11 April 2014

Deschooling

When your first baby is born, and you first become a mother, it is a life changing day.  You are responsible for them and they, at first, are totally dependent on you.  As they grow and develop that dependency changes as they learn to find their place and way in the world.  In those first few years they learn so much with you at their side as support and guidance.   At some point in their third or fourth year, here in the UK, you have to make a decision about their future learning.  Will it take place at home or outside the home more usually in a school.  For most the decision has to be school, usually for financial reasons as one parent needs to be at home and therefore cannot be out earning.  I know that we are very fortunate to be able to afford to live on one income.

The words I most often hear when I am talking about home education is 'I couldn't possibly do it' and I have recently been considering what these words actually mean in the light of a decision I was making myself.  Schools, in the main, are by necessity, a structured environment.  The structure is built round a curriculum which is decided by the government, how the school actually teaches this is left up to them and some schools are incredibly creative at weaving this into the fabric of their teaching.  But, again by necessity, all children in a class have to learn the same thing at the same time.  This is what we as a society have come to think of as an education for children.  Going back to that earlier statement I couldn't possibly do it, do we really mean I could not do as they do in school, at home.  So let's take this apart a bit.  A child in school is taught a curriculum, it includes many subjects, English, maths, geography, history, science, design and technology, art, music and more.  Do we need to teach these subjects, as they do at school, for learning to happen at home.  If a child is really interested in a particular subject and wishes to spend hours reading, drawing whatever it is that they wish to do, they may not have the opportunity to do this in school. The school day is not and cannot be structured in that way.  My argument is that at home they can, if they are interested they will learn rather than be taught, when they are ready.

I have been pondering the future of my eldest's education since the beginning of this year.  By the end of next year I will need to apply for a place at a local secondary school, should I want him to attend school for that period of his education.  I couldn't put my finger on why I was so bothered about those who were suggesting that home education at secondary age was different and would be too difficult to do at home.  I realised, eventually, that it came back to curriculum, again.  Most of my friends were  at school prior to the national curriculum, so our primary eduction was more free form but at secondary school we were taught by subject with a different teacher for each of those subjects and that is still the basis for secondary education now.  Of course I could never teach every subject to my own children, that would take years of study on my part but is that not what I want for my children.  We have not engaged with school education at primary level because of the curriculum and learning is happening, why can it not be the same at secondary level too.

It will depend of course where my children's interests lie in the future, as to what we continue to do long term.  There are some subjects, particularly sciences which will get harder for us to learn at home so then we will have to look elsewhere.  As they get older the structure of school and a curriculum may become the right framework for them, as it is for many children, so school will become the place for the them to learn rather than the home.  But for now home is right for us.  I am not teaching, they are learning.  It is perhaps a leap of a faith to leave the direction up to the child.  But when they can hold their own with school educated peers I know that we are doing ok, square pegs, round holes and all that.

I am not trying to be critical of all you lovely readers who do send your children to school and I do hope you will not feel that I am judging you.  But I do hope these words will make you pause and ponder..........

8 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading this post. I too had gone back and forth on what to do when my children were ready for their secondary education. When I first started homeschooling, I planned to send teach them through the primary grades then send them to school. I, however, changed my mind along the way and now have three in their secondary years with one ready to graduate next year. I am so glad I made the decision to continue homeschooling. I hope you find peace in your decision, whatever it is.

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  2. I found this a really interesting post... I do not home school myself but am very interested in allowing children learn in their own way and with their own set of individual skills and interests. I have never considered the secondary school side of home schooling ;)

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  3. I'm a big fan of homeschooling, even though mine go to school. It's something I would definitely do if any one of them did not get on well at school. I think there are a lot of positive points, and I think children think more independently rather than following the crowd. I hope your decision making goes as you wish.

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  4. A very interesting post. I hope you all choose what is comfortable for you all as a family. I don't home educate (yet) but I was seriously considering it with the threat of the closure of our local secondary school. The thought of sending my eldest on a 45 minute bus journey every day with a bunch of bullies made me feel physically sick, but fortunately the school closure won't be happening soon. I still might end up home schooling the younger ones though, if it closes in the future. In Scotland the school curriculum has changed. If I understand it correctly children in the same class will be taught according to their level of understanding, which is not the same level in each child. I'm not sure how they do it, but my children all love their school as it is now. I hope it doesn't close! Not entirely sure I have the patience/tolerance for home schooling!

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  5. I'm out the other side of all this ... we home schooled the two boys to 16, when university places become available, the girls chose school and that was fine too. I have one boy with a MBA and one boy, the youngest of our four, who recently dropped out of uni part way and works on a local farm, one daughter who chose uni and now has an MA and another daughter who chose work at 18. In my experience you learn from them the right route to encourage them to take. If home schooling feels right for your family then it is ... only you, your partner, and your kids are qualified to have an opinion on that. The only thing I would say about homeschooling teens is that being mum and teacher does get a lot more complicated as they get older, but you find a way through.

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  6. Big decisions looming! I hope you find the right path for your family xx

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  7. "To learn rather than to be taught when they are ready"... beautifully said. If others feel they couldn't do it...then they shouldn't. This is such a personal decision, the only opinion that matter is yours and your husbands. I wish you well, whatever road you decide to travel.

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  8. This is something we are consciously keeping an open mind about as our oldest will be entering high school the year after next. He has Asperger's Syndrome and while he fits in very well in his school now I wonder what it will be like in a new environment where anti-bullying and tolerance of differences is not as much a part of the culture as it is in public school.
    I like how you've broken apart the issues involved particularly those of curriculum. I will stay posted to see what you decide and why :)

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