Tuesday, 23 August 2016

On Line Learning

Thirty years ago when I was home schooling my two younger children I would have greeted the idea of opting into On Line Learning Courses such as those being mooted at present, with the greatest enthusiasm, especially for subjects like Mathematics and Science, about which I knew little. I felt more than competent teaching most other subject areas, not because I considered myself brilliantly well educated, because I didn’t but on the other hand the competence of the staff in local primary schools appeared to be similarly lacking in general skill level. It was my belief that I would have to try very hard indeed to do worse than they had done for my oldest child. He had always been in school but did not appear to have benefited from it very much after several years and his teachers remained unconcerned, maintaining that he would most likely learn when he was ready. I was less optimistic and ultimately, as it happened, I was right. The son and daughter I home schooled for ten years were diametrically different personalities. The boy had in fact been in school for more than a year and hated it, was disliked by other children and most of the staff, said he did not want to have friends anyway and would infinitely prefer to be by himself, at home, absorbed in Mythology and Ancient History, his passions for a number of years. His younger sister was on the other hand extremely sociable, well liked, and adaptable. To be honest she was kept at home primarily as a companion to her brother. At the time it was difficult to gain an exemption from school attendance and even more difficult to attain any kind of distance learning via the Correspondence School. On Line Learning was yet to emerge although home computers were beginning to appear here and there. The children, however, were attentive as far as their home schooling was concerned, applied themselves diligently and easily progressed to working two or three years ahead of the school system. The boy had some issues with the mechanics of writing and spelling which disappeared when he learned to type, a skill they both took to like ducks to water. His sister was always an avid writer, producing her first `book’ a twenty page novella called `The Bears In The Forest’ just before her fifth birthday. When she reached her seventh birthday and was let loose on the portable typewriter she became prolific. By the age of eleven or twelve they were both allowed to attend the local high school, Selwyn College, on a part time basis for single subjects and I recall this was Mathematics for the boy and Literature and Music for the girl. She was quite delighted with this arrangement but he was less enthused. When my son was sixteen he went full time into the Seventh Form, my daughter attended full time from about the same age. Despite dire predictions their years of home education did not drastically hold them back in life. My son went to University about a year early and did a degree in History, followed by an MA. He did extremely well academically, joined the Fencing Club and learned to binge drink along with his peers. My daughter followed on, finally did an honours degree in Law, joined a women’s soccer club and made a great many friends. Currently, after more than fifteen years in China, my son now lives in Taiwan, speaks fluent Mandarin and is a self- employed editor. His sister lives in London and works in international finance law. She still plays soccer, is an enthusiastic supporter of Chelsea Football Club, has an active social life and travels widely. She does not talk much about her home schooling years though I am aware that she would have infinitely preferred to attend school along with most other children. Her brother on the other hand is very bitter about being home schooled, feeling it was an irresponsible decision on his parents’ part. Had he attended school he maintains he might have had the opportunity to become an outstanding athlete. He remains an essentially isolated and idiosyncratic personality, still finding it difficult to adjust to others, still primarily content with his own company. All this probably only proves that individuals are the way they are regardless of where and when they went to school or how they were educated. However, for those families intent upon making the choice of home based schooling for their children, the possibility of enrolment into On Line Learning Courses can only be a great advantage. Not only would it give the students themselves the important opportunity to become part of a wider learning group, it would also provide significant support for families who for a variety of reasons, can be made to feel unnecessarily isolated. Better supported parents will naturally result in more confident learners and ultimately positive and self-reliant future citizens.

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