Friday, 6 May 2016

Giving the MOE the "right answer"

In New Zealand, which is where we live, we must ask permission from the Government if we'd like to educate our children ourselves. 

This sounds kind of backwards, from a natural point of view.  Surely it would be more sensible to just go ahead and educate our children ourselves, OR if we want someone else to educate them (the public school system) THEN we would need to ask permission?

Anyway - the law says that we must ask permission to home educate, so before a child turns six years old we approach the Ministry of Education and embark on a complex procedure called an "application for exemption" to satisfy the Ministry that we will teach our child "as regularly and as well" as a registered school.

In February of this year I put our exemption together for our 6th child - and yes, it was the 6th application I've done.

However, due to ... shall I say "over-zealous" behaviour  from a member of the Ministry in our local office in relation to "face-to-face meetings" with new applicants (meetings are ONE way the ministry can obtain further information from an applicant - the other two ways are email or telephone, but unfortunately our local office was DEMANDING meetings) there has been much, MUCH stress on me during the EIGHT weeks it has taken for us to have our exemption granted.   I declined the meeting, and this was not accepted by the MOE ... blah blah blah ... enter the National Council of Home Educators New Zealand to advocate for me ... blah blah blah .. on it went ...

Today I received the news that our application has been accepted - signed off - and we await the official letter to let us know we can educate our child (!).

This blog post is rather a rant,  but I just wanted to share something that the nice lady from the Min Of Ed seemed to have trouble getting her head around  in relation to our chosen method of education which, as you may know by now dear reader is called "Natural Learning".

The questions she had for me related to "Topic Plan" and "Assessment".

The first two answers I gave her didn't satisfy her.    It was REALLY hard for me to turn natural learning into edu-speak, and I felt I was trying to convince her that LEARNING actually took place.

I didn't seem to be giving the "right answer".   I suddenly had that feeling that I lived with at school - not knowing the "right answer", not having any clue about the "right answer" but still being expected to produce the "right answer" with no clues or hints given.  To be fair, most of the problem with that was of my own making - something to do with Asperger's now I realise, but still, it's pretty frightening for someone who likes to get things right.

So finally, on the telephone last week to the lady from the Min of Ed I prayed whilst speaking,  and God gave me an example of "Topic Plan" and "Assessment" which satisfied her.  

I spoke for about 5 minutes after which the lady said "Ok - I've made some notes, and if you could just email that information to me that would be great.  Then I can take it all to my supervisor".


Ok - so I can type efficiently, and it wouldn't be a big deal - but during this whole process I kept thinking of the newbie home educator, someone without 22 years of experience under their belt, someone who had not given talks, made copious notes, written books and articles - someone unaware of what the MOE were allowed to ask for, and the very real problem of applicants giving more information than is asked for - and then it becomes an EXPECTATION from the MOE that ALL APPLICANTS will need to give that much information, despite the fact that the only requirement of the law is that we teach "as regularly and as well" as a registered school.

Anyway - I did type the information up.  I got a little sarcastic as I was writing it ...  woops.

Just in case it helps anyone here it is:

Further to our telephone conversation last week, here is the written information you requested on
Our topic will be MAKING PANCAKES
First we will discuss what we’re going to do.  J will use large motor skills dragging the chair over to the pantry to get ingredients.  He will put the chair back showing diligence.  He needs to read labels including flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, butter, rice milk and blueberries.   He shows me that he’s familiar with where these items live in our house – fridge, pantry, baking shelf ...
We turn the electric frying pan on and discuss safety.   Using a scientific process we turn the butter from a solid to a liquid by putting it into the hot frying pan.
Meanwhile J uses fine motor skills as we crack the eggs open, and discuss the chickens who laid the eggs.  Using technology we employ the use of a whisk to beat air into the eggs, and J measures, reads numbers, and adds sugar and beat again.
J then measures a liquid and reads mls, then pours the rice milk into the egg and sugar mixture.  We beat that again.
At this point we discuss being careful of not spilling the mixture.
The flour and the baking powder are added and we discuss how the baking soda in the baking powder causes the flour to be able to puff up during the cooking process.
When the mixing becomes too tiring J asks me to take over, effectively communicating his need.
We check that the butter is the colour of golden hay, and pour the pancake mixture into the frying pan.  We discuss that if we pour a large amount in one pile it will be thicker and won’t cook so well – so we need a medium amount, spread over the frying pan, allowing more surface heat to evenly cook the pancake. 
We dot frozen blueberries over the pancake and pour a little more mixture evenly over.  We discuss that if we put the blueberries into the mixture in the bowl the colour of the blueberries would “stain” the whole mixture, and whilst this would not affect the taste it would affect the look.  We discuss the use of colour in foods, and how manufacturers even put food colouring into dog food to make it look appealing to humans.
J exercises patience whilst waiting for the bubbles to come to the surface in the pancake that is cooking.  When he observes the bubbles rising he uses decision-making, and decides it is time to turn the pancake over.
Using technology he chooses the correct tool – the fish slice is employed to gently slide under the pancake, and the pancake is flipped over.   At this stage J realises it is a tricky operation, and it may not go well for him – there may be uncooked batter left over the side of the frying pan.  We discuss the fact that practice makes things go easier, and we can’t always succeed on the first try.
More patience is needed whilst J waits for the second side to cook.  He takes little looks at the colour underneath, using the fish slice to lift it slightly, always being careful about the hot side of the frying pan.
When at last it is cooked, J takes the pancake out, and places it carefully onto a plate.  He sprinkles it with lemon, and spreads some cream cheese onto it.
We discuss the flavour and taste and he recalls how the pancake was cooked.  Through this discussion I ASSESS what he has learned.
The next time we go through this process I explain less because I have assessed that he is remembering more.  He remembers what the ingredients are, and where they are kept, that the frying pan must pre-heat, that we must not make our pancake too thick, how to tell when it is ready to be flipped over and when it is ready to eat.
When Daddy gets home, J re-tells the event using narration and recall skills.  He answers questions from Daddy about the event.