Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In Praise of Click and Drag and Drop.

Son of Thor is never going to win a gold medal in the Olympic event of "learn by heart". It isn't entirely his fault, so far memorising has not meant “learn the pertinent facts” but “learn to recite the entire page word for word and be tested orally like it was a sodding poem”. Comprehension of facts or concepts contained within optional.

I'll be using a great freebie from Hot Potatoes to create interactive exercises to wean him off the "word for word" habit and give him less tedious exposure to the information that needs to go onto his internal hard drive.

What I have done with my students and intend to replicate with him, is to let him create some of the exercises himself. It is aimed at giving him the opportunity to learn how to evaluate text and extract the significant information. Plus testing Mummy puts the shoe on the other foot and lets him explore the role of "knower". Not to mention how much he will like grilling me.

Just as long as he doesn't marinade me first.

Hot Potatoes -

The Big Box

My first home education product review.

I ordered the KS2 year three pack from Educan (see links list) but personalised since I also needed the literacy component for KS 1 year two.

It has exceeded my expectations. The clear, easy to follow schedule is precisely what I need, to give myself a structure and a plan to hang on to while I find my feet and to keep us on-track.

The books are of a standard I haven't found on the high-street and seem to have been chosen with clear instructions, evident purpose of activity and quality content in mind. There is no way I could have put together a programme of study to match it on my own.

It arrived at the speed of light, well before the money transfer was completed and it was a bit like Christmas as far as Son-Of-Thor was concerned.

My biggest problem is keeping him out of the box, I could do with a padlock on it. Just as I am sinking into a chair a book gets thrust under my nose and I get interrogated about Kings and Doing Words. He has already read three of the reading books. My child. The one who disdains all written word unless in comic format.

To say I am satisfied is an understatement. To often you find yourself disappointed by the gap between the blurb and the product you get. Not this time, not by a long chalk.

I am looking forward to beginning as soon as school finishes, with a confidence I didn't feel before it arrived.

..and then the whole room went quiet.

I went to the school office this am, when we dropped Son of Thor off. There were happy sounds and chirpy tones going on till I walked through the open door. Then silence.

I take it I haven't been forgiven for talking to the press then.

Mission Accomplished. Cover letter, form, legalese, auto-certification, CD-ROM of curriculum handed in.

And I have the virtual dagger pricks, made by twenty eyes, on my back to prove it.

Now I just have to wait and see what happens at lunchtime pick up. Ready to verbally deliver another irritation if asked to step inside for a chat. There will be no meetings, only written communication. This time the bugger better be ready to stand by everything he says cos I will have hard copy proof signed by His Off-The-Cuffness.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oh well, if you twist my arm....

One teeny tiny personal example of why I have the hump.

Son of Thor is in year three (primary). There is a dedicated geography and history teacher for his year and a couple of others besides. That is all she teaches. (and ONLY via dictation, so teach is a loose term in this context)

So, he came home with some homework, to draw a piccie of where he spent his hols.

We spent it in the UK with him being dragged around shopping centres and Tescos. Which meant the typical drawings of beaches and mountains were out.

Since I was not keen to publicise how much of a shop addicted philistine I am, I vetoed the drawing of a superstore and traced the outline of the UK for him and got him to colour it in and put in details like towns and arrows showing where we went . I admit I was quite happy to let teacher assume that the arrows indicated geographical location of “cultural pursuits”.

It came back with a 4 (fail) cross red pen asking “and what place is this ?”

A traced outline of the UK.

From a child who is half English

Who brought back bags of Cadbury's minis from his hol in England to hand out during the geography lesson just the week before.

I kind of wish I had let him do a pic of big shop. At least that might have been recognised.

Not Fit For Purpose...allegedly.

A Few Facts

I won't go into detail regarding why I've chosen home education over Italian state or private schools. I've worked in both, I've been a parent with a child at both, which has given me an even greater appreciation of why it is all going horribly wrong. Recollecting personal experience will raise my blood pressure and The Italian Sock Dropper gets nervous when I go purple in the face, he fears the inevitable Etna episode that follows. He is allergic (to the point of needing antihistamines) to the phrase “and another thing...” so I don't want to ruin his evening. Again.

I'd rather talk generalities that are supported by the bodies that investigate education across the globe. (see PISA et al)

Italy spends more than average on education.

Italy has a lower than average teacher/student ratio.

Italy has a longer than average school day.

Sounds like a recipe for national educational success. Right ?


Italy is right down at the bottom of the European league in terms of education.

It's called “The Italian Paradox”.

No paradox from where I am sitting having witnessed it, up close and personal, as both a parent and a teacher. The overwhelming attitude I have encountered is that schools are there primarily as job factories and the students are just a necessary evil.

Education has been reduced to a political football. By MPs, by management, by unions and by the poorly trained staff themselves. If as much time, energy, enthusiasm and attention to detail were paid to quality of teaching as it is to terms and conditions of employment, Italy would be top of the league.

That little lot is my issue. As it stands formal education in Italy is not fit for purpose.

In my opinion.


Impending Mushroom Cloud

Tomorrow we inform the director of Son of Thor's school that from September we will be home educating. If you see a mushroom cloud from a spontaneously combusting bureaucrat over Lomellina in the next twenty-four hours, you can blame me.

Lots of research, soul searching, money, arguments, imaginary letters written in head to teachers who employ the didactically indefensible daily and a good deal of arm waving...all in a big, blue folder ready to be hand delivered.

I will be wearing my lovely, new, grey dress from Next and my highest heels (also grey) to mark the occasion.

Son-of-Thor will be wearing his usual mismatched clothes and a pocketful of cards that he is obsessively collecting to demonstrate his complete lack of interest in marking said occasion. In fact he has no interest in marking anything other than himself, with something indelible, the minute my back is turned.


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