A Role for Educational Jargon in the Homeschool
by Beverley Paine
Lack of confidence in our ability to teach our children at home causes the majority of the problems and issues we face. It is why so many of us give up, or don't even start, homeschooling. It is why we take so long to find the 'right' curriculum for our individual children. It costs us time, energy, angst and burn out. Anything that makes us feel more confident is a bonus.
I'm not a fan of educational jargon but it can be used to our advantage. First of all, though, we need to take a look at what it is and why it is used. Homeschoolers are a subset of educators: we live and breathe education every day, much more than parents whose children go to school. As teachers of our children we come into contact with educational language every day. And eventually we all start using some forms of educational jargon, whether we like it or not.
The people who approve our learning programs have been teachers since leaving school themselves. It's all they know. Some are happy with common sense explanations written in plain language, but most are more at home if you communicate with them in the language of schools. It takes them a long time to realise that learning at home is vastly different from learning in school. Their journey towards this understanding is made easier - and quicker - when homeschoolers bother to translate what they are doing into language the language of schools.
We don't have to do it, but I see that by doing it we are educating them about the true nature of how children really learn. We're opening their eyes in a way that doesn't threaten their existence as school teachers. The next homeschooler they interview will cop the benefit of our effort. Eventually life will get easier for all homeschoolers and if we're clever we can debug some of this jargon along the way.
I'm not saying we should use jargon in the same way educationalists often use jargon: using murky language to camouflage murky thought or ideas. Sometimes this is done to manipulate others to act the way we want them to: advertising and the media excel at this. Sometimes it is used to conceal imprecision and ignorance or to avoid accountability: foggy language leads to foggy processes which in turns means that progress can't be mapped, changes can't be evaluated, and everyone remains confused. Somewhere, someone is benefiting from this confusion! It definitely isn't our children...
Using educational jargon is okay when it's a useful shortcut and it used in context between people who will immediately understand what is being communicated. I've always made a point of reading school curricula and teacher manuals - it helps to know what schools are thinking about how learning happens. Most of the time I have to read them through two or three times, with my dictionary nearby!
Rather belatedly in our homeschooling adventure I put together a glossary of educational jargon and terms: you'll find a copy at the end of my Translating Everyday Life into Educational Jargon Practical Homeschooling Series booklet. Not only did I want to be able to communicate my ideas about education to others, including homeschoolers and school teachers, I wanted to improve my knowledge and understanding about how children learn so I could do a better job as a home educator.
Reading and learning about different ways of teaching and helping children learn is my ongoing 'professional development' as a home educator. It took me a few years to feel comfortable using educational terms in my everyday speech, and a year or two more before I felt at ease using them in the learning programs and curriculum I wrote for each of my children.
ee Beverley's other articles on jargon:
She also has a Practical Homeschooling Series booklet on the subject, called Translating Everyday Language into Educational Jargon.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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