Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Home and study

This recent line of thought about learning has taken some interesting twists. I suppose most of us take for granted our own peculiarities - until we're brought up against the effect they may have on others. I was intrigued by Katya's comment about home education for her children: how does one educate one's own? I mean, I know I chucked in the odd bit of input when my offspring were doing English, or Latin - but they were pretty young when I stopped interfering with their maths homework. My own parents helped me - I've already mentioned how my father supplemented the lamentable teaching in English that my otherwise admirable school provided, and my mother used to sit poring over passages of Virgil until she had, as she put it, "broken the back" of the nightly translation exercise for me. But how extraordinary that my father (with his 1st in English) should then turn his attention to my struggles with Physics, in order to assist me in understanding, if I remember correctly, the principle of moments.

I hadn't thought about this for years, until Mrs H pointed out that for a family of four to sit in one room every evening with the homework going on at the table while individual tuition took place at various moments between the hours of 6pm and 9pm was, to put it mildly, unusual. My sister and I had masses of homework, and yet I never, in all my school and university career, worked later than 9pm - because my father was sure that any work done past that time wasn't likely to be worth much. (And here I am blogging at midnight - was he right?) After 9pm I would look forward to an hour or so's reading before bed - we had no telly in the house until I had graduated from Uni. So structured, so easy to fall in with - would I have succeeded at all if he'd been less interested? Or would I simply have pursued my own interests and never, ever have passed higher Maths?

It's hard to imagine that happening now, and yet I still believe that if parents don't interfere in their children's education in some way these children have a much harder row to hoe. They have to provide their own motivation, find a silent space away from the telly, resist the temptation of Facebook or Second Life - or use these and other tools creatively in the educational process.

And does anyone still prepare translations of Virgil any more?


  1. Anonymous12:26 AM

    Christine, my lovely (and very able) nephew was tutored in this way. The TV was off in the evening until all homework was done.

    He is now a trainee doctor - though worth noting that both parents had science degrees.

  2. What are we all doing commenting on blogs at this late hour? What would my father have said?

  3. For those of us who are retired, he would have said much I suspect - apart from 'Old enough to know better!'

  4. Anonymous2:00 PM

    As a parent of 4, of various acedemic abilities, one does wonder (and worry) about the pros and cons of the best way to educate and support the offsping. The powers that be at school have just decided to withdraw my sons teacher for advanced higher english, as he is the only one left in the class, told him to get on with it himself and meet up with a teacher once a week if he has any problems! WHAT!!

  5. HC, this happens more than you might think - including to one of my own sons when he was at school. It might be that right now, with the final push to exam time, might be when you would consider a couple of months of private tuition - it's too late to stir up things at the school and it may be that there are simply not the staffing resources to deal with a class of one.