in life – wherever they might lead. As part of that mission, we are holding creative learning days to give the children a chance to come away from the normal curriculum and experience something they might not get a chance to do otherwise.
The Creative Learning days
Our first Creative Learning Day is an arts day to be held on 24th September 2015 – the theme will be ‘The Time before the Romans’. Our objective is to understand a little about how people were reliant on natural resources … we are going to perform exciting rhythms with percussion instruments made from natural objects, we going to make paints with things we can find in our grounds, we are going to make a bonfire and make nettle tea, and we’re going to make clay finger and coil pots. We are going to encourage as many families to get involved as well, and we will end the day with an exhibition of our projects and a performance of our drumming.
We would like to invite children aged 5 – 11yrs who are currently educated in different ways. We can offer a day of exciting and interesting activities working in small groups under the supervision of our teachers and support staff. We want to encourage parents and families to get involved too, and would welcome them to stay and join in. We would welcome a donation to help cover the cost of staffing and resources.
We have only limited places as we want to keep the ‘small school’ feel that we feel is so important for the children, so please register your interest as soon as possible by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org (sorry, it’s a bit of a mouthful!) with your contact details and the names and ages of the children who would like to attend.
We are considering extending our school provision through offering a flexi-schooling option for children who would like to give a small, friendly school a try on a part time basis. We would support parents with their children’s home learning if they so wish, and give the children a chance to develop their confidence and social skills in a supportive environment. Please email me at email@example.com if you would be interested in this kind of schooling for your child.
Head Teacher, Weston Lullingfields CE Primary School
Peter Gray has studied how learning happens without any academic requirements at a democratic school. The Boston College research professor also wrote about the long history and benefits of age-mixed, self-directed education in his book Free to Learn. Over the years, as he encountered more and more families who had adopted this approach at home (these so-called “unschoolers” are estimated to represent about 10 percent of the more than two million homeschooled children), he began to wonder about its outcomes in that setting. Finding no academic studies that adequately answered his question, he decided to conduct his own.
In 2011, he and colleague Gina Riley surveyed 232 parents who unschool their children, which they defined as not following any curriculum, instead letting the children take charge of their own education. The respondents were overwhelmingly positive about their unschooling experience, saying it improved their children’s general well-being as well as their learning, and also enhanced family harmony. Their challenges primarily stemmed from feeling a need to defend their practices to family and friends, and overcoming their own deeply ingrained ways of thinking about education. (The results are discussed at length here.)
This led Gray to wonder how unschooled children themselves felt about the experience, and what impact it may have had on their ability to pursue higher education and find gainful and satisfying employment. So last year, he asked readers of his blog to disseminate a survey to their networks, and received 75 responses from adults ranging in age from 18 to 49; almost all of them had had at least three years of unschooling experience. They were split almost evenly among three groups: those who had never attended school; those who had only attended school for some portion of kindergarten through sixth grades; and those with either type of early experience who had also attended school for some portion of seventh through 10th grades, but not afterward. (The results are explained in detail in Gray’s recent four-part blog series, which begins here.)
He was satisfied with the number of responses, but cautions that, as with many social science studies, the necessarily limited collection method may have produced a biased sample that may not represent the entire population of unschoolers. Such studies can nevertheless yield useful insights, he says, especially when considered in concert with other data, such as other surveys, or patterns that emerge from anecdotal accounts.
Gray found that the results did correlate closely with his more thorough studies of alumni from the Sudbury Valley School (a democratic school in Sudbury Valley, Massachusetts), as well as what he’d personally heard from unschoolers, and what he’d read online. Moreover, even taken in isolation, “what the study does unambiguously show,” he says, “is that it is possible to take the unschooling route and then go on to a highly satisfying adult life.”
The Pros and Cons of Unschooling
All but three of the 75 respondents felt the advantages of unschooling clearly outweighed the disadvantages. Almost all said they benefited from having had the time and freedom to discover and pursue their personal interests, giving them a head start on figuring out their career preferences and developing expertise in relevant areas. Seventy percent also said “the experience enabled them to develop as highly self-motivated, self-directed individuals,” Gray notes on his blog. Other commonly cited benefits included having a broader range of learning opportunities; a richer, age-mixed social life; and a relatively seamless transition to adult life. “In many ways I started as an adult, responsible for my own thinking and doing,” said one woman who responded to Gray’s survey.
