The Secret Garden is Guarded by a Ninja

Or something…

Audio books have been a big hit here for a while. We regularly download free ones from the great free sites available, or borrow them from our local library.

One that we borrow whenever we see it is the BBC productions of children’s classics.

This time we borrowed “The Secret Garden”. A favourite of mine as a child, Primus has been enjoying it, leading to a construction of the secret garden. With Guardian ninja.


I do like to see when exposure leads to expression. I like it even better when it is spontaneous and meaningful to the person producing it.

Schools put a high priority on products, tangible, measurable outcomes of learning. Products are teacher speak for something the children produce – a worksheet, a book report, a picture, etc. When I was doing my teacher training the necessity to produce was the aspect that surprised me and even back then, troubled me about school. It was not enough to plan and run an interesting and engaging activity for children and trust that some learning would occur. The words were burned into me during my prac when my supervising teacher gave me a blank lok and said “But… what are they going to have to show for it?”

It seems such a little ask, doesn’t it? Just do something for me that shows you’ve learned something. It’s not THAT imposing, is it? After all teachers need something to grade and parents always want to know where in the class their child falls. (Believe me, that’s the real reason we are going back to ABCDF-style report cards). And school isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s about learning. And learning doesn’t happen unless we can prove it!


Even if you thought learning needed proving (and I am personally far from convinced!) you have to question if a product even proves learning anyway. The vast majority of products that are graded in schools have a tenous grasp at best to what is learned. They fail all the established pschological criteria for measurement. The easiest to see is that we can’t always be sure that we are measuring what we think we are  measuring – the validity of the measurement is often off.

There is always a gap between what a child can achieve in a product and what he or she is capable of taking in. The skills involved in producing a diarama, or writing a book report are actually pretty different from those involved in reading and understanding a novel. A child with an uninsipring diarama may have a poor understanding of the plot of the story, or they may just lack skill with scissors. Yet too often we confuse technical expertese in creating a product with a great depth of understanding.

Pretests are rarely done, so you aren’t necessarily measuring new learning. The child may already know all the stuff you were teaching them about insects. They may have come to school knowing insects have six legs and three body parts. The creation of a suitably legged and body-parted creature doesn’t prove a thing.

Of course factors like meaning (why would I write a book report for the teacher to read – he already knows what it’s about – he read it to us!), interest (I didn’t connect with the book at all. Why would I want to write about it?) or any number of other things (I’m hungry, when’s lunchtime?) can impact on a child’s performance.


To return to my secret garden, what does the ninja mean? I suppose it’s possible that Primus has completely misunderstood the story, and believes there is a ninja in it. I could grade him down for that. Or up, for creativity.

But I think the most likely explanation is that he was building a secret garden because he has enjoyed the book and it has affected him in that way only a good story can. And to me, that’s a great evalution of what I am doing as a facillitator, provider of ‘curriculum’. I have hit a spot, got the fires burning and fed his brain. To me, that’s what home education is all about.


The Best Thing About Home Education


Just hanging out.

I remember when I was teaching I used to let everyone have silent reading outside on lovely days like this. Now we don’t have to go back inside. After reading together the boys wander off to play in the sand pit or trampoline, and I get to read MY choice!

Online Game for Reading

Okay, its pretty easy, but here is a fun game for younger children supposed to help with reading. And at least part of it is free, it saves their progress and it’s very bright and colourful. The older two have both been enjoying playing it in the last few days,  so I thought I’d let you know about it.

You can also log in as a parent and see your child’s progress (or buy an extension level or two, of course 🙂 )