[Author’s note on how to read this post: I suggest you read this post at least twice: The first time, just read straight through without following any of the links. Then, when you have time, to go back and follow a few (or all) of the links. If you are like me, this will lead down so many rabbit trails that after a few hours you will wonder where the time went! And don’t forget to check out Part 2 of this article. Enjoy thinking new thoughts!]
You know someone who has decided to home educate their child. Perhaps you are completely foreign to the idea and are not convinced it’s in the child’s best interest. Maybe you are dissatisfied with the system of education that your children are currently in. You can’t really put your finger on why, but you feel like in this day and age, it should be different. It should be better. Or maybe you’ve already taken the plunge and decided to home educate but now are having second thoughts or feel confused about what home education “should” look like.
Although it’s a rapidly growing community, there are some common questions/concerns that often come up with regards to home education: How will the child meet anyone if they are home educated? Will they know how to socialize with other people? How will you teach them, since you’re not a teacher? How can they learn if they are not in a classroom? How will my child’s special needs be met at home? How will they get a job or go to university? How can a parent make a living if she is home educating her children? How can a parent have a social life of her own if she is home educating? Just to name a few.
These are all valid questions (to some degree) and to answer them we must first wrestle with a few other questions:
What is education for?
How do children learn best?
What is the state of our education system today?
What is education for:
In a nutshell, I believe that education is for raising competent, responsible, resilient, and curious individuals who can think critically, creatively and independently and can act compassionately and collaboratively. It is for discovering who they are, what they are passionate about and how to connect that passion with the voids that exist in the world around them. It is about learning to resolve conflict with grace and to walk a desired path in humble confidence.
Every child is different. With different needs, different passions, different gifts, different strengths, different weaknesses. The mistake we make is when we stop thinking about how to adapt education to the needs of the child and instead try to manipulate or adapt our ever-growing, and ever-changing children to the needs of a rigid institution. Like any system, those that most easily conform will be the most successful. But is the goal of education conformity? Of course not. It is in their unique gifts that children will be able to take knowledge (which is readily accessible) and successfully apply it to new skills, ideas, and initiatives.
Head over to this post for more on my thoughts about what education is for.
For further reading:
How Schools Thwart Passions by Peter Gray
And for fun:
Next, spend some time thinking about how kids learn most effectively. If you’re not sure, think about your own education experience. What things did you learn in school that have most helped you as an adult? Do you feel like any part of your schooling was a “waste of time”? When you were out of school, what did you spend most of your time doing and learning? Who were your favorite teachers? Why were they your favorite?
Kids are naturally curious. They want to learn. But they don’t want to waste their time. Which means that learning must be relevant to their lives or their future. Research is showing that a child is his own best teacher and the best “teachers” are not lecturers, but caring coaches or facilitators who guide children in self-driven topics.
Children are most actively engaged when they are learning something that they are passionate about. They learn when they are relaxed and feel comfortable asking questions.
For further enlightenment:
“Well, Duh!” — Ten Obvious Truths That We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring by Alfie Khon
Tony Wagner TED talk: Reinventing Education for the 21st Century
Daniel Pink TED talk: The Puzzle of Motivation
The Thinkering Studio: (except it should be the heart of the education, not just an elective!)
Lastly, think about the state of education today. I’m talking about the institution of education. Specifically public/state education.
By the 1870s, the modern public school system was widely being used across the U.S. (with a similar time table in the UK). (The Invented History of “The Factory Model of Education). Other big things were happening in the late 1800s as well. The first telephone was patented in 1876. The record player was invented in 1877. The typewriter in 1878. The first Kodak camera in 1888. What do these things have in common with our education system? They all served a great purpose for their time.
And now…they are all obsolete.
Our kids may be “just fine” in our current system. But if we are constantly seeing things being done better in every realm of our society, why would we be ok using the same methods that have been used for the past 200 years in education?
For further enlightenment:
Seth Godin: Stop Stealing Dreams TED Talk
Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?
We need to be honest about the current state of education and how “good” it is before condemning alternative forms of education. Some would argue against alternative education by saying “that’s not the way I did it, and I turned out just fine.” Or perhaps more simply, “That’s just not the ways it’s done.” We must have a better answer than that.
The bottom line is that we, as parents, know our children best. A teacher has 9 or 10 months to peak into the life of a child. No, actually to peek into the lives of 30 children. Even if everyday she focused intently and purposefully on one specific child, it would amount to only about 10 days each school year. What does a teacher know that a parent doesn’t know? How well a child performs academically on tests and homework. What does a parent know that a teacher doesn’t know? If she is a good parent, everything else. Of course there are cases where a teacher knows the child better than the parent. Both my husband and I were teachers in the classroom and have unfortunately experienced this in person. I’m assuming you are not one of those parents.
As parents, we spend at least some of each day of each year for about 18 years, interacting with our children. If we know our children best, know what a thriving education looks like, and know the state of our current system, how can we NOT intercede on their behalf in some way?
We really have 3 choices. Reform the system, wait for the system to be reformed, or take control of our children’s learning.
If you have not heard of Micro-Schools, the Sudbury model, Lumiar, or Agile Learning Centers, they are all worth a Google to get a peak into what schools could be. But even those models are somewhat restricted by time, location, and space and usually (I would argue, necessarily) have a hefty tuition attached.
And so we come full circle back to home education as possibly one of the most dynamic educational platforms with its limitless possibilities, especially in a city like London (where we currently live). What exactly can home education give our children that traditional schools struggle to provide or can only dream of providing one day? Click here to find out.
6 thoughts on “Home Education: A growing alternative”
So enjoy reading your posts! Thank you so much for taking the time to encourage and educate moms. Looking forward to learning more!
Thanks Joanna! I’m learning right along with you!
I think we an over-think education. Throughout my career, I wanted to teach the children, but with time, I realized I did a good job, so I focused on management and interest. By and by, the students became more difficult for the onus of responsibility was being shifted, but I continued to do my best. It’s not that hard to teach, but it does require some understanding, some use of one’s own experiences and training, and so forth.
Motivation is everything. A good teacher knows how to coach students well, how to ask great questions and keep students curious! When you are required to teach boring curriculum you will have bored (and probably hard to manage) students.
The trick is to utilize the curriculum and create interesting lessons that also answers the standards. Many ways to do that.