Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Learning curve

'Here's a remarkable thought: Among the world's children starting grade school this year, 65 percent will end up doing jobs that haven't even been invented yet.... 
The certainty of change, coupled with the complete uncertainty as to the precise nature of the change, has profound and complex implications for our approach to education. For me, though, the most basic takeaway is crystal clear: Since we can't predict exactly what today's young people will need to know in ten or twenty years, what we teach them is less important than how they learn to teach themselves.'
From The one world school house by Salman Khan pages 179-180.

This week my girls will head off to school.
This week will be Miss Indi's first at high school.
And Miss Pepper's first few days at school (sob).

This week I am questioning the school system like never before. The methods by which we are taught, the hours and hours spent in a classroom, the time wasted on discipline and admin, the classes grouped by age, the stresses that routine puts on my family and probably most importantly, the lack of not-tired hours left over for things like farming and family.

It seems that we are too far into the system to get out of it for now. My girls want to go to school. I guess it's up to us to find creative ways to deal with these issues and get around them.

I can tell you one thing for sure, and that is that my kids will not be the winners of the iPad prize for best attendance record.

Wishing you a wonderful learning year my friends.
May there be lots of time for getting our hands dirty and learning by doing.



  1. Oh, Kate! My oldest is off to school for the first time this week. I have been SOOOO looking forward to it (let's just say 2012 was 'challenging') but this week I've been feeling a bit fragile. Thank goodness for her unwavering excitement. Growing up, I didn't question my school or schooling, I just remember loving the learning. I guess if we can instill that in our kids, it doesn't matter so much the enviroment, because they'll seek out the knowledge regardless. Good luck for the first day!
    Greer x

  2. How clever are you onion plaiting! There is so much of me that agrees with you on your sentiments. Our girls (grade 3&5 this year) are so so so excited about going back tomorrow. Can't wait to see their friends, check out the new classroom and their new class mates. There is also the part (more of me than them) that wishes they could just stay here with me. Hanging out at home. Playing In the paddock. Finding frogs. Jumping on the trampoline. Swimming at the pool. I'm also not fussed about attendance - if they aren't going its not because they're being ignored and I can't be bothered. It's more because we have something amazing that we need to do. Together.
    Good luck tomorrow. Been thinking of you Kate.

  3. My sons are adults now but as we moved alot for my husbands job and the youngest is dyslexic, school was not always much fun for either of them. We would not have been able to afford private schooling and I was not confident or skilled enough for home schooling. They have both done well in their chosen fields (computer systems for one, plumbing for the other). Public schooling provided a basis for learning the skills needed for their work training. Our family provided the love and support to be able to go out and fend for themselves in a changing world. While Public schooling could be better, it does prepare them for the rough and tumble outside the home. Parents can provide the love, the opportunities to appreciate family values and fun of being together as a family. From what I see on your blog you and your partner are doing a great job, keep it up :^)

  4. Funnily enough I was just have a twitter conversation today about secretarial shorthand and those big clunky typewriters that we were taught to touch type on. I didn't even have a computer until my final year of Uni! Kids are so much more advanced with those skills than we will ever be, but school is great for learning about how to get along with people from all different walks of life, and that's an amazing skill that stays with you forever.

  5. I am nervous about school going back Kate, it makes me so anxious. I am trying hard not to pass those feelings onto my children x

  6. That quote will have me pondering for days. Xxxx

  7. Unless it is a substitute for family, school is not what forms you. It is your family.
    I wouldn't worry about yours.x

  8. Great post- Great comments! I cant believe my youngest is heading into his 4th year at school(grade 3) this year, it felt like yesterday he was a preppie- and the other is grade 5 which means checking out a few high schools to get a feeling for what is available for the coming years. Good luck with your girls this week- lots of milestones!

  9. Great book. Challenging thoughts. I'm a uni lecturer (trying to teach the next generation of teachers) and I resonate with your sentiments. What you are doing with your girls day to day is teaching them the 21st century skills they will need to be happy and successful. We are so far into a system that we can't wiggle out of and it's not all bad, but definitely better when balanced with the kind of problem solving opportunities you provide for your girlies on a day to day basis. Keep on doing what you are doing.
    PS I'm a regular reader of your blog and love it. I only read 2 on a regular basis.