“Very few had any serious complaints against unschooling,” Gray says, and more than a third of the respondents said they could think of no disadvantages at all. For the remainder, the most significant disadvantages were: dealing with others’ judgments; some degree of social isolation; and the challenges they experienced adjusting to the social styles and values of their schooled peers.
Social isolation (cited by 21 percent of respondents) usually stemmed from a dearth of other nearby unschoolers and the difficulty of socializing with school children with busy schedules and a “different orientation toward life,” Gray says. He cautions that it’s best to consider these results within the broader cultural context: “If I were to ask people who went to school, I would probably find a similar number who felt socially isolated.”
What stood out, he adds, is that “many more said they felt their social experiences were better than they would have had in school.” Sixty-nine percent were “clearly happy with their social lives,” he says, and made friends through such avenues as local homeschooling groups, organized afterschool activities, church, volunteer or youth organizations, jobs, and neighbors. In particular, “they really treasured the fact that they had friends who were older or younger, including adults. They felt this was a more normal kind of socializing experience than just being with other people your age.”
Only 11 percent said they felt behind in one or more academic areas (most commonly math), which they overcame by applying themselves when the need arose. Only two felt their learning gaps hindered them from succeeding in life, and judging by their full responses, “it was almost more like a self-image issue—they grew up feeling ignorant and then made choices based on that feeling,” Gray says. More typical experiences were like that of a woman who earned a B.A. in both computer science and mathematics, despite entering college without any formal math training beyond fifth grade. Another noted that unschooling “follows the premise that if a child has a goal, they’ll learn whatever they need to in order to meet it. For instance, I don’t like math, but I knew I would need to learn it in order to graduate. So that’s what I did.”
Three people were very dissatisfied overall. In all three cases, the respondents said their mothers were in poor mental health and the fathers were uninvolved. Two of the three also happened to be the only ones who mentioned having been raised in a fundamentalist religious home, though the survey didn’t ask this question specifically. It appeared to Gray that the unschooling was not intentional—the parent had aimed to teach a religious curriculum, “but was incompetent and stopped teaching,” he notes. In all of these cases, the children’s contact with other people was also very restricted; moreover, they were not given any choice about their schooling and therefore felt deprived of school.
Can Unschoolers be “College and Career Ready”?
Overall, 83 percent of the respondents had gone on to pursue some form of higher education. Almost half of those had either completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, or were currently enrolled in such a program; they attended (or had graduated from) a wide range of colleges, from Ivy League universities to state universities and smaller liberal-arts colleges.
Several themes emerged: Getting into college was typically a fairly smooth process for this group; they adjusted to the academics fairly easily, quickly picking up skills such as class note-taking or essay composition; and most felt at a distinct advantage due to their high self-motivation and capacity for self-direction. “The most frequent complaints,” Gray notes on his blog, “were about the lack of motivation and intellectual curiosity among their college classmates, the constricted social life of college, and, in a few cases, constraints imposed by the curriculum or grading system.”
Most of those who went on to college did so without either a high school diploma or general education diploma (GED), and without taking the SAT or ACT. Several credited interviews and portfolios for their acceptance to college, but by far the most common route to a four-year college was to start at a community college (typically begun at age 16, but sometimes even younger).
None of the respondents found college academically difficult, but some found the rules and conventions strange and sometimes off-putting. Young people who were used to having to find things out on their own were taken aback, and even in some cases felt insulted, “when professors assumed they had to tell them what they were supposed to learn,” Gray says.
In the words of one woman: “I already had a wealth of experience with self-directed study. I knew how to motivate myself, manage my time, and complete assignments without the structure that most traditional students are accustomed to. … I know how to figure things out for myself and how to get help when I need it.” Added another: “I discovered that people wanted the teacher to tell them what to think. … It had never, ever occurred to me to ask someone else to tell me what to think when I read something.”
