Unqualified Education: A Practical Guide to Learning at Home, Age 11-18
Reviewed by Beverley Paine
Beautifully illustrated by Bethan, Wendy and Samuel Lewis, Unqualified Education continues in a similar friendly, down-to-earth, and approachable style to One-to-One: A Practical Guide to Learning at Home, Age 0-11 (watch out for the review and excerpt in the next issue).
Unqualified Education is both a parent's guide to home education with an emphasis on self-directed, self-motivated and enthusiastic learning, and a mini-text book, complete with lesson plans, reminiscent of the excellent Waldorf Oak Meadow curriculum books.
Gareth covers every subject and offers useful teaching advice, helpful hints, lesson guides, practical information, and clear guidelines that will enrich the learning experience. The fantastic black and white line drawings are delightful and will encourage children to use this book.
Ideas and information for studies in Literature, History, Geography, Languages, Science, Technology, Music, Mathematics, Art and Craft can be used as a springboard to further explorations, with Cooking and Gardening covered in two separate chapters. Gareth peppers the text with sensible home educating advice and tips, a devotes a final chapter to practical matters such as Timetables, Curriculum, Qualifications, Work and Employment. Unlike many home education books which list specific resources, the chapter Educational Resources covers the basics, such as the Internet, television, libraries, etc, and how they can be used to enhance your learning program.
The following is an excerpt from the book, reprinted with permission:
"We must not believe the many who say that only free people should be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free." Epictetus
Resources - People
Parents: The most significant people in a young person's life are their parents. Obviously everyone wants to be a perfect parent, but sometimes it our very ideas about how a parent ought to behave that cause the most problems. Probably the most important attribute of a good parent is being able to change when you realise that you are making mistakes.
Some points that my own experiences have taught me to be important include:
Not Taking Oneself Too Seriously: It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you always have to be right and have an answer to every question. In the long run, all this achieves is that you make yourself appear ridiculous to your own children. Listening to One's Children: Parents sometimes let their ideas about how things ought to be prevent them from seeing how things actually are. If you make a point of listening to your children - and taking what they say as seriously as if you were saying it yourself - you stay in touch with what is really happening to them in their lives.Making Time To Be With One's Children: The difference between being a good parent and not being a good parent may come to down to the amount of time that parents actually spends with their child. Children grow up quickly and spending time with them is not something that can be put off till later.
Being Honest: Honesty is a very engaging quality; for instance, it is better to explain to your children the anxieties that you have about them following a particular course of action than to simply tell them that they aren't allowed to do it.
Being Willing To Learn: You don't have to stop learning just because you have grown up. You can learn things just as readily as your children can, and when you learn, it makes it easier for them to learn as well.
Doing Plenty of Cooking: Cooking is insufficiently valued as one of the main attributes of a good parent. It is no coincidence that many people talk about their mother's cooking throughout their lives, and even though this may seem too simple to be true, children and young people who are fed well are more content and have a more positive outlook on life, than those who are not.
Teachers: A good teacher has the potential to change the course of a young person's life. One of the chief attributes of a good teacher is they like people; it is not possible to teach unless you have some empathy with the person being taught and a good teacher always cares about their pupils. This is what creates the condition in which learning can take place.
A good teacher also has enthusiasm for their subject. Teaching is essentially a process in which the teacher communicates this enthusiasm to the pupil.
Good teachers are not confined to schools and do not necessarily have any qualifications. Anyone can by a good teacher: friends, relatives, neighbours, the local piano teacher, the Girl Guide leader, a local craftsman, an employer - anyone who takes an interest and who is keen to communicate something that they have learnt.
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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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