  10. i can't stop reading that quote. I'll need to write it down "old school" so I can read it when I need too! I love your blog Kate..I'm moving my family to a country property so we can grow veggies and have chooks and "space"...away from suburbia. I guess the thought of how the school system will negatively affect that hasn't really been a thought of mine, but now I shall ponder it. All the best for your little Pepper...and for you too xx

  11. Feel exactly the same about it here. Something nobody seems to agree is about the routines that means stress for us while the rest of people seem to be glad for...
    Homeschooling is alegal here so I don't dare to, but I don't like. Al all.

    Thanks for thinking simmilar on the other side of the world! and curiously for tying the onions the same way!!! The only difference is that we wait their leafs to be dry before tying. Awesome!

  12. My friend started home-schooling with high school Kate...her daughter loved it and returned to a sort of Year 11 and 12 college. Maybe you can talk the girls round over time... Good luck with all that hair plaiting! Hope everything goes swimmingly this week. x

  13. Oh I love what you have said here so much and yes I am with you. My babies went back to school today and although they go to our beautiful local steiner school I wonder why I send them away to learn and grow, when I want to teach them and I have so much here to teach them with. It is called life!
    You are beautiful for everything you said and your words sing so much truth to me. Thank you xxx

  14. Please tell me you made up that bit about the ipod prize for best attendance! I have been teaching for 22 years and that is THE most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of! It was a 'joke'... wasn't it? Best wishes to you and your girls for the new year ahead. There will certainly be lots to talk about over the coming days- especially with the new beginnings of High School and Kindergarten!

  15. ooo there are soooooo many things I could latch onto and bore the pants of everyone with this topic -- from experience as a teacher, a student, a parent of kidlets in the public system (and our experiment with part-time home schooling in term 4 last year..... lets just say - the NSW dept of ed. spin doctors are NOT at all pleased to hear of a parent taking charge of their kiddies education whilst retaining them in the the system...)

    instead I'll leave here with the one thing that I both say to parents and live as a parent --- be proactive when it comes to your kiddies - do what it right for them and not what suits the system.

  16. School seriously sucks. They have no idea how to each any child who doesn't fit in to they're narrowly defined ban of academia. They spend too much time worrying about children wearing the wrong colour shoes and not having their top tucked in and not enough developing new ways to challenge and teach the children who fall out side their parameters. Which in our inner city London school are probably well over 50% of them. And that is before you even get me started the total disrespect they show to working parents, and lets face it that is most of us in one way or another these days, in they're planning of school time and activities. Grrrr. Sorry I'm ranting. Guess your post just hit a rather raw nerve this morning. Tomorrow I will be sunny and happy.

  17. My daughter started school today and she didn't love it. Not one bit. It aches. I'm not sure what the alternatives are...

  18. I'm with you on the school thing. My daughter lasted until she was 11 and then she wanted to come out. School was challenging on and off up until then. Senior school though was a step too far and completely threw her so I had to act, especially as she literally pleaded with me to make it happen. Being at home together was great. She had four years at home, then went to college and then on to university. I agree with your criticisms of school. So little was done there! A day off was far more beneficial rather than one spent colouring very boring worksheets which had no relevance or learning involved in them at all. I taught her to read, if we depended on school she would still not be!

    It was scary but hugely liberating. We were not structured at all. Yet somehow she knows an awful lot (more than me that's for sure). She is also self motivated and can do things for herself without being spoon fed. Very helpful now she is doing her masters at university (saying that to show that it doesn't need to mess up their academic opportunities.) I was lucky as I was totally left alone to get on with it. Local authorities take more of an interest these days. Not sure I would have liked that, as following a curriculum etc would have been not what I wanted at all. They have to be careful though, as a number of children do disappear from the system and are later found to have been in abusive situations. I did have to notify the authorities though and not just vanish from the school roll- which would have been seen as truanting and parents get sent to prison for that here in the UK! 'Education otherwise' is a key phrase in setting about home schooling. (Education must be provided at school or 'otherwise' is in our regulations about education.)

