"Since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned." - John Holt
My own thoughts on school are entirely practical. It is an excuse to get the kid out of the house, and out of their care-giver's hair. But we can assuage our consciences by telling ourselves that there is some educational merit in this all.
I just started reading about "unschooling/deschooling" and I agree with many of the principles. I haven't finished reading yet to form a real opinion, but the gut feeling so far is that one can still achieve these objectives in the right environment, and this can be a very small school (like Ivy Academy). Ivy actually follows the Multiple Intelligences method (insofar as you can call it one) and it's the only school where Howard Gardner (the guy that coined this term) sits on the board, so it's pretty much the real deal as far as I am concerned !
Fab and I attended our first Parent Teacher Conference last Friday. In the era of the modern child, both parents attend these events. So we were there to discuss Sophie's weaknesses (diplomatically called "challenges") and strengths in school.
In terms of challenges, Sophie has regressed on the toilet-training. Apparently this may be linked to the arrival of Alexandra, but it could also be that she enjoys what she is doing so much that she postpones (unwisely!) the trip to the toilet, despite being asked by the teachers. As a corollary to this, she hates having to clean up an activity which she is still playing with.
My perfectionist daughter will do something (a painting or puzzle) for as long as it takes to get it "right". However in the real world, where everyone works on "clock-time", my feeling is that it's actually good for her to know that not everyone will hang around and wait for her to get things done perfectly (like her long-suffering parents). Apart from this, the teachers say that Sophie is a generally happy child who is a good fit in school. Temperament-wise she is quiet and observant in larger groups but will participate if she has a contribution to make (she loves singing by herself in front of the whole class).
According to the teachers, Sophie seems linguistically inclined. She talks more clearly than most 2 or 3 year olds. It's getting fun speaking with her because (assuming she feels like it) she will carry out a conversation with description/narrative. This is something that appears to surprise the teachers alot, because apparently even 3 year olds don't really do this, and talking about something (as opposed to merely conveying desires) is something which happens later.