Thursday, March 08, 2007

Putting Mr Mooney Right

Mr Mooney asserted early on in the Radio London interview (transcript here) that it takes an awful lot of effort for home education to be successful.

Having spoken with a number of parents who have both home educated and schooled their children, we understand that the amount of effort involved is often not very different. For example, it can be hugely difficult to encourage a schooled child to take part in the learning process in the school when very often, nothing could be simpler in the home educating life. A home educated child is likely to leap out of bed to pursue his chosen activity. He absorbs information most of the time because he is interested in what he is doing. This information does not necessarily come in apparently neatly structured packages, but it is utterly appropriate because he is motivated to acquire it. This method of learning is easy, effective, personalised and tailored to the learner's needs and abilities.

Further, knowledge for a home educated child is often acquired inexplicitly. Whilst this is of course the case for practically every other person on the planet, (and probably does much to rescue the school system from abject failure), we think the learning process in the home is optimal because it provides more opportunity for active learning, and therefore for inexplicit knowledge acquisition, to take place. For example, home educated children often learn how to spell a word not by pouring over a spelling book and consciously learning how to spell it, so as to be able to reproduce it in a spelling test the next day. Rather they learn to spell by reading the word in a text which fascinates them, the visual memory of word is, in the process, stored unconsciously and is then reproduced easily when they next need to use it. If they find they actually can't recall the spelling when they need it, they can always ask the parent without any repercussions or sense of failure, or they could use their spell check, and because they are so interested to use it, they don't forget it easily.

In summary, the fact that a home educated child is motivated to learn and the fact that he is able to absorb theories inexplicitly in the context of something that interests him, all this can make home education very easy indeed.

Mr Mooney implies that you need to be a trained teacher in order to home educate successfully, with the implication that this is so because the content of so many subjects is beyond most parents.

If this is the case, Mr Mooney, if most parents (themselves schooled) cannot help a child reach the same level of ability that they themselves nominally reached as a child, would you not say that this casts some considerable doubt upon the value of learning all that stuff in schools in the first place? It is actually a fact that many HE parents find that they may have done very badly in some subjects at school, but when they come to research the subject to assist their children they find that the subject matter presents almost no problem at all. This, probably because this time they can tailor and personalise the learning, and are motivated to learn. By way of just one example, I know of a mother who herself failed her CSE maths, but who in the space of three months, worked with her 12 year old son (previously labelled with all sorts of behavioural problems) and helped to get the both of them an A grade O' level in Maths.

Mr Mooney asserts that there is way too little power for a Local Authority to intervene in the lives of home educated children. He calls the legislation "lax" and "a national disgrace".

It is the case that Local Authorities already have the power to intervene substantially in the lives of home educating families and when the education of the child is deemed to be unsuitable, an LA can already issue a School Attendance Order. There is no need to increase the degree to which the state is required to intervene.

For further refutations of Mr Mooney's assertions, don't miss Sometimes it's Peaceful where Gill makes a superb job of his arguments about secondary age home education, and has also unearthed some of Mr Mooney's previous quotations which would appear to be coming back to haunt him.


Rachel Reed said...

You make some great point Carlotta.

One could also argue that it takes great effort for school staff to make a school sucessful, yet Mr Mooney isn't mentioning them.

When I was at school, there was plenty of teachers who were half-hearted in their job. My maths teacher didn't give a single lesson in the 2 years I was studying GCSE. We worked from the textbooks. Not ideal for a spoon-fed child.

My parents had to heavily suppliment my maths with a tutor so I scraped a C grade. The school failed me in that respect.

Where was Mr Mooney then?

Deb said...

I have been a parent with children at school, and I have been a home-educating parent. I feel that puts me in a much better position than Mr Mooney to comment on the amount of effort required - and I can say with certainty that sending my children to school took, in a good week, just as much effort as as home-educating them. In a bad week, it took far, far more.

To add to the comment above, it's not just the great effort of school staff that is involved in educating children at school - it also takes a huge amount of money. There is far more funding per pupil than is spent on the education of most home-educated children; of that I am certain. And yet... home-education is shown, over and over, to produce better results - academically, socially and in every other way.

Mr Mooney's skills in critical thinking have clearly been damaged by his years in the system ;-)

Anonymous said...

"A home educated child is likely to leap out of bed to pursue his chosen activity. He absorbs information most of the time because he is interested in what he is doing. This information does not necessarily come in apparently neatly structured packages, but it is utterly appropriate because he is motivated to acquire it."

Right, but I don't think you are reaching Mr Mooney here. He is worried about parents that are too poor. Children are still playing with old Nintendo systems instead of Wii's or something.

Certainly a rich home-educator is in a better place than a poor one?

Can you say even in cases of extreme poverty and parental ignorance the children were better off home-educated?

Carlotta said...

I have seen parents with very little cash managing the education of their children loads better than could be managed in school. It can be a question ingenuinty and tailoring purchases and loans to really suit the interests the child, eg: blagging a guitar, and learning by playing with other musicians instead of shelling out for loads of painfully coercive music lessons. Or, for example, saving for just one PC and internet connection which will contain so much more educational value than hundreds of boring textbooks etc.

So whilst I wouldn't say that money doesn't make it easier, I think Mr Mooney's poor understanding of the theories of learning that underpin home education means that he is likely not to understand how cheaply it can be managed, ie: not having much money doesn't rule out effective, personalised appropriate HE.

Pete said...

Mooney's main problem is projection: he feels unable to home educate, therefore it is impossible. Also, his view of education is pretty much education = school, despite all the anecdotal evidence he himself shows in his Guardian pieces.

Anonymous said...

The rich thing again, Innit?

It really isn't as simple as how much money a person has, though that certainly plays a role in government thinking. See my post on the earlier thread. :)

As to children being better off home educated by rich parents - well, erm, obviously. Let's not play PC here - the more money you have, the more opportunities you can provide your children with. I would hope that people wouldn't try to deny this (though, as we know, they often do).

However this doesn't mean that a poor parent can't HE effectively too. Or that a loving, attentive poor parent couldn't HE *better* than a cold and distant rich parent. But, *if*, and only if, *all other factors are equal* then rich HE kids will probably recieve a better education than poor HE kids, sadly.

But would poor HE kids be better off in school? Hell no! Freedom and respect are the best resources we can give to our children, regardless of our income bracket. :)

"Parental ignorance" is an entirely different matter and the term itself is open to interpretation. To discuss "In cases of extreme parental ignorance are children really better off home-educated?" (Paraphrased to remove poverty from the equation) would involve defining what constitutes "extreme parental ignorance". That could be very time consuming and would open a whole debate of it's own. So I think I'll leave that one! :)


Anonymous said...

Reading the transcript again, I think the quote that started all this. This one:

"TM: Yes, parents who have got lots of money, lots of time, lots of books around the house, who are educated themselves, those are the ones who provide in general the best home education, but a lot of the families I see are on working class estates who have been pulled out of school for bullying or truanting and it is nothing like that at all."

Provides quite an interesting example of the tendency to link money with culture.

Does he see money as a *resource* or a class/culture statement? To me it seems like the latter. It's not as though poor families can't afford *books*, is it? And don't people on council estates have access to libraries?

This is obviously class prejudice and seems to have little to do with what resources a family can or can't provide.


Gill said...

Well said Carlotta, and everyone else. Now, someone point Mr Mooney at this blog! ^^