Do we need school at all?
Why do we send our children to school?
Most parents don't even realise that school is not compulsory. It's not, in most cases, there are few exceptions. If they do realise, they probably believe that their child has to pass all the relevant tests and exams, as set out by their government. They probably think that they would be responsible for teaching their child what they need to know in order to pass those tests. They probably believe that passing those tests is necessary for a successful adult life and future happiness. So maybe, even if they would like to keep their children at home, they pass up the chance because they don't feel they are up to the job. It's a great shame.
Education Without School
Our society conditions us to believe that education comes about as a result of teaching. Just stop and think about that for a second. Have you never taught yourself anything?
I have, languages, history, cooking. At the age of 35 I went out and bought a computer and taught myself to use it, I had never used a computer at all, hard to believe, isn't it? I was just that little bit too old to have had instruction in school. I enjoyed my new computer skills so much I taught myself to use HTML and started creating websites, I taught myself to use Photoshop, so well that I got a job using those skills. There is no better way to learn about computers than to be put in charge of one, solo, every difficulty you run up against requires you to find a solution.
Now I am trying to teach myself how to blog and write hubs.I am teaching myself to do these things, by doing them, I haven't gone out and memorised a book on blogging and the computer skills involved, I've had a go, and as I run into problems, I seek solutions to those problems. It's education in reverse, problem based learning. It's how children learn a lot of things and it's the sort of learning that sticks.
Do you see what I'm getting at? If you are interested in a subject, you teach yourself, you buy a book or use the internet, if you get stuck you seek out individuals that can help you, a lovely lady helped me out on a forum just this morning with a sticky computer glitch.
If you contrast that way of learning, some call it lifelong learning or natural learning, with children sitting in a classroom being taught what they "should" know, you will see a big difference. My preferred method is fun, engaging, all consuming and happens when the individual is ready, not when school says they should learn it. There are no exams, does that mean I know it any less? Many children see school as something to be endured, they switch off in lessons, bored and frustrated, wishing they could be doing what they really want to be doing, be that running free outside, being with their Mum or tinkering with a computer game. I'm not saying all, I said many.
Can I Educate My Own Child?
Of course you can! you've been doing it since the day they were born, keeping them home past school age is just a continuation of that.
The sort of teaching structure employed in schools is a consequence and necessity of mass education. In mass education the needs of the institution come first, not the needs of the individual child. A large group of children has to be kept in order and reach an artificial goal at a given time. With home education this is not the case.
You love your child, you will move mountains to ensure your child gets the best possible educational outcome. Some people believe that this is only possible through top level teaching and will spend a fortune on the best private school, some, like me, take responsibility, 100% responsibility, for their own children's education.
The buck stops here, it's all my fault. I'm happy to shoulder that burden because I know I can do a good job. I have happy, well educated kids, they can spend their day just about any way they like, pursue whatever interests they chose, to whatever depth they choose.
This doesn't mean I totally leave them to it, to educate themselves, of course I don't. I give them a nudge in the right direction, keep a watchful eye on developments, show them things that I think they need to know about, get them interested, talk about stuff. Encourage them to write that letter or make that design. It's actually quite easy to educate them without them even realising.
I do have a curriculum, I wrote it myself, based on my state and national government's ideas of what children should be learning, drawing on the curricula of other countries and documents relating to the progression of learning. Learning does, in some cases, have to follow a particular order. Much of my state primary school curriculum is ridiculous, so much that the teachers in school are compelled to teach is just hogwash, the kids will pick it up for themselves, with no input from anybody, but they have to teach it, to make sure all the children in the class have got that concept sorted in their heads by a particular Wednesday in July.
In school there is no guarantee that once a lesson has been taught, it will be retained by the individual child. I saw this first hand with my own son, he went to school for a while. He was made to memorise spelling lists every week, he did OK in the tests, but a few weeks later he'd forgotten them again. We haven't done a spelling list since. his spelling is developing and improving naturally as he reads and uses written language, I may talk about spelling rules every now and again, as they crop up, but that's all that has been needed so far. If I see a need for more intervention later, then I'll be there to help him, or maybe he'll fix the problem himself, maybe he'll get fed up of using a dictionary, which he does extremely well. We are back to problem based learning again. My spelling isn't great, these spell checkers are great inventions, guess what,my spelling is getting better.
If I know that we've covered a subject I can bring it up in conversation again and again until I'm sure that that particular piece of information has been retained and understood. In this way we have perfect individualised learning, one on one, no school can ever attain that.
Do We Need Exam Results?
I'm quite proud of my exam results, they give me bragging rights, I have letters after my name, that was a novelty for a little while, if I started using them now people would think I was odd. I don't think anybody ever got a job on the basis of pieces of paper only. There is always an interview and that part of the application form where you have to sell yourself. Those two parts are often more important.
At this stage, my children will not be taking high school exams. If, as they get older, they decide they would like to, then that's fine, they can. If they decide they want to be doctors or vets, then they will probably need to prove themselves academically, paper qualifications can be gained outside school pretty easily, Open University type courses, TAFE certificates, night school qualifications, they all count. Mature students do not have the same accademic university entrance requirements as normal school leavers. That's because they are different, they want to be there, they want to learn, they aren't just following the pack, doing what all their peers are doing. It's the same for homeschoolers, if they want to get into university, they will, they have the time and inner resources to make things happen for themselves.
To answer my own question, no, we don't need school. Not now and I hope not ever, I love having my children with me, that's why I had children. I love that they have so much freedom and so much time to spend with each other and with their family. I love that their friends come from all ages, classes and nationalities, not just a group of similar aged children from one small town. I love that they are pursuing archery, drama and triathlons for fun, not football, because that is what they have to do in school. I love that they have had all the stress of unnecessary testing taken off their shoulders. I love our life.
The home education movement is growing for many reasons, I'm glad. It's a great option.
Some Home School Related Links
- Some People Don't Get Home Schooling - worldtravelfamily.com
Some people don't get home schooling at all. Some explanations and answers to the objectors, the man on the street and your own family.
- Home school? - worldtravelfamily.com
Why do we homeschool? What is home educating your children like? How do we do it? It's a fantastic way to live, there are many benefits to the children and to the family as a whole, find out more here.
- Starting Homeschooling
- My Best Homeschool Resources Ever
A few educational toys and books are a great way for your child to learn about the world. They are a way to get information into a child's head without them even realising. They think they are playing, we know they are learning. It works extremely we
- My Best Science Resources Ever
I was a professional scientist, I love to explain scientific ideas to my children as they crop up in our daily lives or when I nudge things along by showing them a new wonder. A few great science toys are a good way to introduce concepts and hook the