All survey respondents were also asked about their employment status and career, and 63 answered a follow-up survey asking about their work in more detail. More than three-quarters of those who answered the follow-up survey said they were financially self-sufficient; the rest were either students, stay-at-home parents, or under the age of 21 and launching businesses while living at home. But a number of those who were self-sufficient noted that this hinged on their ability to maintain a frugal lifestyle (several added that this was a conscious choice, allowing them to do enjoyable and meaningful work).
The range of jobs and careers was very broad—from film production assistant to tall-ship bosun, urban planner, aerial wildlife photographer, and founder of a construction company—but a few generalizations emerged. Compared to the general population, an unusually high percentage of the survey respondents went on to careers in the creative arts—about half overall, rising to nearly four out of five in the always-unschooled group. Similarly, a high number of respondents (half of the men and about 20 percent of the women) went on to science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) careers. (The same held true in another recent survey of unschoolers.) “STEM careers are also kind of creative careers—they involve looking for something, seeking answers, solving problems,” Gray says. “When you’re looking at it that way, it sort of fits.”
The reason for this correlation is something this survey can’t answer. “Maybe unschooling promotes creativity, or maybe dispositionally creative people or families are more likely to choose unschooling,” Gray says. “It’s probably a little bit of both.”
Additionally, just more than half of the respondents were entrepreneurs (this category overlapped considerably with the creative arts category). But what Gray found most striking is the complete absence (in both this and his Sudbury study samples) of “the typical person who gets an MBA and goes on to become an accountant or middle manager in some business. People with these educational backgrounds don’t go on to bureaucratic jobs. They do work in teams, but where there is a more democratic relationship within the team.”
He adds that this trend manifests across white- and blue-collar careers. “In the Sudbury survey, there were people working as carpenters or auto mechanics, etcetera, but in situations where they were occupationally self-directed, set their own schedules, and solved their own problems, rather than shuffled papers, or worked on assembly lines where no original work was being done.” In other words, he says, unschoolers of all types had overwhelmingly chosen careers high in those qualities that sociologists have found lead to the highest levels of work satisfaction.
What Factors Matter Most in Unschooling
Finally, the survey offered some insights about what makes for successful unschooling. Parents’ involvement levels with their children differed a lot, Gray says. Some were more hands-off, whereas others helped with learning, and in some cases even learned things (such as a foreign language) alongside their child, following the child’s lead. “All of those ways seem to work,” he says. “People only complained when they felt their parents were negligent about treating the child as a human being who has needs—including emotional needs—and who helped fill those needs.”
The results also led to another important conclusion: “The need for parents to be aware that children need more than their families,” Gray says. “People are designed to learn not just from their own parents, but from the wider world. If you don’t send your child to school where they’re automatically connected to other kids, other values, etcetera, it’s important to find a way that the family can be sufficiently involved in the larger community, or that the child has ways to be involved. Kids need that both socially and for their learning.” This ties in with the fact that “a major complaint of the three who disliked unschooling was that their parents isolated them and prevented them from exploring outside of the family or outside of the insular group with which the family was tied,” Gray adds on his blog.
In sum: “The findings of our survey suggest that unschooling can work beautifully if the whole family, including the children, buy into it, if the parents are psychologically healthy and happy, and if the parents are socially connected to the broader world and facilitate their children’s involvement with that world. It can even work well when some of these criteria are not fully met.”
Flexischooling – Shropshire
Hoping to have good news about a school moving towards flexischooling in Shropshire soon… sit tight, more information as soon as we can.
Janette Mountford-Lees, Headteacher at Hollinsclough School shared her Flexischooling Journey at Oxford University last weekend and was very well received. Her input caused a reall buzz of interest … not least of all from teachers wishing they could do it!!
From September 2015 Janette Mountford-Lees will be Principal across two schools Hollinsclough http://hollinsclough.staffs.sch.uk/ and Manifold http://www.manifold.staffs.sch.uk/ within a brand new MAT – Multi Academy Trust. The Manifold site is a large ex secondary phase school and will open the opportunity to develop secondary age flexischooling provision. Part of the premises will also be developed as an Outdoor Education Centre. Very exciting stuff!
