School has come along way from what it used to be, I don’t believe schools today educate – they indoctrinate.

Children today are forced to do homework everyday from the age of 4. There homework includes (among other tasks) reading a graded book for 5 minutes everyday. When they get the hang of it, they move up to the next grade – the blue books or the green books. Sounds great doesn’t it?

It isn’t when you put it to practice. My child loves reading – he adores it and doesn’t stop. Only his teacher is constantly saying ‘he should be on the next grade by now’, ‘he’s too slow, he’s not good enough’. This is from the age of 4!! These graded books are boring, they have very few exciting story lines and the illustrations are not much better.

When I was at school we had a little library in every classroom at a variety of difficulty. We were allowed to choose whatever book we wanted to read, whether it was too difficult for us it didn’t matter – the most important thing was that we wanted to read it. If a book captured my imagination I would try my hardest to read it, it would push me ahead without my teacher or my parents having too. Even for those who didn’t like books, there would always be something that captured their imagination. In our school we were even encouraged to read reference books which is no longer encouraged. Children are forced to read novels when many boys (and I don’t mean to be sexist here) are more interested in facts rather than fairy-tales. They like reading about making objects and that would push their readings skills as much as any novel. Of course you may say that the vocabulary is increased with a novel but every reference book has its own vocabulary too – for instance, many words from a book of plants you may never have heard of by only reading novels. Books extend your knowledge and if you have an interest at whatever age, extending that knowledge through reading should only be encouraged, not discouraged.

My childs reading at home no longer counts because he is not reading the ‘graded’ books. My childs reading no longer counts because he’d rather read for an hour at a time, a couple of times a week, rather than 5 minutes every day. My childs reading no longer counts because he prefers to read a wide range of books. My child is deemed as slow due to this. Does this seem logical to you?

One thing I’ve learnt from bringing up children is that they love learning. They can’t get enough of the information. If I child doesn’t like school, the school is failing the child.

When I was tutored at home and at college and I noticed that exams were taught the same way. The teacher knows what the examiner wants, they tell you what the examiner wants. You learn what the examiner whats to hear, tell it to your teacher until you get it right then you take your exam. It’s not really learning. Although you learn the basics you do not learn to think for yourself. Our schools put too much regulation into everything – the children follow a set program and have very little room to think for themselves.

The way we all learn is through solving problems, we should use this to teach children. A good basis of Maths and English should be learnt by each child but after that kids could learn more through giving them problems to solve. For instance learning to read music and play an instrument is a basic skill – this should be the childs foundation. However, this does not make you a good musician – asking the child to write their own song would give them a problem to solve. Asking the child to improvise over a piece of music is another problem they would need to solve. You could give them certain scales to learn and tell them it would help them in their improvisations. Without pushing them, they would push themselves to learn the scales to achieve a good improv. However children are taught scales, many scales, yet they don’t know how to use them once they know them. Scales are an aid, but how can they be useful if you don’t know how to apply them?

Times tables are also an aid – we learn them to make problem solving easier, but I don’t recall I single time I used mutiplication to solve a physical problem at school. Schools are filled with problems that the children can help with, for instance if the school needs a new fence the children could solve the problem of how much it will cost and how much wood they would need. They could measure, calculate and report results and many would enjoy it, because they are not only solving physical problems, they are involved in the school and have a sense of responsibility. They are also free to solve the problem in any way they choose with the skills they have been taught. Putting things into practice is the best way to learn and it instills confidence.

It is difficult to do these sorts of projects when a strict curriculum is followed and I applaud any teacher who does keep the kids actively learning, not just sitting in the classroom. Some day nurseries are actually open-air now, keeping the children outside and exploring all day. Many of them are fitter, healthier and learning faster.

The technical names for plants are just names someone else has decided to give them and we are told they are the correct names. Someone who has lived among plants may not know those names, they’ll probably fail the exam, but they know more than anyone who has studied from a book. Books don’t tell you the feel, smell or look of a plant – it can only report back what someone else has experienced it cannot replace experience itself.

And although we try to give children a good start with the wealth of information we already know, essentially children have to discover some of that themselves and surely in discovery they become brighter and confident and the lessons learnt are rarely forgotten.

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