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Ways of learning

Exam season has ended and so a new routine of tutoring has begun with some new people.

I was teaching some home ed children yesterday. It was the first time that I had met them and I noticed how a some of them are great at process and they have great knowledge.

One factor that I need to take into account when teaching home educated children in a group is that I cannot assume that these children have any particular knowledge of their subject. They have a lot of knowledge, but it hasn't been standardised in any way.

On the other hand, if I walk into a year 8 class in the UK in the beginning of September, I would be reasonable to assume that they have learnt about cell structures, particle theory and forces, amongst other things.

Not being able to predict a good starting place of a home educated child's knowledge is a minor disadvantage compared to the freedom it gives me in being able to find out the child's intrinsic motivations and use those to teach the subject knowledge.

According to Ulrich Boser, one of the main factors that play a part in learning is whether someone wants to learn the subject you are teaching. I have lost count of the times that children would ask me when something would be relevant, and, to be honest, the only pithy answer I could give was 'For the exam.' I tried going through the secondary benefits of learning science such as the thinking skills that you gain from working through a problem, but the students either didn't care or there was so much subject content that the thinking skills got sidelined.

However, with home educated students, I can simply ask them what they want to do and accommodate them as best I can, like some kind of educational improv game.

On my way home, I decided that in future, I should ask each child to write down what they want on a piece of paper with their names. That way, I could teach them what they wanted. I could start with the most popular ones, but I could also make sure that everybody got to learn something that they wanted to.

Even the fact that they start in the group not knowing anything is not necessarily a disadvantage if you give it time. This means that the group can build a shared collection of knowledge and a stronger sense of community than if it simply sat there and had me teach it something that they didn't choose.

I'm very glad to be working with home ed groups as I feel that I am providing a useful and engaging education simply by removing the demands of the school system.

If anyone is a teacher but not working in a school (or if you are thinking of leaving school...) and you still want to educate children, I would highly recommend getting into contact with your local home ed groups. You might be able to find people willing to pay you to teach small groups of children.

There is definitely demand for this as some people I teach have made quite long drives to see me. Also, it fits around childcare as you can tutor home ed people during the day.

Something to think about. Hope you have a great weekend. :)

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