    The social side can be a problem for some, but there are lots of socialising groups and opportunities for all ages to mix. If mixing at school and shyness or bullying are problems (they were with us) then things can only improve. There is nothing more lonely or more isolating than feeling alone and unliked/wanted in a room full of people. Staying where you are unhappy is not something we support as adults so I didn't see why my daughter should be forced to stay in it either. We loved our time at home. I should think that you would make it very special indeed if your children wanted it at any point. I do agree though, that such a thing is best led by what suits our children. School is great for many children, it wasn't for mine and I didn't like it much either when I was there (not past junior school, which I did enjoy)!

  19. Have you heard about flexi-schooling? Here is a link to a good article from The Guardian: http://m.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/dec/05/rise-of-flexi-schooling
    I might consider it but I have two little boys to chase after, so not sure it would work for us at the moment. I love the idea though. Five days does seem like a lot, doesn't it? I'm going to miss my girl. xK

    1. Thanks for the link, really interesting idea. As an only child I think the socialisation is very important aspect of school for our daughter and I feel our teachers can give a broader perspective than me alone could but I really like the idea of flexi schooling -The best of both worlds? Not sure that In NZ this would be so easy to do as fairly strict laws regarding school attendance and while I do know home schoolers it takes a fair bit of work to set it up.

  20. Not sure what your laws are but in the US, it's fairly easy to homeschool. I loved it-well most of it, there were still some rough days. But no regrets here. My sons are now in college and doing very well on every front.

    I now work as a teacher's aide in our public school system. The teachers do what they can but it's still a broken system. If you are considering homeschooling, I would read Penelope Trunks blog-she recently started homeschooling and she offers a neat perspective.

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  22. Hey Kate. If your kids love school then they shall get some positive things out of it I'm sure. My family however is a home schooling (unschooling/natural learning) one and we wouldn't have it any other way. I have so many doubts about the school system. And I'd hate to be caught up in the whole rush to get to school and get them back home, some of my kids don't wake till 9am!
    Have you heard of part time schooling? Some schools will allow you to send your kids there for 2 or 3 days a week and the rest you can home school. Check out the HEN (Home Education Network) website: http://www.home-ed.vic.edu.au/
    They are great for advice.
    It's never too late!
    Good luck. I'm sure with your wonderful teaching at home about growing food and caring for our environment, your girls will grow up to be wonderful women.

  23. After many struggles and much disappointment - I have decided to homeschool my daughter this year. I don't want somebody that doesn't care, to be in charge of educating her. I feel it's the right thing to do for her. On the other hand my son is finishing his last year (he is special needs) and for the time being I think school is right for him. For the time being anyway.

  24. I love your blog and your honesty. Ok, I'm a teacher and part of the system. But the system is made up of lots of individual schools and individual teachers; and I learnt, once I was a parent, that a child and their parent's experience of school can be the difference between a good teacher and a not so good teacher. My school is fairly unusual; we don't have a uniform and ALL adults, whether they clean, teach or run the school, are called by their first name. I always tell my pupils that it's important to learn the academic stuff but it's even more important to learn how to get along with other people and work with them. I teach in a Primary school in London and my 30 pupils' families come from 20+ countries in 6 different continents, speak 14 different languages at home and have 5 faiths or no faith at all. They are a cohesive and supportive bunch and if it wasn't for school I don't know how they would have met and learnt so much from each other's experiences. At school, our kids learn how to get along with other people who don't share our values. They choose to play with children who are not the children of our friends. They learn how to cope with difficult friendships and relationships. If you were to add up all the hours that children spend at school and compared it to the number of hours they're awake and added on weekends and holidays, you'd be surprised because it's not as much as you think it is. As a teacher, I often wish I could have more of an impact on the lives of my pupils who have difficult personal circumstances; but I can't. And that works positively for families like yours - you have helped your children to develop a set of values, given them the confidence to go out into the world and will be there to support and guide them when they need it. School is going to give them different experiences but it won't change who they are. For you, as their mum, facing two major milestones; good luck. They won't need it.

  25. Great post Kate!

    I love your rebellious streak at the end!

