Thursday, 24 January 2013

Day 24 - What is the capital city of Bulgaria?

Thursday 24th January

Absolutely typical! Whenever I need to get off the island the wind picks up and I am left wondering whether I will get off, or indeed, back on. I am hopeful that if I leave on the early ferry tomorrow and don't leave it too late to get back on Saturday I will be OK. It is one of the main challenges of island life but we do get used to it and work round it. My lovely daughter bought me tickets for Midsummer's Night Dream at the Theatre Royal Glasgow. It promises to be a wonderful opera and I am very excited. I will, of course, be telling you all about it. More on that in the next few days.

Today is grey and overcast on the island but dry. Snow is forecast once again for tomorrow and it will just be my luck if it falls when I am not here. I have several sledges all ready to be tested. One of my lovely facebook friends suggested that if the winds are picking up I might want to think about getting my kite out and then we came up with the idea of kite sledging. We clearly think we are on to something and remember that you heard it here first!

The winds are due to increase over the weekend and next week looks shocking. On Tuesday we are due to get battered by 70 mile an hour gales. I have been blown off my feet more than once on this island so I will be staying indoors. The ferry will not run and the Co-op will start to run short of supplies and it will be a challenging week. High winds is part of island life but 70 mile an hour winds might well lead to structural damage. I will be watching my new studio and hoping for the best.

Today has seen us plunge back into the EU and more broadly Europe itself. I smiled watching the news last night after David Cameron's speech on Europe. It was perfect timing for home school, perhaps not so good for the country. The newspapers were full of it so we took the Independent and starting trying to separate fact from opinion, always a good exercise in school. As the boys pointed out much of it is prediction and there lies the problem. I am against anything that further harms our fledging economy and I suspect this decision to announce a referendum so far in advance may cause just this problem. I loved the reaction from France and the boys and I discussed the potential for a brain drain as a result of the uncertainty that will surround the next few years. This project has already got the boys thinking differently about their nationality and the potential that other countries in Europe might offer. That was really the whole point of the project so I am already pleased with the outcome. If David Cameron could just keep up with the EU mentions in the next few weeks we could have a memorable project.

We finished by doing some online quizzes. As is often the case the boys put me to shame as their memories are so much better. They were quite good fun and I do think some of you might like a go. They are on the European union web site and the highlighted words will give you a good link. Bear in mind these particular quizzes are for 9-15 years!! We were pretty good at the countries and capitals and strangely spot on on the countries with royal families. We were good at rivers and mountains but shocking at flags. Give them a go and see how you get on.

We were late starting school today mainly due to two tiring days rather catching up on us. I was sitting at the table drinking my second cup of tea waiting for the boys to feed the various animals when I had a life affirming moment. Max went over to one of our trees and began to climb it and after a few minutes I could see why. The neighour's cat was up there so he went up to have a chat. So there he was sitting high up in a tree talking to the cat while I was drinking tea waiting for school to start. A perfect home school moment. Max then decided to hang upside down to chat to the dogs who were below and this was less of a perfect moment as I resisted the temptations to scream 'get down'. Dogs chatted to, he then got down from the tree, came inside and we got on with the EU. Excellent. I love the flexibility that home school brings. I know of some home schooling families who stick to a strict timetable of lessons. I am afraid I could never see the point of that as the children might as well be in school. Interestingly, as a trained and experienced teacher I had to untrain myself a little when I began home school. I had to see education differently and place the learning at the centre rather than the teaching. I listened with horror last night as the education secretary came on the news to announce the shift backwards to the traditional two year A level with the single exam at the end. This effectively does away with any felxibility that has been built into the system and seriously disadvantages young people from less supported backgrounds. It also puts us out of step with other European countries. Still Cameron will be pleased with that! The rationale from the education secretary appeared to be that this would encourage deep learning which is more appropriate for university education. Rather missed the point though that young people won't be able to afford to go to university for much longer. I think the real effect will be young people voting with their feet and moving into alternative 16-18 learning and we will be left with too few young people entering university and fall behind the rest of Europe. That will probably be OK though as the EU ship will have already sailed away and we will have missed the boat. A distinct lack of joined up thinking illustrated perfectly on the news last night. This might be a rather simplistic view of happenings but I do so feel for the young people. There has been so much change in the education system since the 1980s that an entire generation has now suffered and we simply don't seem to have learned from our mistakes. It has been a series of missed opportunites to learn from countries like Sweden and Norway who both have excellent education systems. Meanwhile England and Wales have suffered from continual interfering from different governments and Scotland has not performed much better. They have just began a new curriculum without knowing how it is going to be tested. Unbelievable! So, this is the long answer when people ask me why we decided to home educate. Too much knowledge made us realise the many pitfalls our children would face and despite the removal of AS testing our children will still be the most tested in Europe. In this country we are completed obsessed with testing. I believe this approach damages the quality of the learning experience. When my boys are learning about the EU they are not bound up in the knowledge that they will be tested on it. They are far more excited about the prospect of, once again, beating their mother. Engaging and effective learning remains at the heart of what we do. I do like a good rant as it is good for the soul.

In 2014 my writing assignment will be to finally collate all the activies that we have been engaged in in home school and put them into a book. There are a number of books out there on home school, particularly from American authors where home school is more popular. It is, however, only occasionally that I come across one full of learning activities and that is what I believe people need. We use the Internet a huge amount for home school but we balance that with the use of our environment and Arran has offered up many quality learning opportunities. I have very fond memories of fossil hunting, creating beach art and endless nature tables. We have certainly moved beyond the school curriculm when we have made rosehip syrup, started fire using natural materials and the sun and built hen houses. The memories were have built up over the years are priceless and I do think a book that helps to capture some of this will be a welcome addition to the current home school book list.

However passionate I have become about home school I would certainly not recommend it for every child. The fact that we had four children gave us a good size group to work with. Educating a single child at home is a completely different experience. People often ask me if there is a need for one or both of the parents to be qualified teachers. My answer has always remained the same on this question. No! I know many home educated children who had a fabulous education and neither of their parents were teachers. That said, if you are not a qualified teacher it is important to network with other home schooling families so that you can learn from each other. There are many virtual networks now and all of them offer you something. I am always happy to advise where I can and if any readers are thinking about giving home school a go leave a comment and I will respond.

So, really a home school blog today but that is what has occupied most of the day beyond Max's tree antics. I will be posting very early tomorrow before I get on that windy ferry and will include information about Glasgow and what we will be up to over the next couple of days. Next week will see our very first guest blog and I am very excited about that. I never meant this to just be about my family as our lives are touched by so many interesting people and I do so want to share that. We are starting with four craftworkers who also live on the island and run their own businesses. I do hope you will enjoy their blogs. As a general rule I will feature one guest blogger per week.

But tomorrow is all about the wind and getting across that water. Fingers crossed. Speak very very early in the morning. xx
Picture is of our lovely George having a quiet moment by a burn on the island.