There’s no doubt there are more distractions bombarding students than there were 50 years ago. Most kids have cellphones, use social media, play games, watch TV and are generally more “plugged in” than ever before. This cultural shift means that in addition to helping students gain the transferable skills and knowledge they’ll need later in life, teachers may have to start helping them tune out the constant buzz in order to get their message across. It’s never too early to learn smart strategies to focus in on priorities and tune out what’s not immediately necessary.
Many people believe they are skilled multitaskers, but they’re wrong. Neuroscience has shown that multitasking — the process of doing more than one thing at the same time — doesn’t exist.
“The brain doesn’t multitask,” said Daniel Levitin, author and professor of psychology, behavioral neuroscience and music at McGill University on KQED’s Forum program. “It engages in sequential tasking or unitasking, where we are shifting rapidly from one thing to another without realizing it.” The brain is actually fracturing time into ever smaller parts and focusing on each thing individually.
People often think they are being more productive when they try to juggle tasks, but Levitin says not only is sequential unitasking detrimental to productivity, but it produces less creative work as well. Multitasking is also stressful for the body. When people try to do several things at once, like drive and text, the brain uses up oxygenated glucose at a much faster rate and releases the stress hormone cortisol.
Tip 1: Prioritize and Manage Time
Rather than trying to do everything at the same time, the most productive people prioritize and block off their schedules to focus on one task at a time. “The idea is that if you become more efficient in time management, it allows for more spontaneity and creativity in the day, every day,” Levitin said.
While researching his new book, “The Organized Mind,” Levitin spent time with very successful people to try and figure out what they did differently from others that allowed them to get more done. While many of these people had a legion of employees working to organize their schedules and set priorities for them, the basic principle of focusing in on one task at a time holds true for anyone.
“When they’re doing something, they’re really doing it,” Levitin said. “They get more done because their brain isn’t half somewhere else.”
Tip 2: Take Breaks
Resting the mind is extremely important for productivity and the ability to focus. “People who take regular breaks — and naps even — end up being more productive and more creative in their work,” Levitin said. “You need to give your brain time to consolidate all the information that’s come in, to toss it and turn it.”
The brain has a natural way of giving itself a break — it’s called daydreaming. “It allows you to refresh and release all those neural circuits that get all bound up when you’re focused,” Levitin said. The brain will do this kind of daydreaming naturally when it is fatigued. The experience of reading a book and suddenly realizing the eyes have moved several paragraphs ahead, but the mind hasn’t retained any of the information, is the brain checking out for a break.
This point is particularly important for students, who are often asked to sit through a long school day with very few breaks. Lots of research has shown the importance of recess and free play time for academic success, but schools still tend to emphasize time spent in class “learning” over a more nuanced view of how and why kids learn.
“Children shouldn’t be overly scheduled,” Levitin said. “They should have blocks of time to promote spontaneity and creativity.” Without that time, kids don’t have the mental space to let new ideas and ways of doing things arise. Daydreaming and playing are crucial to develop the kind of creativity many say should be a focal point of a modern education system.
Tip 3: Analyze Information Critically
Five times more information comes at an individual today than it did in 1986, Levitin said. At the same time, human brains are optimized for the amount of stimulus experienced 10,000 years ago, when humans likely interacted only with 100 or so other people. The world has changed much more quickly than the genome can keep up with, which means schools have a responsibility to help kids develop the skills to sift through the overwhelming stimuli.
“What we have to start teaching children, from the age of 8 or so, is how to tell the difference between information and misinformation,” Levitin said.
He says it’s imperative that every child learn the difference between a fact, a pseudo-fact and hierarchies of evidence. When it comes to something as simple and commonplace as looking up a medication, any 8-year-old should be able to tell what kind of website he’s looking at and to ask questions like: Is this the site for the company that makes the medication? Or for their competitor? Or for a shill company set up to advocate for the medication? These are the types of discerning, critical questions that students will need to ask to carefully navigate life.
Tip 4: Externalize Memory
It can be hard to focus on one thing when there’s a long, nagging list of things that need to get done in a day, both personal and professional. Levitin recommends writing all those things down on notecards, externalizing the memories into digestible bits that can be shuffled as priorities change. “My brain knows I’ve written it down and it stops nagging me,” Levitin said of his method.
This strategy might also be a good one to share with students, who often have a long list of homework to prioritize and many distractions pulling them away from focusing on any one task.