  26. Takes a lot for me to stop lurking, but I'm hearing you on the school thing. We have decided to homeschool and I'm feeling good with that. It's odd for me, who went to a normal public primary school and always thought my kids would do the same - but no - we're having too much fun and learning too much stuff to send my just-turned-5yo away to be looked after by someone else for six hours a day. Things might change in the future and school might be part of that, but for the moment, we're taking an alternative route. This book by Will Richardson is an interesting short read http://www.amazon.com/Why-School-Information-Everywhere-ebook/dp/B00998J5YQ it's not about home schooling but more about how education could be changed to reflect our lives now instead of often reflecting the distant past.

  27. I giggled at your 'my kids will not be the winners of the iPad prize for best attendance record.' Little Eco is staring school this year and we'll be taking the same approach - letting her have the day off to experience real life whenever we can.

    Enjoy your new found totally kid free time. x t.

  28. Your words from the heart have brought a tear to my eye before. My girl starts school tomorrow too and the tears are really flowing today. Good luck tomorrow from a random stranger in Thornbury x

  29. Good luck with the start of School, my eldest son started as a Preppie today, he was keen but a little unsure. He went off well. I on the other hand, was tearing up on my walk out to the car and more so when I read the note given to me by his new teacher which talked about us working together this year to help him be the best he can be - absolutely magic!

  30. I have a feeling, dear, that the lovely home life you have created for your girls will make the after-school-tired-from-being-there-all-day-ness not so bad. It won't be the same as having Miss Pepper home all day, as you are used to, but she seems so engaged and excited (from your pictures here and story telling of such), I don't think school would get in the way of that. I wish you luck and happiness, and as much of a painless week as possible. xoxo

  31. Fascinating statistic!

    Of course my kids are in the system. Each year as they go back to school I find myself wishing that I could be a home schooling family, pack ourselves up and run away, be 'elsewhere'. We aren't that family though.

    I think of school as an opportunity for the kids to find new things that they truly connect with, want to explore further. AND you just need one really special teacher (shaper) to really have an impact and help to make you see the world in a whole new way. That's an exciting opportunity I think.

    Hope it's a great year for your crew. x

  32. Well, you know we have made a big change in our kids schooling this year for that very reason. I was talking to my mum about it recently & marveling at how much the world have changed during her lifetime and yet the way we teach our children at school had not. I do agree with Kirst though, school is just one piece of the puzzle, and thd life you create for your kids and what you teach them is a very big piece too. I don't think I could home school my kids, but I can understand the desire to do it. May all your girls have a wonderful start to school this year and good luck tomorrow- a big day for you and miss pepper xxx

    Ps so nice see you today

  33. I soooo hear you on that, Kate. My son, Lew, is 13 and has never been to school. We follow a learning approach called unschooling or natural learning. The learning is based around the needs and interests of the learner so everything they learn is meaningful and relevant. It's a pretty cool way to live a childhood and Lew's really happy with it all. Even when I was in the school system as a teacher, I could see the difficulties of the whole system. it can't possibly cater for every child's needs and that's the most worrying part of it, for me. Never too late to get them out of school but if they are really happy there then obviously it's working for them OK.

    All the very best this fresh, new school year. And if you ever want to chat about homeschooling/unschooling I'm in for a big old natter:) x

  34. From all these replies this is really a hot topic. It kept me awake the other night when I realized I am probably going to lose the battle of keeping our 2.5yr old home to homeschool. My husband wants him to go to the local school for 'the socialization aspect' as he calls it (we live in a small town). The only thing I can hope is that he changes his mind after he reads a couple of books I've read on the matter that have totally swayed me to the thought that school isn't a great place for kids. I just want my babies home with me where I know they're loved and looked after, not bullied or shamed or unnecessarily controlled. It breaks my heart to think about it.

