Thursday, 3 September 2015

What does your child need to know?

I've just finished reading What your year 2 Child needs to know, edited by E.D. Hirsch Jr and published, in the UK, by Civitas. My understanding is that the US edition is a little different,  in terms of history, geography and measurement. The art also reflects art which can be seen in the UK.

My review reflects thoughts about the book

  • educationally
  • politically and
  • spiritually.

What your year 2 Child needs to know is part of a series of books of similar names, ranging from year 1 to year 6. The books are based on the presumption that to participate in society fully, a child needs a common core of knowledge. There are three reasons given why a core of knowledge is necessary
  • to make schooling more effective
  • to make schooling fair and democratic
  • to help create cooperation and solidarity in schools and nation.
Some of the concern about a lack of a core of knowledge has arisen from places and times when there has not been a set and co-ordinated curriculum which has led to repetition and gaps. Most people can attest to this. I remember learning about contours three years running and know that there are some big gaps in my knowledge. This general concern has led to the National Curriculum, in England. However, this book has much more detail than that in the National Curriculum.  The aim is to replace vaguely defined processes with a set of knowledge to be learned. 

The idea is that the book can be used by parents to help their children learn but is also phrased simply so that it can be managed by children who are trying to improve their own education.

The book is divided into subject areas and contains considerable detail. For example, the Language and Literature section contains advice on learning to read and write including suggestions of books for early readers. It has over 100 pages devoted to poems, short stories and sayings which a child of this age (6-7 years) should hear. The end of the chapter has a list of suggested resources including books for teaching reading, beginner readers, websites and mobile apps.

Each subject is set out in a similar way. Religions are slotted into history and geography.

This set of books are said to have influenced Michael Gove in proposing the new National Curriculum. 

This book looks at monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Sadly, its treatment of Christianity misses the mark. The death of the Lord Jesus is described as 

Although many people began to follow Jesus, other people became his enemies. His words made them angry and scared. And so they hurt Jesus, and eventually they killed him. 

This is miles away from 
Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. 
Hebrews 9 v28

God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 
Romans 5 v8
Missing, too, of course, all the prophecies about the death of a suffering Messiah.

As a home educator, I don't have to follow the National Curriculum nor E.D. Hirsch Jr's prescription for my child. However, it is sensible to be aware of what children of this age could be learning. This of course, may be suitable for the age of the child but not necessarily for this aptitude and ability. 

The poems and short stories are something that we will, and have, been using. I will cherry pick. I don't like every story but there are some that I was delighted to find for example, the story of the boy at the dyke. 
Art and music aren't my strong points and so these sections were helpful and in particular, the resource lists. I have memories of learning folk songs, in school, so was pleased to find the words of some of these.
I didn't find the maths particularly stretching and found the activities rather uninspiring. There are more maths resources and games available which could improve this chapter. The history was fairly thin and the section on Christianity coming to England was complicated to understand as the chronology of the Romans leaving was implicit rather than explicit in the section.
The science section concludes with short biographies of famous scientists which I will use as a read aloud. 

So, yes, I will probably dip into this book and use it was a reference rather than a definitive guide. 

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1 comment:

  1. I have had some of the US Editions and honestly I didn't find them that helpful. Yes, they had the poetry but I can find that in other sources.