(Click here to read part 1 of this article.)
All the educational experts agree that our current educational system is simply not preparing our children for living in a 21st century world. With institutional reform being tied up in money, politics, testing, and school boards, it is time to take our children’s education into our own hands. We have the resources in the forms of countless books, articles, TED talks, documentaries to show us what education “could/should” look like. Instead of crossing our fingers hoping the system will change before our kids graduate or complaining everyday about teachers, testings, standards, etc. Let’s get busy giving our children a great education.
Consider these 16 reasons as to why home education just might be a healthy alternative for the child you so want to see thrive (It’s not an exhaustive list, just something to get the wheels spinning):
1. Immediately put current educational research into practice. I love attending educational workshops. It saddens me, however, when the other teachers in the room let out a collective sigh of sorts toward the end of the session as they share their hopes of one day being able to implement some of the activities, ideas, etc. from the workshop. The reality is that because of benchmarks, accountability, rigid curriculum, lack of funding, etc. it would be very difficult, if not impossible. I get to put new ideas into practice today.
2. Ability to master content and skills. Ever thought about why the current grading system exists? Because there is no time to allow each student to master the content or skill being learned. A few will master it, the rest will be pushed along as “average” students at best. At worst, the child will be given a label, and stuck in “remediation”. Those that “master” the content will most likely forget it by next week because there was no real learning going on, they just needed to check another box. The goal of learning is to master a set of skills and as home educators we have the time to let our children do just that.
3. To test (or not to test)– home educators can still use them. But it would be as they should be used: to help us discern how to continue to help guide our child. They would be an instrument of growth not a cause for anxiety. On the other hand, homeschoolers have the freedom to use more authentic ways of assessing students through portfolios or other projects. They can develop a transcript filled with 21st century skills needed for a rapidly-changing society as well as gain early work experience through apprenticeships or jobs. Home educated children can still take SATs or GCSE’s or A Levels and earn a GPA if they prefer, but if they do, the motivation will be different. Home ed kids tend to have a specific life or career goal in mind that they want to go after and if GCSE’s or other tests are the means to that goal, they are willing to jump through the hoops instead of being forced to.
4. Autonomy- We have the ability to allow our children to choose how to learn, when to learn, with whom to learn, and, to a much greater degree than our schooling counterparts, what to learn. Our children are learners. They are curious by nature. The danger is that the longer they are in an environment where curiosity and questioning is forbidden, the harder it will be to get it back. Click here for the key to motivating your child to learn.
5. Socialization- Yes it’s actually a reason to home educate. Everything in current education research points to multi-age learning and playing being healthier and more effective than same-age learning. Opportunities for collaboration with like-minded students through clubs, classes, meet-ups, etc. abound. Littles being taught by older children, older children mentoring littles, early apprenticeships and job experiences, interacting with people from all walks of life in the community. This is what socialization looks like in home ed.
6. Family time- Would you tend to say that most of your days are relaxed and purposeful or a bit frazzled? When do you get to eat together, play together, travel together, create together as a family? With home education, you get to slow down. You get to breathe and enjoy one another’s company and marvel a bit at who your child is becoming. Check out this post on how to evaluate what your core values are as a family.
7. Authentic Learning experiences– Forums, apprenticeships, workshops, lectures, community collaboration (like these projects from Iowa BIG), Project-Based Learning, museum and gallery visits, festivals, parks, plays. Real-life stuff, not simulations that can only take place inside a classroom. Instead of a formal curriculum for each subject, we have begun to use a “Curriculum of Questions”. It’s amazing how simply asking good questions and teaching our children to ask good questions can lead to countless hours of deep, meaningful learning.
8. The best teachers– When a child is motivated to learn, he is his own best teacher. You may have experienced it with your own child who learned everything there was to know about snakes or every player on their favorite team along with all of their current stats (just for the fun of it!). Not only can children teach themselves, but through technology we have some of the best teachers from all over the world accessible anywhere at any time. There are retired teachers, businesses, university students, and others who would jump at the chance of investing in a child’s education in an authentic way. My kids have sat under some brilliant engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and writers who all happen to also be home educators and have a love for learning and for teaching.
9. Life skills- Remember, the goal is to raise adults (not just college-bound kids). We want our children to be able to manage their money, meet deadlines, run a household, find their way around town without a smartphone, ask good questions, tell good stories, do relationships well, and so much more. There are only so many hours in a day. Between school and loads of homework, it’s can be hard to fit any of this practical learning into the day.
