Monday 20 April 2020

The Power of Critical Thinking

After seeing yet another Facebook platitude with some random statistics from an unknown source, with its subliminal messages (yes, plural) and fearmongering, I'm reminded how important it is that we all think for ourselves and mind the gap, between what is stated and what is unsaid, unresearched, unscientific or otherwise engendered. If only critical thinking was taught in schools. From primary school. I remember being so disappointed a number of years back now, when my eldest son was progressing to years 11/12, and his school decided not to do the International Baccalaureate. Their Critical Thinking module seemed critical then. Academic hoop jumping does not help us think. Now, more than ever, we need to read widely, and behind the numbers, as much as we can, and not just accept and repost things at face value. Those of us that can decode statistics. I look at them and get my husband, a doctor of sciences to decode them, so I am not saying we all need to be statisticians, but there are websites that explain things if we can be bothered to look at sources.

I no longer comment on 'political' posts on Facebook. I don't see the point. People will keep posting what they want to believe, however erroneous the source material, but for those of us who are in any way serious about the truth, I think we should overcome our desires to be 'right' or 'right-on' and think first before we post/repost, after all, there are so many mechanisms of control at play - in and out of the press, do we really want to be their mini-puppets of mind control? Where I mostly find Facebook unhelpful, Twitter is handier in terms of people commenting at the source, and I have found it to be a helpful means of acquiring information at the source - mind the trolls though, they really are lemmings. We really must consider before hopping on board - why are people repeating this? Is it true? Might there be an agenda? What subtle messages lie behind this statement/text?

The government is getting quite a bashing from 'people who know better.' I feel a bit sorry for them (the bashed and the bashees.)  These are unprecedented times. Wouldn't it be more helpful if we drew together despite our differences to actually make a difference as so many are doing with words of encouragement and offering to but shopping for people and so on? Of course, we need an opposition government to hold our government to account, but couldn't they, given the times, just think a little more critically before criticising? I was stunned by the tribal hatred that came out against the PM when he was in hospital. Don't people stop to think that there was a man, a partner (of a woman with child), brother son? Whatever our political allegiances, let's think before we 'speak.' The internet is fraught with hazards. And often just fraught with so much postulating and talk that would not take place face to face.

Wednesday 8 April 2020

On Homeschooling: A response to a BBC Article from a home educating parent

This is my response to the above BBC link.

No, you should increase your expectations but not in the way that you seem to think. My main concern is for children whose parents are less well off and for whom going to school is a lifeline, and for many a decent meal too. My son went to state schools in London in affluent and less affluent areas, so I understand the diversity of the school system. Many of his friends went to private schools, so I have seen children emerge from a variety of schooling systems.

I understand the concerns of parents, but for those of us who home educate, I can’t help feeling bemused by this article given whom it appears to address. I really don’t mean to sound smug but my children are all well above what is expected of them at their ages, academically, but also, and perhaps more importantly, in terms of emotional intelligence and confidence, and we do not usually do more than 2 hours a day of formal input, from me or my husband. Mine range from 7 - soon to be 11. However, my children are 'schooled' for most of their waking hours. The elder two read prolifically: literature, but also comics, National Geographic and any books about animals and small creatures, prehistoric or not - my 8-year-old knows far more than me about the natural world than I have learned in 5 decades. My youngest who reads as well but is more gripped by numbers builds Lego that is 16+, not because he is bright, though he is, but because he has the time to do so and nob one has tod him he can't. As such, they do all sorts of things they wouldn't be able to do at school, not least due to the time constraints of overstretched teachers, including Computer Programming, sewing, and sculpting, building wooden cars vehicles with power tools and mountain climbing and hiking.

Outside our home, they all attend classes at the local climbing wall, swimming pool and theatre school. the boys do athletics; my daughter attends Brownies, a cooking club and a gaming group. At other times of the day, we engage in discussions and debates with them on a variety of topics from History, Society, Culture, Science, Spirituality, and Ethics to Lady Gaga and Sia. The opinions of young children are particularly fresh and insightful. There is so much to learn from their fresh experience of life. I bore them with my back catalogue of music and play classical music (good for the brain and creativity) when we are painting or drawing. My daughter practises Welsh songs and ABBA for her singing tutor (I join in there, sometimes: "Oh, Mum!"). They learn Welsh or practice times tables and spelling on their i-pads; we tell stories, discuss current affairs in the car, look for critters on walks and cycle rides.

We spend hours on Lego and whacky games, some educational ones that we make up using whatever's to hand - dice, dominoes, chalkboard at the moment. And we do lots of art and singing. They have time to do all of the above. This is the difference. This is what's on offer. It's what seemed best to us, and our circumstances. Yours are likely different and your kids may be in a school where their needs are best met. I've no doubt about how we are (imperfectly, I'm sure; but best we feel) meeting our children's diverse needs. Don't panic in the interim, there is much on offer for those that this article points up.

This is a snapshot of how we do things at the moment. We prefer to say 'home educating' rather than 'homeschooling' as we don't currently use curriculum materials, some homeschooling parents follow an academic curriculum. I make sure they are equal to or above what is expected at their ages but I don't get hung up about it. When my youngest didn't automatically start reading at the young ages of the other two, I let him continue with Lego and numbers until he naturally began seeing words. My husband encouraged me to leave him be until he was ready and able to catch on fast with confidence. He's still quicker at maths than me, but happily, my husband paid more attention in that department than I did, otherwise, I'd be swotting for every lesson, not so much for primary maths but for secondary, my husband has already begun algebra with my ten-year-old. When I do need to swot, I enjoy it. It's a learning opportunity for me. I also consult what I call The Book of Vorderman when my memory fuzzes.

I don’t see anyone asking the homeschooling/educating community for advice, but here’s some: If you’re worrying don’t, chances your children will catch up. We do not spend hours a day schooling, though our kids attend a lot of outside activities, clubs, and classes such as theatre school. Trust your children and use this time to have quality time with them. Do creative activities with them and address their emotional needs. If you have a garden do crazy family games or engage in bonkers combined singing and PE activities as we do. Focus on them and their other needs. I understand this wasn’t planned or a life choice, but nevertheless, it is an opportunity. Do something visionary and mind-expanding with them. Do it differently.