“School Starting Age – The Evidence” from Cambridge University

I got this link from Cambridge University, my  old University. I notice at least two homeschoolers have made comments below 🙂

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Are ‘Reading’ with Audio Books Cheating?

We’re listening to a lot of audio books at the moment. Listening to audio books in the car isn’t controversial. It’s obviously a great use of time. It also reduces the kids fighting dramatically which is great for me, the driver! But outside the car, I feel a bit nervous that listening to all this great literature is somehow cheating – that my kids should be reading it themselves – now, in the case of my son; when she’s older, in the case of my daughter. But my son’s interest in reading has slowed down recently, to my distress. I guess I just haven’t found the right books. But he’ll listen to almost anything, apart from Greek Myths (“I know them all already!” – not true but he does know quite a few) and potted Shakespeare (can’t fathom that). So I feel it’s better that he listens to audiobooks than not ‘read’ at all, especially since he wants to be an author ‘when he grows up’ and listening to others’ writing is essential for any good author.

This article isn’t definitive but it’s comforting for me – http://www.readingrockets.org/article/64/

These are other interesting articles – http://nbclatino.com/2013/03/06/using-audiobooks-to-boost-your-childs-literacy/ where I especially liked “They are also a wonderful way to introduce young children to literature that is too difficult for them to read, like many of the Classics.”

This mother’s take on audiobooks is interesting – http://thethinkingmother.blogspot.co.uk/2007/10/thoughts-on-reading-vs-listenting-to.html “He says he prefers to listen because he can move around if he wants”.

I prefer reading books to listening to audiobooks but we’re all different and I think listening to good books is better than no books at all and I don’t want to compel reading. We’ll see how it goes.

What do you think? Is ‘reading’ with audio books cheating, especially if you’re not making your children do a certain amount of independent reading too?


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“Children Aren’t Feral Enough” – Something thinking that makes a nice change!

This is a vital article about the importance of kids getting outside and with nature. That’s why I spent so much time in a difficult-to-find-nature place like Dubai in the public parks and on the public beaches. They were not anything like as great as the nature offered in many other countries but it was better than nothing and I’d put aside the books for the kids to spend time outdoors as any opportunity.

It’s always great to find out that this strategy actually contributes to academic achievement too, so it’s a win-win situation and I can feel less guilty about how I’ve been doing things!!

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I’m Not Avoiding You All!

I know it’s been ages since I last blogged. I am really missing it! We’re just very busy in the UK and not doing much homeschooling as such – but certainly living life to the full – an important part of unschooling.

I’m trying to ensure that the kids are very aware of what’s it’s like to be staying in different places, travelling around the country a little bit, meeting lots of new people. We were just at my sister’s amazing wedding in Scotland. The kids happily chatted to both child and adult guests, all complete strangers and danced their socks off with Hubby and I until 11.30pm, when the wedding ended!  I think full participation in unusual situations is a very important part of life. So the emphasis is on learning to live a full and interesting life right now, not on book-learning.

I am also ensuring the kids are outside as much as possible; rain or shine, because so much of life in Dubai is indoors so many months of the year. I also want to try and have them enjoy museums, castles and so on which are, again, not available in Dubai.

I’ll write more when I can. Back to ‘Scrabble’ right now – a great spelling teacher!



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What Should a 4 Year Old Know? Or an 8 Year Old For That Matter?

This link is for an article answering the question ‘What Should a 4 Year Old Know?’ asked by a typically anxious parent. I love the article’s answers and furthermore think they apply equally well to my 8 year old, mud pies and all. This comes as no surprise to all those who know me as a big fan of ‘delayed academics’.

September announces ‘back to school’. I am slightly dreading again being out of step with the rest of Society. In the summer, schoolers act like homeschoolers and vice versa and it’s a bit of a relief to not be the odd one out in the playground on a weekday morning or the supermarket on a weekday early afternoon or museum or anything else that you care to think of that isn’t school. It’s nice to see schoolers letting their hair down metaphorically so that my son’s actual long hair doesn’t seem to stand out quite so much! But this ‘going against the grain’ is very character-building for all of us in the family. And it’s absolutely great to know that we have plenty of time to do the things that all kids should know by the time they’re 4 i.e. play mud pies, build Lego, throw glitter about with abandon and read tons of stories together. I need to remember that next time I get asked, “Why aren’t they in school?” Sigh!

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“Bright Children Should Start School at Six”

The start of the article says,Bright children should start school at six, says academic. Formal schooling should be delayed by at least 12 months because an over-emphasis on the three-Rs at an early age can cause significant long-term damage to bright children, according to a leading academic.” It’s the first time I’ve read about delayed academics being especially good for bright kids. That’s an interesting spin on the idea. Everyone who reads my blog knows I’m a big fan of delayed academics. In fact, I’d go with the Finnish model and delay until at least 7 years old. If this is the risk, why not delay as long as possible? Dr House’s words are really chilling, “But the evidence is now quite overwhelming that such an early introduction to institutional learning is not only quite unnecessary for the vast majority of children, but can actually cause major developmental harm, and at worst a shortened life-span.” I always find the comments at the end of the article interesting and the fact the ‘shortened life-span’ argument is experienced by at least one commenter brings it home further.

