Being "ahead" or "behind"
One of the many wonderful things about life learning has been to be able to step away from the notions of my children being "ahead" or "behind". It has been truly liberating and has allowed my children to thrive at the pace, and in the way, that's exactly right for them.
Having some space from the school paradigm and relentless school curriculum pace has allowed me to take a fresh look at the idea of being "ahead" or "behind". It became clear to me that the concept only really exists when we take on the belief that there is one set of knowledge that can only be learnt at one point in a person's life and at no other. When we subscribe to this idea a lot of time, stress, anxiety, pressure and even money can be sunk into ensuring that a child does not "fall behind" or to help them "get ahead".
But in life is this really true? Is there one set knowledge/skills that can only be learned at one particular point? Is National Curriculum made up of all the knowledge that is needed for life, and that the only chance to learn it is at that point or all is lost? Lockdown crisis school at home during the Covid19 pandemic brought the contents of National Curriculum directly into parent's homes. Many parents were left questioning the content. Do all young children really need to know what fronted adverbials, subordinating conjunctions and modal verbs in order to effectively communicate in writing? Do all older children need to know how to extract aluminium ore or differentiate an equation in order to live fulfilled, meaningful and contributing lives? Sure they may need to know these things to pass a SAT or school system test, but that is not the same as needing that knowledge for life.
National Curriculum contents and standards change constantly, often on political whim. Content that was deemed appropriate for say A Level within a few years gets pushed down into GCSE level in the cry of "raising standards". But is increasing volume and complexity of content to be tested, and then often readily forgotten, really raising standards? Do children really understand more, add to their mental models of the world and are therefore better equipped for life by doing this? Or, do they simply get better trained at short term memory testing, and teachers better at drilling for tests?
When we utilise life learning through philosophies such as Self Directed Education or Unschooling we are taking a completely different view on learning. We know that learning is meaningful, powerful and efficient when the learner finds something useful, interesting, relevant or is needed. In this way, we are nurturing life long learning where anything can be learnt at any point that it becomes interesting, useful, relevant or needed. There is no one set schedule for each person. There is absolutely no notion of "ahead" or "behind" because every person's life, circumstances, interests, passions etc are unique. Therefore, each person is exactly where they are supposed to be.