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Saturday, September 01, 2007


A large manila envelope arrived in the mail Friday from the department of education. Was this my long-awaited acceptance to the homeschool advisory committee? Would there be a train, or better yet, plane ticket to Brisbane for our first meeting? No and no. It was the pre-end-of-the-year-reporting package.

The ability to continue writing your own course of study is dependent upon the department's acceptance of your report and plans for the following year's study. Required are two writing samples, two math samples, and four additional samples from two subjects of my choosing, each collected three to six months apart to clearly indicate an increase in learning. But we work for mastery. As part of Elle's Classical Writing - Aesop projects, the finished products have been edited into their best form, so you don't get to see the spelling or grammatical errors or their improvement. The only indication of an increase in learning might be seen in the length and complexity of the narrations and the more advanced vocabulary. Submitted material must also be an original work of the child's, no photocopies are allowed -- under the reasoning that the fine work cannot be appreciated in a reproduced state, color laser copiers notwithstanding -- so books must be pulled apart and her precious original Aesop retellings and illustrations sent off to sit in someone's file cabinet never to be seen again in order to satisfy their demands. For math, I will gladly tear apart the Queensland Maths book we began and then dropped to show how much confusion it inspired, and submit a couple of our own timed addition drills to show an increase in speed and accuracy, a skill the authors of their math book did not concern themselves with. Accompanying each set of exhibits must be an analysis of the skills learned, challenges that occurred, explanation of how the second example shows more learning has happened, what did or did not work, and what is next. In conclusion their recommended format asks for the child's remarks on what they learned and what they enjoyed about the submissions.

For the two other elective subjects, one area for consideration is sporting activities, one I will include as we have concrete evidence. Recommendations for documenting efforts include collecting trophies and awards, but how, exactly, following their own guidelines, do those show advancement in learning? Elle received a free McDonald's cheeseburger participation certificate, an encouragement award, and a first place trophy. That might suffice, but she didn't win them in that order. How, in their words, "does the achievement relate to the rest of the students [sic] learning/life? Are there lessons in the sport for other areas of achievement/personal development?" Latin, history review questions, and memorized poetry recitations have all been done orally. If we had been keeping audio recordings of them, who's to say she didn't just read the poems like a script? Who's to say she didn't just record them yesterday? Other history papers were merely coloring sheets from The Story of the World Activity Guide. She's probably staying inside the lines a little better, but that was not one of my specific short term goals for her.

What does this reporting process prove?

That I will not be using their recommended format.

That the authors of the reporting sample rely on spell check only and do not carefully proofread their own work.

That when I write my report using my own format the opening comments will probably contain a quote or two from Holt along the lines of, "[Children learn by seeing] the world as a whole, mysterious perhaps, but a whole none the less. They do not divide it up into airtight little categories, as we adults tend to do. It is natural for them to jump from one thing to another, and to make the kinds of connections that are rarely made in formal classes and textbooks."

That choosing the Distance Education option, which most people schooling at home do, is much easier.

That the qualities that makes homeschooling unique and valuable are not really understood by Queensland's powers that be nor most of the people calling themselves homeschoolers.

Not one single thing about what Elle has or has not learned this year.


lori said...

wow. i cannot imagine having to go through all this red tape, although i would if i had to. i live in illinois, in the u.s., and we don't have to report anything. it is one of the best states for homeschooling in the u.s., with the fewest requirements.

i have just recently started reading your blog, and i really enjoy it.

interestingly (to me), there was a push on in australia to do an entirely new sort of school curriculum -- my mind is drawing a blank -- i want to say "open door" but i'm sure that's wrong. i have a big folder somewhere in my office. i just closed the private school that i owned and ran for seven years. we were very inspired by their approach; it matched our own beliefs and goals very closely.

i won't bother you with questions about homeschooling in australia; i'll just keep reading your blog to educate myself!

L said...

Thanks for dropping by, Lori. I popped on over to your site. Very nice. Good links and great ideas. I'll be adopting a few of them pronto.

Taking a wild guess that the new, inspiring curriculum wasn't in Queensland. Victoria and New South Wales are probably more progressive in their approach to education and would probably be a better fit for my intents and purposes, but we're cold weather wimps...

lori said...

the program was something that was going to be tried experimentally in a limited number of schools. i just moved the entire contents of my office to my house, so eventually i will find the folder and i'll point you to the website, just in case you're interested. there was good stuff there. i remember we had a staff meeting and were exclaiming about how far ahead of the u.s. australia was!

thank you for your kind words about my site. i just took down the site for my private school that i closed, and now i'm slowly putting some of it back up (with photos i have permission to use). our curriculum was art-based, reggio-inspired, emphasizing long-term projects. for instance, your magpies -- people don't believe that you can randomly begin learning about a subject and it can take you naturally in so many directions -- but it can! it's such a natural way of learning, people who have no experience with it can't believe it works.