Thursday, 17 June 2010

The Undead

It's like one of those horror movies where where the evil monster keeps getting killed and yet keeps coming back to life for another battle. Yes, I'm talking about the reincarnation of the Badman Review as an Ofsted Report. Once again, it's a lightweight skim of selective and biased facts and figures that conveniently support the policy of the previous government.

Fortunately, the full moon has passed and the zombie's power is draining. The pro-HE side is gaining strength and indeed, one of our warriors recently obtained a chalice of great power. Today he struck what is hopefully a mortal blow to this irritating zombie, so that it will die and remain, if not dead, then at least comatose for an indefinite period.

With any luck, there will now be a general trend away from quangos attempting to exert more control over not just home educators, but life in general. We have a few years to work to change the prevailing culture of the UK away from the nanny state and back to one where individual responsibility is important, where people don't expect the state to come along and solve their problems but to make the effort to deal with issues with help from friends, family and community. Let's make sure that if that zombie wakes up, it will look around and decide to go back to sleep because all around is a happy, cohesive community with minimal government interference that will unite to keep things that way.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Drive and Motivation

One of the articles of faith of autonomous education is that the child wants to learn and will do so happily with minimal coercion, provided there is interest in the subject and appropriate materials and assistance are provided. Even 'downtime' spent playing computer games or watching TV is part of the process, where the brain can organise what it has accumulated. Some computer games and TV programmes are also useful learning in their own right, or can serve as a foundation for a new or renewed interest.

One of the milestones I've looked for in C is a willingness to sit and read non-fiction books for fun, which I remember doing when I was at school, at least in the subjects I enjoyed. It was therefore pleasing to discover that C stayed awake in bed last night until nearly midnight, reading a Horrible Science book from cover to cover. He even remembered it and showed me some of the experiments that he found interesting, so we'll have to do those to reinforce the big step forward. It's also a cue to get some more books at an appropriate level and leave them where he can find them.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

How to Start

One of the things I find hardest, but most satisfying, about unstructured education, is the question that appears at short notice, related to something that C is doing. Then I'm struggling with the 'where do I start?' problem, trying to explain something that is now second nature to me because I've known it so long. Trying to remember back to how I was introduced to the subject is almost impossible, not least because I probably read the text book and learned it that way. C is still a bit young to take to that sort of thing though, so we improvise and try to lay the groundwork for when he's ready to come back and tackle the subject some more.

Over the weekend the HotWheels track came out of wherever it had been stored. This is the one that hooks over the top of a door, with a track that drops down steeply and then angles up so the car flies off the end of the track and hopefully through a hoop some distance away. From this we got to some physics equations, namely v=u+at, s=ut+0.5at^2 and v^2=u^2+2as [*] As a bonus, I managed to link in C's experience of playing the lunar lander game at the National Space Centre as another example of using the equations. In the absence of graph paper (must find some) to add in a lesson in how to plot graphs, I fired up OpenOffice and set up some equations and a graph on the spreadsheet. This gave a nice demonstration of things such as having the launch trajectory at 60 degrees landed in the same place as having it at 30 degrees, and the fact that 45 degrees gave maximum range. We also covered the time taken for the 30/60 trajectories and discussed which one would be easiest to get through a vertical hoop.

I may put together a gadget with a couple of light beams and a timer so that he can set the beams at different heights and record the time taken between the beams for each height. He loves gadgets, and I'm sure that making a few would encourage the learning process somewhat. At some point I might even let him assist in building, if I think he's OK using a soldering iron. One learns very quickly which end to hold and picks up useful tips such as not trying to catch it if it gets knocked off the bench and to pay attention when using it.

[*] no doubt known to those who did physics O-level. The modern GCSE equivalent is probably to write an essay on the evils of speed when it comes to motor vehicles.