Teacher Talk

Jo Larsen trained as a teacher, and taught performing arts at South Devon College in Torquay. Her daughter remained in school until the age of 16, but Larsen decided to educate her son Max, seven, at home
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The Independent Online

Why do you not like the term "teacher"?

Why do you not like the term "teacher"?

Because I went through teacher training, I can say with confidence that I don't think a child needs to be taught. A child needs to be given situations where they can learn for themselves. For example, I took Max to a safe environment where he could learn to swim, but when I tried to teach him strokes he found it threatening and preferred to explore the water at his own pace. Teaching should mean guidance or facilitation to discovery. If Max asks questions, we investigate the answers together. "Teaching" can destroy the imagination.

What made you decide to home-educate your son?

My daughter was happy at school when she was young, but she began to suffer from bullying. I suffered very badly from bullying myself, so a part of me is very wary about sending my children into that environment. Max went to school at aged five and became aggressive and depressed. Before he went to the school he painted all the time, but during his time there he lost confidence and stopped. I took him out of school, and a day later he was painting again.

What constitutes his curriculum?

I provide Max with the tools to explore what interests him. He makes up stories, which he then relates to me by acting them out. He makes the costumes for all his characters. We've created a mini theatre, with moving characters and lights. His painting skills are now extraordinarily advanced. He wants to learn to read now, so he's recognising words, using letters in his pictures.

How do you make up for the social aspects of school life?

There's a thriving social scene of home-educators in south Devon. Once a week the parents and children will go on a trip to a castle or a butterfly farm or an otter farm. Then we also have a day every week when the parents bring their children to one of our homes to meet up with each other.

How do you feel about the recent call from the Professional Association of Teachers for stricter controls on families who educate their children at home?

I think it's good to know that people are concerned about what's going on behind closed doors. Having said that, I'd be angry if an inspector made me feel as if something was wrong with Max or his education.

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