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Posted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 1:38 pm
by sharon
brianmmulligan wrote:Sharon, I'm going to have to pull rank on you with this one. I work fulltime now on the development of online learning. The vast majority of parents do not have the skill to access and use educational resources on the Internet. However, if they are committed they can acquire such skills. However, it has generally been shown that using electronic materials without suitable human guidance by someone who understands the topics is not very effective (there is a company in India who will provide english speaking tutors for your child). So in a way the parent has to learn to be a teacher. Not all have the ability or knowledge to do this although most parents who go this route probably have the motivation to achieve this (there are also networks of home school parents on the Internet - you probably already know that).]

Despite this, I know loads of children who are learning at a high level without traditional instruction. When I refer to the internet, I don't mean to restrict it to on-line lessons. If you consider any topic at all, there is something online to help you. For example, my daughter enjoys nature programs, so I found a resource with with all the 'Life on Earth' programs online. For myself, when it came to buying a house, I hadn't a clue, but I spent some time reading through various financial advice sites.

There are so many leaning resources online that are self explanatory. My children use a few, the BBC has loads of fantastic pages, there's an American learn-to-read site called Starfall. I honestly don't know what training a parent would need to help their children to use these sorts or sites. You did make the point that 'most parents who go this route probably have the motivation to achieve this' and I agree with you there. Parents who decide for whatever reason to help their children learn out of school, are motivated and there are so many support networks that we can use for advice from other parents. There are skills to being a good home-educator, and you develop those skills. It's not at all the same skills needed by a school teacher, because you don't have to deal with large class sizes, discipline problems (beyond normal parenting ones) and all the bureaucracy of the school system.
TO be honest, I worry more about the motivation rather than the ability of home school parents. I suspect that most choose home schooling because of what is taught in school rather than what is NOT taught. In other words they wish to censor what information their child has access to
You have no evidence for this. I am friends with lots of home-educating parents and none of those HE to censor information. That's not evidence either, but my sample size is larger than yours.

I would contend that the state school system is much more restrictive, especially since the instruction of the national curriculum (I am really only familiar with the NI and UK system).
Can I ask you a few questions?

Do you intend to cover secondary schooling from home?

Are you sure you are covering all the pre-requisites for secondary school?

You probably are, but I am interested as I would worry that all parents might not do this. I personally think it would be a dawdle if you know what you are doing. And you would probably do it better.
Sure! I don't know if we will keep doing this when the child are 11 and over. It depends on several things, most importantly, whether the children still prefer to HE. They may want to try school and if so, they will.
In that case, I can take a look at the national curriculum to check that they've covered whatever topics are typically taught at primary school.
However, I would prefer that they continue to learn at home.
By the way here's a great learning tool for kids. It's called Scratch - it's the follow-on from the kids programming language Logo (that I used to teach to kids after school years ago)
http://scratch.mit.edu
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We've already got it!

Posted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:02 pm
by brianmmulligan
Sharon,

you may be underestimating your own skill level relative to the population at large. It seems easy for you but maybe not for others. I have read that in the US the home-schooling community is dominated by those with religious motivations. By the way, I think that home-schooling is a good thing. It requires great commitment and effort. I might worry that it would have bad effects in some cases (both intended and unintended) and that is why I would suggest that some sort of supervision, however minimal should be in place. You might claim that you're covering the maths curriculum but what if you've made some mistakes in spite of your commitment. I'm sure you would not tell your children the historical lies that the Christian Brothers told me but how can we be sure (or should you be free to tell whatever historical tales you wish?).

The basis of freedom and democracy is education and free speech. If we feel we live in a fairly good democracy, can we not trust government to ensure that all children get a dood education and to ensure that we can speak freely?

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 2:30 pm
by sharon
Hello again Brian.
brianmmulligan wrote:Sharon, you may be underestimating your own skill level relative to the population at large. It seems easy for you but maybe not for others.
I understand why people think this. We are lead to believe that learning is a difficult process, that only clever and highly qualified people could lead children through. I don't agree. If you think about driving a car; it's a complicated task. Car drivers are in charge of huge, heavy machines, rattling around the country at high speeds, every one of then capable of causing terrible damage in an accident. Yet most adults can drive. Even those you did abysmally at school can turn out to be good drivers. Driving is an important skill to acquire in this society and it's expected that all kinds of people can do it, irrespective of how clever they are. (It takes some people much longer to learn than others; I had to take the test 3 times.)

Now while I agree that to teach a class requires training, to help your own child to learn how to learn does not. Parents will not know as much about all subjects as secondary school teachers with degrees in their subject. (Lets ignore for a while the many teachers teaching subjects they do not have degrees in.) Therefore the parents help their children find sources of knowledge beyond their own.