Tip 5: Pair People With Different Learning Styles
Educators often consider the kids who can’t sit still in class to be troublemakers, constantly distracting other children from their work. Sometimes these kids are diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed drugs to help them focus. But the same kids who have a hard time focusing in school could be tremendously creative, Levitin said. Rather than dismissing them as troublemakers, pair those students with more organized, less distracted students. The hyperactive child might be able to help develop a more creative set of ideas, while the more focused child knows how to take that idea to fruition.
Levitin points to companies in Silicon Valley that regularly use this method to capitalize on the great ideas of their less conventional employees.
Wendy Charles-Warner from the Centre for Personalised Education has reviewed the latest offering from Paula Rothermel on Home Education. It is a impressive (and currently very expensive resource) but if you’re hovering on whether to purchase perhaps Wendy’s review will help you make your mind.
International Perspectives on Home Education By Paula Rothermel
Rothermel, P. (Ed)(2015) International Perspectives on Home Education. Available from: Palgrave Macmillan.
When you pick up a work on home education with Paula Rothermel’s name on it you expect excellence, attention to detail and a very interesting read. International Perspectives on Home Education does not disappoint.
The work consists of a collection of short articles by respected researchers in the field of education, specifically home education. These are grouped into sections that make it easy to dip into if your interest is specific.
Part 1: The learning process has contributions from Leslie Safran Barson founder of ‘The Otherwise Club’, who focusses on the experience of home educating parents; Glenda Jackson the director of ‘Australian Home Education Advisory Service, who examines links between Vygotskian learning theory and home education; Noraisha Yusof, who was home educated, examines mathematics learning; Andrew McAvoy, an education professional, looks at the impact of technology on home educators’ learning and Alan Thomas, visiting fellow at the Institute of Education University of London, with Harriet Pattison, research associate at the University of London Institute of Education, provide an insightful and compelling argument for informal methods of acquisition of reading skills. This section sets the tone for the work, drawing in the academic reader as much as the interested enquirer, to look further,
Part 11: Tensions and criticisms examines perceptions that those of us work in the field recognise well. Christian Beck, associate professor at the Educational Research Institute, University of Oslo, examines social integration of home educated children in Norway; Samantha Eddis, of Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy, urges understanding between home educators and Authorities of each other’s community focus; Nicky Hardenbergh, author of ‘Homeschooling in Full View’, argues that ‘high stake’ testing is not suitable for home educated children and Christopher Lubienski, Professor of Education Policy at the University of Illinois, with T. Jameson Brewer, a PhD student at the University, challenges home education as having unaddressed problems and being anti institution. This section certainly challenges the reader to consider these tensions and adds to the overall feel of completeness of the work.
Part 111: Political conflict, is perhaps the most controversial subject to tackle and Paula Rothermel does not shirk in tackling it. Thomas Spiegler, Researcher in Sociology of Education, presents a thorough and useful overview of the sensitive subject home education in Germany; Daniel Monk, Reader in Law at Birkbeck, University of London, discusses human rights aspects of home education; Joke Sperling, Professor of Education Law at the Juridische Hogeschool Avans-ontys in Tilburg, argues eloquently and convincingly that parents should not be prevented from home educating their children if they are in fact providing an education to those children, and Paula Rothermel’s article on what can and does go wrong, where Local Authority staff and other Professionals involved with home educating families, misunderstand the very nature of home education, cannot fail to effect the reader. This sometimes shocking piece opens eyes to the plight of these families and the sometimes destructive involvement of those professionals in a forthright and informative way.
Part IV: In lifestyle and choice, sees Ari Neuman, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education at the Western Galilee College in Israel and Aharon Aviram, Chair of the Center for Futurism in Education at Ben-Gurion University, demonstrate home education to be a rational choice in view of the ‘disparity between what is available and what is desirable, in education’, and do it well. This is followed by Erwin Fabián García López, from the Education Research Institute Universidad Nacional de Colombia, examining family dynamics in home education in Colombia.