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Any homeschoolers/unschoolers in Sussex (or not too far from Arundel?)

We are presently on holiday in Arundel, W. Sussex. Sorry I haven’t written for ages. We had a great trip to Cairo, just before things blew up there (although I’d go back again in a heart beat), a few boring hot weeks in Dubai and now we’ve wound up here. A bit random. I’ve never been to Arundel in my life, but great fun with lots to do. If there are any homeschoolers/unschoolers in the area, it would be great to meet up. Please do email me on pjmontford@hotmail.com 

Enjoy your summer, wherever you are (even if the weather is cold in your hemisphere). 

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Learning Algebra with Video Games

As anyone who knows me knows, I’m not a fan of video games and my son has to face having me called ‘weird’ because of it – better than him being called ‘weird’ anyway! But when I read an article like this one, ‘It Only Takes About 42 Minutes To Learn Algebra With Video Games’ I feel like I want to make exceptions. However, I am VERY worried this would be the first step down a very slippery slope and before I know it, we’ll be a gaming household 🙂

But what really impressed me about Shapiro’s article were the answers he got from the video game, DragonBox’s developer, Jean-Baptiste Huynh, “Algebra is important for MY kids because I want them to be able to understand how the world works: physics, science etc. You need algebra to understand the math behind these disciplines. Also, I want my kids to make good decisions–economics, finance, statistics all require algebra.

And best of all, “We should create tools that children can use when they are ready and mature enough to use them. These tools should be available from a very early age. We are too much focused on teaching and not enough on learning. Teachers teach, learners learn. Two different perspectives, two different worlds.To teach people is to my mind not effective. On the other hand, inviting people to learn when they are ready and motivated is extremely effective. Motivation from learners should be key in school. And there is only one thing you can do there: listen to kids. It will create a much better society if we do that and kids will learn much much faster!” Yes! Listen to kids and concentrate on what each individual is  motivated by. 

Have you used DragonBox with your kids? What do you think of it?

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50 Things to Do Before You’re 11¾

’50 Things to Do Before You’re 11¾’ 

I LOVE this list and would love to challenge us to try and do those things we haven’t done in one summer! I’d especially like us go on a nature walk at night,  which is #40, and #50 which is to canoe down a river. 

Have your kids ticked most of these off their lists already or are you going to have a go this summer too (if you’re somewhere appropriate, we couldn’t do this if we stayed in Dubai all summer!)

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No exams until 18 in Finland! That caught my attention!

One of the things people unfamiliar with unschooling are most shocked about is the fact that kids don’t have to do exams unless and until they want to gain acceptance into a University/College (and not all Universities, I think, demand exam results). I in turn was shocked to read that the famously successful Finnish education system also doesn’t require kids to take ANY exams until 18 – also to gain entry into higher education. Wow! If the Finns believe exams are unnecessary until then, surely you unbelievers, you scoffers, can now believe that unschoolers don’t need them either!

This is a really interesting article because it also shows some fears around the Finnish system – that as good as it is, perhaps it’s not future-proof. The interviewee, Pasi Sahlberg, Finland’s ‘Education Ambassador’ says, “We don’t have many ideas about how to renew our system. We need less formal, class-based teaching, more personalised learning, more focus on developing social and team skills. We are not talking about these things at all.” Mmmmm, that’s something that unschooling DOES do well – “less formal”, “personalised learning” – well many kinds of homeschooling does this well actually. Something like the Khan Academy or Coursera free online lessons/courses would be something the Finnish would do well to look at including in their system. These kinds of courses are the future for sure. It would be great to offer all these kinds of online offering in many, many different languages and in due course I’m sure this will happen. But for now, at the higher age levels, many people could at least have a crack at them in English. I’ve done Coursera courses with people from all around the world who certainly don’t have English as a first or even second language but they seem to get a lot from these courses anyway.

I’ve always been really interested in the Finnish system and I like the fact that despite it’s fame and success, Finland still allows homeschooling (unlike neighbouring  Sweden where it’s seriously illegal, with terrible penalties for some families – shocking). Although since it’s system is so good, only a very few people homeschool – in the low hundreds according to wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeschooling_international_status_and_statistics

As the article says, I WISH the UK and so many other countries did seriously think about the Finnish model. I think it would be worth trying instead of what’s being offered, despite cultural differences between countries. I can’t believe it can be worse than most other systems in the world – apart from homeschooling of course (well, homeschooling that isn’t ‘school at home’ at least!)

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