I have heard many parents whose children were floundering in the system, labelled as failing and having lost all interest in learning, describe how they flourish again when they are home-educated. There are undoubtedly stories where it doesn't work out, but I don't personally know any.
I have read that in the US the home-schooling community is dominated by those with religious motivations.
It seems that the religious homeschoolers are more vocal. But there are a huge number of secular HE folk out there too. There have been new support groups, forums and blog rings set up, as the secular home-educators got a bit fed-up with the constant god talk of the fundies.
By the way, I think that home-schooling is a good thing. It requires great commitment and effort.
Good! It does take commitment. Raising children always does!
I might worry that it would have bad effects in some cases (both intended and unintended) and that is why I would suggest that some sort of supervision, however minimal should be in place.
I understand your suggestion about supervision. There is now some supervision of Irish home-education, but I think it's a waste of time and money. How can the state really monitor HE properly? Home inspections are flawed. Home-education is not the same as school, and inspector may have different expectations of what the education should comprise. One inspector might see a tidy home and report that it appears to be a 'stifling environment for the child', another might see a messy home with books and toys lying everywhere and say it appears to 'lack structure'. I wouldn't want any inspector meeting with my children either and making snap judgements on their attainments and welfare based on how timid or outgoing they appear to be.

One of my children is known to the education authorities here. I deregistered him from a special school over a year ago. I wrote a letter detailing my 'educational philosophy' and showing how I was going to implement it. That was considered to be good enough evidence that an education was taking place. We have not been contacted by them since.
You might claim that you're covering the maths curriculum but what if you've made some mistakes in spite of your commitment. I'm sure you would not tell your children the historical lies that the Christian Brothers told me but how can we be sure (or should you be free to tell whatever historical tales you wish?).
Who should decide what anyone needs to know?
I want to help my children to be numerate and able to use the maths they need in their lives. If they choose to be physicists, they'll need to know more maths than if they became musicians. I want them to know enough science to be able to at least discern nonsense and quackery. Undoubtedly they will face the hoop jumping exercises of exams to be able to get on, so we'll examine the relevant syllabus and help them do their best to pass the tests.
The basis of freedom and democracy is education and free speech. If we feel we live in a fairly good democracy, can we not trust government to ensure that all children get a good education and to ensure that we can speak freely?
I agree with your first sentence. I'm not sure that the conditions of the second have been met by the NI or Irish governments. I still think that parents need to be able to have the ultimate say over what a child is taught. This is enshrined in Irish, UK and European law. I retain the right to 'indoctrinate' my children to be free thinking, rational, liberal and secular.
Other people do have the right to indoctrinate their children with all sorts of nonsense too though I disagree with what they teach, and object to my taxes being used to fund their efforts.

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 4:30 pm
by brianmmulligan
Sharon, you have so much there to agree and disagree with:
sharon wrote: Now while I agree that to teach a class requires training, to help your own child to learn how to learn does not. Parents will not know as much about all subjects as secondary school teachers with degrees in their subject. (Lets ignore for a while the many teachers teaching subjects they do not have degrees in.) Therefore the parents help their children find sources of knowledge beyond their own.
I'm not convinced. HAve you data to back this up? Let me put it to you this way. Say we closed the schools in working class areas in Belfast and told the parents they would have to educate their children at home? How do you think they would get on? What would be the major problem? Knowledge? Skills? Motivation? Prejudice?
sharon wrote:I have heard many parents whose children were floundering in the system, labelled as failing and having lost all interest in learning, describe how they flourish again when they are home-educated. There are undoubtedly stories where it doesn't work out, but I don't personally know any.
I will not defend the inadequacies of and incompetence in the public service (including supervising authorities). I am in public education myself and I know how bad it can be.
sharon wrote: Who should decide what anyone needs to know?
I want to help my children to be numerate and able to use the maths they need in their lives. If they choose to be physicists, they'll need to know more maths than if they became musicians. I want them to know enough science to be able to at least discern nonsense and quackery. Undoubtedly they will face the hoop jumping exercises of exams to be able to get on, so we'll examine the relevant syllabus and help them do their best to pass the tests.
Will you teach them enough statistics to be able to esimate risk in their own lives or to estimate the risk in public decisions (eg GM crops)? HAving said that, existing secondary school syllabii are not currently good enough to prepare people for life. But my point is that if the professional educators can't do it, why would amateur, if motivated, parents be able to do it.[/quote]
sharon wrote: I agree with your first sentence. I'm not sure that the conditions of the second have been met by the NI or Irish governments.
If you compare democracies over the world, the UK would come out very well although you could say it is undermined in NI. However, the secondary school syllabii of NI and scotland are reputed to be better that England. In fact the UK universities rate the leaving certificate in Ireland as better than the A levels in educational terms.
sharon wrote:I still think that parents need to be able to have the ultimate say over what a child is taught. This is enshrined in Irish, UK and European law. I retain the right to 'indoctrinate' my children to be free thinking, rational, liberal and secular.
And in this all the fundies agree with you (except for the last 4 items).