Part V: Models: War, Poverty and Necessity could equally sit well in a piece on gender studies, as it highlights the challenges faced by women and girls in war worn Afghanistan. Ulrike Hanemann, Senior Programme Specialist and Manager of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, portrays home based education as essential for ensuring access to females, rather than a choice of the few. This article does not make comfortable reading, but it does make a necessary contribution to our understanding of home education in extreme circumstances. Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, shows us the future of education in a self-directed world, updating our knowledge of the ‘hole in the wall’ experiment as doing so; Cheryl Fields-Smith, Associate Professor of Elementary Education at the University of Georgia in Athens, examines the rise of home educating black families, in which collaboration leads to black children succeeding where their peers fail in schools, and Michael Apple, Jon Bascom Professor of Curriculm and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin, looks at ‘Godly’ education. Perhaps an approach that sits less comfortably with UK readers than it does with readers in the USA.
Part V1: Cultural and Intercultural relations, brings the work to a slightly disappointing finale with Madelen Goiria, Lecturer in Civil Law at the University of the Basque Country examining her ‘carnival of blogs’. This article felt less relevant to the UK reader than the work does in general. and Carlo Ricci, Professor at the Schulich School of Education at Nipissing University, takes a personal look at intercultural relationships and home education which fails to pull the last section up to the high standard of the majority of the articles.
Overall, Paula Rothermel presents a collection of pertinent, valuable and thought provoking articles in an accessible way. Her work has already proven valuable in expert witness testimony and is certain to find its way on to the shelves of home education specialists.
Wendy Charles-Warner, Centre for Personalised Education
We thank our dear friend Edith W. King for this post. We have a job of work to do to raise awareness of the full possibilities of flexischooling and the ways in which it can challenge the current taken for granted assumptions and pervasive Neo-Liberal consensus. We need to rehearse this deeper understanding and empower more flexi-families, learners and practitioners to take things beyond the superficial. To that end this book will assist.
Social Theories for Flexischoolers
Flexischoolers, do you seek explanations for what goes on around you? Do you think about making sense of common occurrences? of terrorism? of international calamities? Many of us seek explanations for daily events as well as global happenings. And do you realize we live in an invisible social world? Any thoughtful individual using social theories can gain insights into these questions about our society. This is what Encounters With Social Thought (Amazon: Kindle, 2015) authored by sociologist Edith King, offers Flexischooling groups, parents, students, and resource people. The author uses concise accounts of everyday experiences, as well as international happenings and crises, to demonstrate the power of sociological theories. The e-book starts with short, succinct descriptions and explanations of major social theories that are then applied to the incidents (encounters) that follow.
The first section of the book provides readers with an example of the application of a sociological analysis. The celebration of the special day on October 31st in the US, Halloween, is described and then analyzed with four major social theories — functional theory, conflict theory, interaction- interpretation and critical theory. This material is presented in clear, direct, and succinct style. Other examples of encounters focus on everyday experiences such as eating at a restaurant and the decline of gender neutral language. There is also a unique questionnaire the “Portfolio of Global Experience,” that asks respondents to consider and list the aspects of their lives that have global or international features.
How can these examples of encounters from the book relate to the Flexischooling curriculum for students at various ages? Some suggestions include: focus on the contributions to language usage and language learning; the use of questionnaires and projects that involve daily activities in the home and the community, as well as international events and global outreach. And there is discovering the practice of sociology. It is to be remembered that Professor Roland Meighan was an educational sociologist. His notable text, A Sociology of Educating, had many editions.
We can start with the example of applying social theories to analyzing a celebration like Halloween in the US.
Select any holiday or festival. Use instructions to describe the occasion, next apply the four major sociological theories to the event. Encourage students to delve into taken-for-granted celebrations with these broader social perspectives. This is also relevant to researching and collecting examples of the loss of gender neutral language. For example the continual use of man-made and mankind when humankind or humans is fully acceptable. The sociological focus makes students aware of the impact of language in spoken and written usage.
Source: Headline in the Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2014
Additionally, filling out the the questionnaire “Portfolio of Global Experience” not only encourages people, both children and adults, to become more aware of the global aspects of their lives it also provides important information about the respondent.