  35. how pretty was that plait! I so hear you! altho we are in our 2nd year of homeschooling our eldest.. it works brilliantly as she's a night owl and sleeps in like the rest of us, she's free to learn her interests in art, japanese, english history. i'm with you on the never winning perfect attendance, as if school was a daycare centre in which everyone sends their kids with a cold, i had a battle on my hands everytime she caught a cold.. as if a cold can be gone in 3 days? perhaps she wouldn't be sick all the time if everyone else who was sick was still at home? another bonus with everyone having long hair is there is NO LICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and holidays whenever it suits ;)

  36. I too have three going back to school tomoroow,(yr12 yr10 g5) I too battle many of those same questions, however as that quote you wrote said (which is frightening) many of the jobs our children will do havent been invented yet! So I balance it by giving my children the best love and knowledge I can at home knowing that soon they will be out in the big, huge, enourmouse wide world and I wont always be there for them, so learning things at school like handling conflict, following routine and learning disipline will help them when they venture out on their own (I hope :-)) xxBrenda

  37. Wow, what interesting replies to an interesting and heartfelt post.
    I totally relate to your sentiments regarding sending your girls to school. I too see how much my big girls love the social aspect of school and hate missing a day (i do try!).
    Every holidays I think about home schooling so much but the girls wouldn't have it, though we all relish the holidays and they recognise aspects of school that are meaningless and a waste of time.
    There is no easy answer, and the journey is so different for everyone. I do think the best part of school as far as educational value for my girls has been the mixing with children from all backgrounds. They really have learnt to be tolerant and thoughful in this regard.
    Good luck with this big transition!

  38. So much to think about, Kate!
    With our new Prep child (and me as a new "school mum"), I've been thinking a bit about what school means, worrying about what our girl will lose in trying to "fit in"... and then I checked our schools new website, and they have links to Ken Robinson's talks which completely challenge our school system, and I am a little less worried! I think our teachers are thinking about this too! xo

  39. look into Steiner schooling !

  40. Oh, I haven't been "here" for a while, or on IG actually. The whole of January was kid-month, wasn't it. And then we got flooded and lost power and internet. And now that it's all back, I'm not back into it properly. So...... Umm - what am I saying.

    I hear you on the re-thinking school and education and learning and such. I think sending my kids to school is almost more about socialisation as learning. They watched "tangled" on their first day back. Uh-Huh!!!! We are taking them off school this whole week for a family trip to Sydney. We'll go to the art gallery - actually a couple of exhibitions. I figure they'll be doing more "learning" during those four days than weeks at school. A lot of school seems to be kid-wrangling (Miss, she took this, he said that, dib dob dob) and organising and planning what's next, rather than just doing. I keep wondering about home-schooling, but am scared about my small social network, and the fact that most of the time I'd be happy staying at home and having yet another "how to crochet and drink tea" lessons with my kids, how to take Instagram pictures and post to a blog would be involved - though I think my kids have aced that already.
    I was just saying to my sister yesterday that my kids probably have the highest absentee rate at school. I don't really mind, I can justify every single stay at home day if need be. My mum did the same thing with us, and I didn't turn out too bad - I can even read and write.
    {also, my son told me that his teacher thought a Tasmanian Devil and Tasmanian Tiger were the same thing....... hmmm - I'm not even sure what to think on that one}.

    I hope you have enjoyed your weekend with you babies. My little one wasn't too sure moving from Kindy to Year 1, she was a bit nervous, but totally ok. They'll always be our babies won't they.


  41. How grateful I am to you for expressing your thoughts regarding the standardised school system! I am an avid believer in education being empowering, yet education certainly should not be restricted to the classroom! I feel there is so little discussion on this amongst my social circle...I am absolutely starting to feel the pressure of having my children's education all mapped out and planned to the finite detail! My eldest son is not 'due' to start prep for another two years and yet everybody around me but me seems preoccupied with the fact! Perhaps I really should have more faith in my ability to provide an adequate home education! Although, I feel I shall succumb to the 'norm'!

  42. I genuinely believe school to be a great and good thing, but NOT for every child. My son was not ready for it at the tender age of four and a half, and my belief was that he would be emotionally crushed by the playground quagmire. So we just never took him. He is 10 now, self assured and confident having grown up fiercely sheltered by our attentions and love. He has many friends who attend school and if he so chose, would slot into a school environment with an ease I feel was not there six years ago.

    I feel your heartfelt loss at your girl starting school - but your biggest comfort is that she wants to go - what a big positive that must be. Parents get requests to take their children out of school for family holidays denied in the UK (facists) so I am gladdened to read that you intend to have your family time without being constrained by school timetables. The very best of luck to you and yours.

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