Everyone talks about the child’s needs – particularly politicians who want to make themselves popular!
We assume that schools fulfil those needs in ways that will help young people learn best. But there are obstacles; teachers are limited for time and schools also have other agendas – to fulfil the needs of the school as a business and the demands of Ofsted.
Failing to have their child’s needs met is often cited as a reason parents turn to home educating after trying school. They feel they can provide a climate and approach which cater for needs that would be difficult to meet in a class.
Sometimes these are the simplest of things. But being aware of them may help you with your child’s learning at home:
- Many children feel uncomfortable in a noisy, crowded place. As they mature and develop confidence this will change and they’ll be able to cope better. Providing a safe, comfortable environment will develop confidence and support their learning.
- Conversely, some children, particularly young ones, find it difficult to be still. Successful learning doesn’t necessarily require learners to be still, although it does require concentration. However, some children concentrate far better if they can fidget, move around, have something in their hands. And many prefer music or some background noise, even if not the hubbub of a school.
- Children also quite naturally have varying attention spans. Home education can cater for these individualities by starting small and building endurance and expectation in line with personal maturity.
- And children can learn in all sorts of different places, basically; wherever it suits. This may not necessarily be sitting upright at a desk or table. Learning is equally effective if it’s done on the settee, on the floor, on the bed, in the garden, on the bus or in the park. In fact the more stimulating and varied the learning environment, the more likely the learning is to be retained.
- It’s also the case that practical, physical involvement engages a learner far better than sedentary second hand study or being told about something. Children learn far more effectively when they are actively involved than when told.
- Children all have subjects they enjoy and subjects they don’t. Through a project style approach (see this article) parents can develop education using subjects their children are interested in.
- Many children do not develop knowledge and skills at a predicted generic rate as they are expected to do within the school system. Sometimes children learn quickly and easily. Sometimes they seem completely unable to grasp a concept. But this doesn’t mean that they never will; concepts can easily click into place much later. It doesn’t matter when learning takes place – what matters is that it’ll be far more effective and retained if the learner is ready.
- We all have different times of day when we work best. Some children are sharp in the morning. Others are not (teenagers for example). Many families I’ve spoken to said that it worked far better for their older children to get up later and work later, even into the night, once they were at the stage of studying independently. Despite people thinking them ‘lazy’ for always lying in, these young people still went on to achieve good exam results. (More on the subject here)
Learning is a very personal developmental process that doesn’t need to be restricted by the habits of others and home educating gives the opportunity to address preferences. And, although some might suggest that there’s a danger children will never adjust to the ‘real’ world this way, all the graduating home educators I’ve come across seem very well equipped to integrate into the mainstream world through having had their needs met in this respectful way.