These are just a few ideas for learners drawn from several exercises in Encounters With Social Thought to stimulate thinking about one’s actions and beliefs. It is the task of sociologists to raise questions about people’s behavior as they interact in their families, in groups, in the community and the broader society. Goals of Centre for Personalised Education – Personalised Education Now (CPE-PEN) emphasize the integration of learning, life and community and learning that is self-motivated. Encounters With Social Thought aims to meet these goals.
Encounters With Social Thought
by Edith W. King
Amazon: Kindle £3.31(incl. VAT) 2015
Sir Ken Robinson’s latest book offering (April 2015) has been eagerly awaited and lauded http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/23/creative-schools-revolutionising-education-from-the-ground-up-ken-robinson-lou-aronica-review. Sir Ken has certainly stirred up educational debate over recent years and provided a focus for many of those willing to question the status quo in schooling and education. To that end Sir Ken has been effective in opening up debate and thinking. However, as Paul Henderson writes in his review of this book – we do need to take a closer look and cast a more critical eye.
Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education
For anyone interested in education, the publication of a new book by Ken Robinson is worth taking more than a casual interest in because Sir Ken is probably the world’s most famous, popular and potentially influential academic educationist. There are many reasons for his popularity; he is an engaging, witty and entertaining public speaker and his great “gift of the gab” allows him to sell complicated ideas to the masses with aplomb. Part of Sir Ken’s popularity is also due to the fact that in his widely viewed Internet talks he has been able to popularise the critique of conventional schooling that was previously only familiar in academic circles and to a few special interest groups. Since his first popular talk he has also popularised ideas of how to improve schooling in broad terms by painting the overall picture as he sees it with wide brush strokes that the general public can easily understand. By skilfully using such an accessible approach he has been able to sidestep the minefield of nitty gritty details that have left unfortunate others in a quagmire.
Robinson knows full well that “education is an essentially contested concept,” and the fact that he has received praise from such an eclectic band of followers, myself included, may well be some kind of historic first in the world of education. Part of the reason why his words have been music to the ears of so many was that, in the absence of stringent detail, they could be interpreted favourably from a wide variety of philosophical stances. In his much anticipated new book, however, Sir Ken sheds partial light on the details behind many of the ideas that he has helped to popularised over the last decade, which I think will delight some and greatly disappoint others. Not all of the detail is forthcoming though because, by an expedient stroke of luck for the prospects for Sir Ken’s continued popularity, one of the most pressing concerns of the contemporary education scene is the imposition of prescribed standardised methods, so the last thing Sir Ken would want to do is be over prescriptive. However, there is enough that is implied, suggested and not overly prescribed in this new book to keep some of his fans happy and others confused, bewildered and disappointed.
In the introduction to the book Sir Ken sets out quite specifically what the terms “education” and “school” mean to him;
“Education means organised programs of learning”
“School, as I use the term here, includes homeschooling, un-schooling and informal gatherings”
If you are fine with these two statements and are a fan of Sir Ken then you’ll probably enjoy “Creative Schools.” For me these two statements sum up a lot of what is wrong with the book. A great many of the most important premises on which Sir Ken’s thesis is built, such as the meaning of education and how he uses the term “school,” are not compatible with each other, or any alternative or mainstream educational philosophy that I know of. Perhaps his intention is to reinvent schooling as a landscape of educational diversity, or edversity as the Centre for Personalised Education puts it, but, sadly, this hypothesis is not confirmed by reading the main body of the text. Many of Sir Ken’s postulations throughout the book appear to lack coherency. If the term “school” is meant to include un-schooling and informal gatherings, which, quite clearly, are not organised programs of learning, then surely school, as he uses the term, is not very compatible with his meaning of education. For me, this lack of coherency in the interpretation of basic fundamental concepts is not a minor problem, and it is only one example of the mass of contradictions from which the book is comprised. He mentions examples from un-schooling and democratic free schooling, and quotes proponents of heutagogy and autonomous learning such as Peter Gray and John Taylor Gatto, without pointing out that the principles of autonomous learning can never be implemented with any degree of integrity in state funded schools without ultra-radical changes in the concept of curriculum and assessment. Autonomous learning doesn’t adhere to prescribed criteria, without which there can be no accountability, without which you cannot have a state funded educational provision. Sir Ken suggests that different forms of assessment could be utilised by teachers but in my opinion the changes required to fully implement the principles of autonomous learning with any degree of integrity within a conventional school setting are extremely unlikely to be sanctioned by policy makers. Indeed, many proponents of autonomous learning highly value the fact that it does not require externally imposed standards by which the effectiveness of teaching and learning can be measured.