This argument is hard work. Would it be accurate for me to say that your position is something like: People should have the right to educate their children as they see fit, even if this runs the risk of them not being properly educated or that some people might deliberately educate their children in philosophies that could be anti-social.

Posted: Thu Jul 19, 2007 1:48 pm
by sharon
brianmmulligan wrote:Sharon, you have so much there to agree and disagree with:
Great, I appreciate the discussion.
I'm not convinced. HAve you data to back this up? Let me put it to you this way. Say we closed the schools in working class areas in Belfast and told the parents they would have to educate their children at home? How do you think they would get on? What would be the major problem? Knowledge? Skills? Motivation? Prejudice?
There's a link hereto some research on HE. There was a study a few years back, carried out for a PhD by Paula Rothermel in Durham. She collated data from over 400 questionnaires and used standardised tests on almost 200 home-educated children. They all performed well, especially those whose parents were manual or unskilled workers. I don't think this was published anywhere so it's not very convincing evidence.
Regarding your Belfast school scenario, if all the parents were forced to home-educate, it would probably be disastrous. Parents and children have to want to HE if it's to work out. Here, motivation would be the main problem. If individuals in working class areas of Belfast choose to HE for whatever reason, they have a good chance of doing well, especially if they can forge links with other home-educators.
sharon wrote: Who should decide what anyone needs to know?
I want to help my children to be numerate and able to use the maths they need in their lives. If they choose to be physicists, they'll need to know more maths than if they became musicians. I want them to know enough science to be able to at least discern nonsense and quackery. Undoubtedly they will face the hoop jumping exercises of exams to be able to get on, so we'll examine the relevant syllabus and help them do their best to pass the tests.
Will you teach them enough statistics to be able to esimate risk in their own lives or to estimate the risk in public decisions (eg GM crops)? HAving said that, existing secondary school syllabii are not currently good enough to prepare people for life. But my point is that if the professional educators can't do it, why would amateur, if motivated, parents be able to do it.
I don't claim that I will provide my children with a perfect education. I know more about statistics than most people, but even if I didn't, the aim, for us, is to teach the children how to learn and think for themselves. Then anything they need to know at any stage in their lives, they should be able to find out. The technology we have today should, I think, change the focus of education from acquiring knowledge and remembering the accumulated wisdom of the ages, to being constantly able to learn.
sharon wrote:I still think that parents need to be able to have the ultimate say over what a child is taught. This is enshrined in Irish, UK and European law. I retain the right to 'indoctrinate' my children to be free thinking, rational, liberal and secular.
And in this all the fundies agree with you (except for the last 4 items).

This argument is hard work. Would it be accurate for me to say that your position is something like: People should have the right to educate their children as they see fit, even if this runs the risk of them not being properly educated or that some people might deliberately educate their children in philosophies that could be anti-social.
Not exactly. I don't know who else but the parents should make the decisions about individual children. Society has a duty to intervene when it is apparent, or even suspected, that a child is suffering from neglect or abuse. The state has a duty to intervene id it appears that a child is not receiving an education 'suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise' (NI Education Order 1986). English case law has defined a ‘suitable education’ as one able;

'1. to prepare the children for life in modern civilised society, and
2. to enable them to achieve their full potential.'

Article 42 of the Irish Constitution says:
  • 1 "The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children".

    2 "Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State".


    3.1 "The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or in any particular type of school designated by the State".


    3.2 "The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social".
I think that the only way for me to be able to continue to teach my children to be free thinking, rational, liberal and secular, is to accept that others will teach their children that the animals really did go in 2 by 2, or that god spoke to mohammad in the desert or that the wafer turns into the body of some bloke who died 2 millenia ago. We can't dictate the specifics of what children are taught. I think people still have to be free to teach their children whatever flavour of religion they fancy. It's our duty then to try to make society more secular, especially schools paid for through our taxes.

I'm liable to change my mind about this; god knows (I still think in terms of such phrases :roll:) that I've changed my mind on loads of things as I've grown older and had access to more data.

DO you think that the state should decide how and what home-educated children are taught? How do you think we can help the children of very religious parents?
My own parents were very devout, I went to convent schools and was the one my family least expected to drop out of religion. It may not have happened until I was thirty something, but it happened.