Before I became a parent, I was a teacher. I loved my job! I loved the way I could open a child’s eyes to something new; the lightbulb moments; watching children grow and develop over a year or two into confident, enthusiastic learners. I loved it!
I also hated it! I hated that I didn’t have enough time in the day to give every child the personalised education I knew they needed. I hated the time pressure to move on from one lesson to another quickly to make sure I crammed in all the learning that I was required to teach. I hated that we couldn’t spend time in a day just listening to a story, there always had to be a direct learning objective. I hated the look in the eyes of those children who just couldn’t keep up. I hated that I couldn’t make a big enough difference. I hated it!
Then our children arrived to make our family whole. They were 3 and 5 when they came home, so Little Miss was due to go to Year 1 and Little Sir went to the school nursery. I have no criticism of the school – they really did do their best. Little Miss was in a small class of only 21 children – this would be ideal we thought. Small classes mean more attention for her. She had a very disrupted Reception year and was beginning Year 1 as an emergent reader and an emergent writer. She didn’t know her phonics, couldn’t count beyond 10 and struggled to recognise numbers. Fast forward a year….Little Miss can now read simple books and can decode some more complicated words. She can count to 30 and is beginning to move on to 40. She can add and subtract basic numbers. She can explain some simple scientific theories, and she has learnt to colour in the lines. That’s great! The school are delighted – she has smashed her targets and has made the teacher’s progress charts look great. I get that..I honestly do.
BUT….she didn’t do these things at school. We did them at home. At school she was in the lower sets (I actually can’t believe that a school still sets children – I had moved beyond that several years ago – children know when they are in the lower sets, they really do!) She spent most of her time working with a TA and not the teacher. She was very much in danger of becoming a velcro child. One of those children who becomes so attached to adult support that even in Year 6 they sit back and wait for the TA to tell them what to do. I’ve seen this too many times before, so at home we worked hard together. We read books twice a day, we counted everywhere we went, we practiced adding and subtracting everything from sweets to money to toys. We coloured together and learnt how to stay in the lines, how to draw people, how to draw a house. We did it. How can I be so sure that it was all us and none of school? Well, I can’t. But I do know that at school, even in a small class, Little Miss switches off. She doesn’t have the language yet to listen to complex ideas, she doesn’t have the concentration yet to follow complex instructions, she can’t tell me what she did at the end of the day let alone what she learnt.
So, I don’t want her to have another wasted year. Another year where she sits confused in a classroom with no idea what to do. Where the teacher tells me she isn’t ready to move up to the next reading level because she’s not ready, whereas I know she is ready but will happily not try if she has an adult with her. I know my daughter has a brilliant brain inside her head – we just need to let it out. And I know, passionately and deeply, that I am the one to help her do this. I want to teach her the life skills she has missed out on. I want to be able to help her find something she is interested in and to take it further. I want her to get joy from learning and realise that life is exciting and fun, not just there to sit and passively listen. I want her to grow up to be determined, strong, independant, capable and to meet her potential. And I know that I and the rest of the family are the only ones at the moment who can do this for her. We haven’t locked the door on formal education, but we have closed it for now. We are going on a journey together, and I can’t wait to see what we learn!
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