Here’s what he says about curriculum;
“The curriculum is a framework for what students should know.”
“As well as providing a framework for what all students should learn in common, [my bold italics] the right balance of these disciplines allows schools to cater to the personal strengths and interests of students as individuals”
This is hardly an ultra-radical change in the concept of curriculum. Dear knows what his new-found alternative learning pals would make of it. It suggests that one size does not fit all, except when it does. Who decides when it does and doesn’t and what should be learned and what shouldn’t? This is something that Sir Ken cowers away from because he knows it always ends up in a quagmire of wrangling and disagreement. Sir Ken’s concept of curriculum changes nothing.
Elsewhere in the book he says that the reason so many people are “still” homeschooling is because of the sorry state of schooling, implying that if schooling was sorted out there would no longer be a need for homeschooling. This implication clearly demonstrates that Sir Ken certainly has an awful lot to learn about home-based learning.
A lack of coherency and knowledge plagues the book. One minute he’s taking a dim view of those who judge education by PISA rankings and the next minute he’s saying that education is really good in Finland judging by its place in the PISA rankings! The multitude of incompatible anecdotes and contradictory examples are not the only problem. It’s what he doesn’t say that is also cause for alarm. He mentions nothing of the principle of subsidiarity.
As an example of good teaching, he tells a story about a teacher who, seeing that a pupil’s apparatus doesn’t work, figures out the problem and fixes it for her so that she can continue learning prescribed learning intentions. I don’t think this was a particularly good example of good teaching at all. Where was the principle of subsidiarity? This is the principle that states that if people can do things for themselves they should be allowed to do so. Far more effective learning would have happened in this scenario if the teacher had not jumped in straight away, figured out the problem for the learner and then fixed the problem for her. Why did he not open it up to the rest of the class to figure out why the apparatus didn’t work? It was a simple enough problem involving a wick that was too short to sustain a flame. By opening up the problem to the rest of the class, a brilliant discussion could have been instigated through leading questions, if required, about what a flame is and what it needs to burn and what would need to be done to fix the problem. A pupil could then have been asked to fix the apparatus using, and simultaneously testing, the hypotheses arrived at through class discussion, thus all the thinking and doing would have been done by the learners and not their over-teaching, spoon-feeding teacher. Dear, oh dear – what a rubbish book!
Having said that, it wasn’t all bad. I did like the fact that he stood up for the theory of multiple intelligences, which has taken a bit of a battering in recent times.
As for the answer to the baffling question of how someone I was previously such a fan of could write a book that I really don’t like, I finally found it in the notes at the end.
In note two he says, “Sometimes people say they agree with me but probably wouldn’t if they understood what I was really saying.” I reckon that I must have been one of those people. I agreed wholeheartedly with Sir Ken’s Element books, but, after reading this book, I now realise that the ideas he had previously popularised were intended ultimately for the purposes of tweaking conventional schooling. I still agree with what he said in the Element books and I agree with the age old critique of conventional schooling that he has, thankfully, helped to popularise over the last decade, but I don’t fully agree with his vision of a solution, or what he sometimes calls a paradigm shift or revolution, which, in light of his explanations, would seem to me to be more accurately described as a series of tweaks. Some of the tweaks he calls for in conventional schooling are less standardisation, more personalisation, a better trained, valued and paid workforce, more parental involvement, and assessment techniques that better reflect personal attributes – how many times have you heard that hackneyed list of usual suspects and how many times have these same tweaks failed to make any real difference to conventional schooling, except, perhaps, in Finland!
Paradigm shift? Revolution? I think not. Having said that, I don’t think the book was a complete waste of money because it did offer some interesting information and gives a deeper understanding and clarification of Sir Ken’s essentially humdrum, heard-it-all-before improvements to conventional schooling. After reading this book I am now also fully aware that Sir Ken is one of these people who agrees with the principles of alternative learning but probably wouldn’t if he understood what they were really saying. Paul Henderson, April 2015.