10. No homework – Enough said. But I’ll say more. If you are having to teach your child the material that should have been taught in school, you are home educating. Why don’t you just go ahead and do it in the morning and get it over with so your child can go on to learn more interesting things? https://www.alfiekohn.org/article/rethinking-homework/
11. No time wasted: traffic, carpool, parent/teacher conferences, curriculum nights, back to school nights, assemblies (do they still have those?), etc. Sure, there will be the wait on the tube on your way into a new exhibition, but you can use it to listen to an audiobook or engage in a conversation or simply let your thoughts wander.
12. Art, Creativity, Innovation, Risk-taking, Communication, Resilience, Collaboration, Failure. These intangibles (and more) are what our kids need more of in today’s society and it’s the stuff that has disappeared in our schools (if it ever existed there to begin with) in the name of standards and accountability. Psychologist Carol Dweck (Mindset) said this: “When [NASA] was soliciting applications for astronauts, they rejected people with pure histories of success and instead selected people who had had significant failures and bounced back from them.”
“Our kids study what’s easy to test, not what’s important to learn.” – Ted Dintersmith
13. STEM- Plenty of time to tinker, build, and play with the physical and the virtual!
14. Critical Thinking- What if instead of memorizing a bunch of information related to history and government, our children poured their energy into applying the information to current issues of justice and welfare in our society? What if they brainstormed about the current needs of their community and how to meet them. What if they read books in a way that would provoke a change in the way they think and act instead of as a precursor for answering loads of comprehension and vocabulary questions? Philosophy-foundation.org
15. Higher education– Through online platforms like Coursera, Udemy, Skillshare, EdX, etc. kids have access to university-level work in primary school (if they choose). Through dual-enrollment programs (in the US), students can take college courses (for free) starting at 16 and knock out 2 years worth of “general education classes” then transfer into a university. They can choose to work towards building a traditional transcript and sit for traditional exams, or they can create personalized online portfolios (in the form of a website) that encompass years of authentic learning experiences and skills mastered. And of course there are all the jobs today (Google, Pixar, Facebook, Southwest Airlines (yep, your pilot) and on, and on) that do not even require a university degree. If they are hoping to go into medicine, engineering, or law, they will need that higher education and will be willing to work hard to earn it. With college debt being the way it is, though, and no guarantee of a job after graduating, my kids know that they will have to make a great case for a college education.
16. Finding their passion- The question I often ask my kids is, “What are you learning about who God has made you to be?” There is something unique about how each child is wired. I believe that this has been instilled in them before they were even born. We can help them discover those gifts, talents, and passions and provide them with the resources to develop those gifts so they can share them with the world. My 9 year-old son came to me not long ago and asked if I could find some resources on storytelling. He also loves to draw. I told him that if he likes to draw and tell stories, he might like to learn about animation. He took off and has been learning about Pixar (at Khan Academy) and DreamWorks and has been playing with some basic animation software. He also has his eye on a pretty pricey Wacom Cintiq tablet (thanks Uncle Mark) .
“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”
If you agree that all of the above makes for a thriving education and a healthier family, ask yourself how many of the above are happening or even could happen in schools today?
Will home educated children succeed? I know plenty who are thriving today as adults. But who knows? How many of our schooled children succeed? How many of them fail? What defines success or failure?
The formula goes like this: High GPA + high SAT (or GCSE + A Levels)= University Admission + Lucrative Career (but not necessarily one that you’re happy doing). We like formulas don’t we? They make us feel safe. If I just do A, B and C then everything will turn out ok. Except when it doesn’t.
Will home educating take a certain amount of risk? Of course. Click here to read about some of the challenges inherent to home ed. Any counter-culture movement comes with risk. But so does allowing your children to be molded and conformed by an obsolete system that churns out largely identical minds. It’s up to you to decide which risk you are willing to take. Just keep in mind that we are not guaranteed tomorrow.
If you’ve been hesitant to see alternative forms of education as valid, simply ask more questions. Do a bit more research. Ask a home educator how you can help. If you want to see the system as a whole change (and I certainly do), think about being supportive of grassroots movements like home education and micro-schools. Maybe even look into starting one of your own.
Eventually, traditional schools will have to explain the mass exodus out of their institutions and take some drastic measures to finally implement change. It might not happen in our lifetime, but it will never happen if we do nothing.