Monday, 13 June 2011

Its too soon to choose a school!

I am frequently getting asked if we have put Zane's name down for a school, and the thought of thinking about that far ahead in time scares me! I don't want to wish his life away, I miss him as my newborn baby who didn't move so fast and give backchat to the cartoon characters on the TV.  I look forward to every milestone that he meets, but we let him do everything in his own good time, and its more of a surprise when he does something spontaneous rather than after us coaching him. I seems strange for me to say, right he is starting school at age four, lets put his name down, when I don't know that he would be ready for school then.

The inevitable thing is that he needs an education, but there are so many options, how do I know now what would be suitable for him in say 4 years time? He could need a different approach to education rather than mainstream school, but there may be different provisions in my area by then, or with cost cutting exercises the school we choose could be shut down in the meantime.

Over the past 18 months I have come to the conclusion that the school we want him to attend needs to centered around activity based learning rather than sitting at a desk being recited to, it needs outdoor space which is functional and used for everyday learning, and it must be child led rather than working at the speed that the national curriculum specifies.

Whilst looking for schools which fit my specification I stumbled upon the Montessori concept. The Montessori concept has an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respects a child's natural psychological development, acknowledging the fact that children have an innate desire to learn and giving them the freedom to explore the world around them at their own pace. Typically in a Montessori school the classrooms are of mixed age, the child choose their own activity out of prescribed options, there are uninterrupted blocks of work time, and it works with a constructivist model where students learn from working with materials rather than from direct instruction. Sounds perfect for us, and fits the bill, the only problem is that they are not common in my area, the nearest one is 11 miles away, which isn't that far, but it would mean 45 minutes on the bus each way which I don't think is fair on a small child, although Zane would love going down the motorway everyday. This school is a dream for me, and I would be ecstatic if Zane could go there. Another type of school with a similar concept is Steiner Waldorf, but again, the nearest one is miles away.

A more available type of education is a Forest school. Forest schools are a type of outdoor education which offers children an opportunity have hands on experiences in a woodland environment. Why a forest? Well it encourages curiosity and exploration using all of the senses, it empowers children in the natural environment, and encourages spatial awareness and motor development. Luckily for us one of the local schools is going to become one. It is something for me to look into, it fits most of my specification and it is only on the other side of town, so much more accessible to us.

My last option for formal education has been announced today in my local area. Seven schools in our catchement area are currently under consultation to get Foundation status and form a Co-operative Learning Trust. This means that the schools would colaborate together and share rescources for teaching and learning. This is great in terms of being enabled to reach full poential, but I dont know where it would stand in terms of the specification that I have set out. I am going to attend a meeting for the public to see what the proposal is and if it would benefit us. The meeting is at the end of the month so I will update once I have digested all of the information.

After writing mostly about alernative schools you might be wondering what I have against mainstream education. Well for me I was very shy, and I got lost amongst the 30 other children in my class right from Reception class. I was too shy to answer or ask questions so I just did what I could, nobody gave me the one on one time to bring the best out of me and see past the shyness. My year 9 English teacher said that I would get no more than a D at GCSE, I actually got an A because my teacher in years 10 and 11 took more interest in us as individuals and she made the learning interesting by doing different activities which made the learning memorable. And with Gary he is super intelligent, he can explain how anything works without even looking at it, but he struggles to write down on paper what is going on in his head, his brain is just moving to fast. Being assessed verbally or by doing physical tasks would have suited him so much better, and he would have got better grades at GCSE and A Level. Zane seems to have a similar learning style to Gary, he wants to see and do rather than watch, he quickly figures out how things work, and he cant sit still for a second. I can imagine him sitting in a classroom, getting up whilst the teacher is talking and just wondering off to investigate something that he is curious about, and I dont want that to be labelled as naughty when he is just learning on his own accord.

So, in conclusion we have a lot of desicions to make and it seems like a short space of time as people are saying we need to do it already when he is only 18 months old. I will be sure to post my thoughts and discoveries as time goes on.

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