Guest post: Home schooling, from a mum who did

Benefits of home education

* Diversity – We need it in the environment and we need it socially. It’s a very healthy thing to have some members of the community who DON’T go through the traditional system.

* Individuality – Much as we see an increasing emphasis in school promotional literature on ‘nurturing the individual’, the fact remains that when you’re inside an institution, even a progressive one, you are institutionalised to some degree. Home educated children are free to be different, unique, creative and think outside the box in ways that schooled children often aren’t. (NB www.sirkenrobinson.com – especially his book The Element and his TED talk that has had some two hundred million views…)

* Inspiring Precedent – We only need to check out the long list of famous persons who’ve been home educated to know how valid this choice is (www.homeschoolacademy.com/famoushomeschoolers.htm). The world increasingly needs innovative, creative, lateral-thinking individuals to solve some of the problems we are currently facing. It’s also a common occurrence that insights about a particular discipline often come from outside that discipline.

* Meaningfulness – My husband and I have always believed that our children would do whatever it took to excel when they found the area of study that inspired them. This has been proven to us tenfold. Despite negligible ‘structured schoolwork’, when they were ready to tackle formal learning they applied themselves to it diligently and have all emerged with excellent results. They are also each dedicated to their interests which they pursue to a high standard, winning awards and scholarships along the way…

* Results – Our children entered school at ages 17 and 16 respectively. Between them they had probably written half an essay before that… and done very little other formal academic study. They all scored a healthy set of As and Bs in their end of year results. What does this suggest about the formal Education System? That much of the tedious daily routine is unnecessary??? Looks like that to me…

* Maturity – Despite their lack of ‘status quo education and socialisation’ my three children are all very mature and identified as such both by those who know them well and those who have literally only known them for a few minutes.

* Confidence and character – Socialisation means one’s ability to behave in a way that is acceptable to others. Children who have had ample time alone, literally in their own company, develop a groundedness and ‘rootedness’ inside themselves that provides a basis for successful interactions with others. They are not nearly as susceptible to peer pressure; some are quite immune… It’s common for home educated individuals and groups to be complimented by instructors on their ability to focus and not disrupt the class.

A fair go

Home schoolers are like a sore toe. You know what it’s like when you hurt a part of your body and all you can feel is that part? Home educators offend the status quo because they are largely free of the rules and constraints others are operating under. But while the toe might be particularly sore, there are other parts of the body suffering with various aches and pains at any one time as well, even though we don’t notice them when we’re focused on the toe. The Education System would do well to mind its own affairs – there are plenty of enrolled children who are falling through the cracks, plenty of stressed, strained and burnt out teachers, plenty of stressed, strained and burnt out students.

I spoke to a group of secondary school students at a school in Geelong and came away with the impression that I had been among the ‘living dead’… I spoke to a group of secondary school students in Melbourne and came away with the impression that they were burnt out, uninspired and just going through the paces because they had to. Home educated students are a different ball game altogether – see ‘meaningfulness’. (Could be a ‘beam and splinters’ thing…)

I’m struck by the association with home birth statistics – many babies die or are injured in the hospital birthing process but we don’t hear about them; if one baby dies or is injured in a home birth, it becomes front page news and the attending doctor is likely to be disbarred…

It’s fair enough that the Government takes a stance around protecting children who are being neglected or abused, but parents who take on home education are, by and large, perhaps even more dedicated to their children than those who send them to school. Why else does one give up so many years of one’s life to be of service to one’s children? Why else does one forgo so much income?! There may well be the odd neglected child who is home educated, but that would be a fraction of the number of children ‘safely inside the system’ who are neglected.

If some families are prepared to take on the risks and sacrifices associated with home schooling, then I feel that the rest of the community would be wiser thanking them than scapegoating them! Thank them for providing the variety and diversity that our society needs to be healthy, and for producing many of the divergent thinkers that we need to solve today’s problems.

Yes, children who haven’t been schooled might appear to be a bit ‘different’ or might lack some chunks of knowledge that their schooled counterparts have, especially if they’ve been ‘unschooled’ (the unstructured, natural learning approach where kids are ‘free ranged’), but honestly, how much of those years of academia do most of us retain? The bits that interest us and are meaningful to us, of course. Planting a seed and then NOT pulling it out every few weeks to test and measure calls for much more trust and is a longer ‘experiment’ than the normal process, but who’s to say it isn’t as valid?

Light bulb moment

What if the Education Department made the status quo such a compelling, empowering and brilliant choice that one would be a fool to consider anything else?

Just a thought.

 

Note: This article expresses my opinions and experience only; it’s not representative of ‘all other home educating families’, any official home schooling associations, and nor is it ‘the whole story’. It’s a summary of my thoughts and conclusions as they are occurring to me today in the wake of twenty years’ experience. For more information about home education visit www.home-ed.vic.edu.au and www.hea.edu.au.

Author: Liliane Grace’s three children were home educated. 2012 will be the first year in 20 years that she will have no children at home during school hours! Her twin daughters are attending school full-time for the first time this year to begin their VCE. (They will be 17 in March; last year they attended a one-day-a-week school program called AYCE.) Her son attended one year of school at age nine and then re-entered school at age 17 to do Year 11, after which he began an apprenticeship in Motor Mechanics. He has just completed his second year. Liliane is the author of a ‘personal development novel’ for adolescents that features a home educated child… www.themasteryclub.com.au

 

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Comments

  1. Thank you for such a wonderful article. It has be shared around some of the home educating/Unschooling etc Facebook groups today and everyone I’ve noticed has been grateful and happy that such a clear message has been published. As a Primary Teacher who has children who asked to be home educated I often get these same questions, although you would think the lay person would realise that having been on both sides of the blackboard I would have the qualifications to know how good home education can be? I agree with your findings; it’s less about objecting to home education and more about what light it shines on the school system and therefore the agreement parents have made when sending their children to school. Often when I teach in schools I am regarded as an overpaid babysitter or conversely more knowledgeable about someone’s child than the parent themselves. The perceptions of what school is and isn’t, what home schooling is and isn’t and more importantly what childhood is and isn’t are so skewed. Home education has given me so much… most importantly time to get to know my children very well. Educationally and social it’s a no brainer after the first few weeks and months, there were so many more opportunities for both learning and developing educationally and socially. I genuinely miss being in a classroom of children however I wouldn’t miss out on my first job, being a parent, for anything. ‘Home Schooling’ isn’t schooling at home for most people… it’s an extension of the parenting/teaching process that occurs prior to children reaching school age. It doesn’t have much to do with ‘schools’ at all…. and we’re HARDLY ever home!

    Thank you again Liliane.

  2. Home schooling is a great way for parents to bond with their children. However, some parents also like their career too much!
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