Home-education can be a difficult concept for some to understand. So many of us have been through the traditional school system, and thus believe that ‘proper’ learning can only take place within a structured classroom environment amongst similar aged peers.
The idea that an education may be successfully provided without attending a building for that purpose, without qualified teachers, rows of desks and chairs, classmates, and chalk/white boards, is difficult for some to get their head around. After all it goes against everything that they have understood about what providing or receiving an education is. We have been almost programmed to believe that there is only one way that children can successfully learn – that they need to be ‘spoon fed’ information in order to retain it and that there is a definite order and way in which such information should be passed on.
Home-educators know that this isn’t true.
Home-educating families know that learning takes place all of the time as part of living in the real world. Most don’t divide their days into ‘learning time’ and ‘free time’, as in the case of many school-attending students. Instead, most home-educated children learn from life itself. They learn from their environment and their every day experiences.
Contrary to what many people seem to believe, children do want to learn.
Naturally they have a thirst for knowledge, a thirst to know and do more. Think back to when your children were babies – they wanted to learn to sit up, then to crawl, then walk. They wanted to feed themselves, then get themselves dressed. Why would learning about their world around them be any different? Why is it deemed so necessary to force ‘learning’ upon older children? Why are parents not trusted to be able to continue nurturing their children and allowing them to grow? Why do we have to send our children off to an institution to continue their development, putting others in charge of a large proportion of their educational and personal wellbeing for such a large percentage of their childhood.
Home-educators are often guided by their children’s wants and needs. It isn’t (as some may believe) an ‘easy way out’ or a ‘lazy’ way to parent. Home-education actually often involves parents more, not less. Parents are on hand at all times in order to provide and facilitate their child’s learning process. It is not unusual for plans to change as a child becomes engrossed with something and the day takes on a new unexpected direction. An interest can be sparked at random – something seen on television, or read in a newspaper or magazine. An overheard conversation in the supermarket, or an advert at a bus stop, can all be that starting point for a wonderful learning journey. Parents have to be on hand to aid the process where necessary, to assist in the seeking out of relevant internet resources and books, places to visit, people to speak to. The child participates in this research, thus learning how to seek and find the required information – unlike in school when much of the information needed is contained within a given text book or an accompanying worksheet.
Let’s look at the school system for just a moment.
If we, as an adult, were engrossed in reading a book and somebody came along and told us to put it down and do some writing or mathematics work instead, how would we feel? I know that I would feel annoyance, frustrated and dictated to – all negative responses to being told what to do. My view on the next activity would be tarnished as my negativity and annoyance continued. My yearning to return back to that good book would bubble away unnoticed inside. Aren’t children permitted to feel that very same way? Is this the way to strive towards developing a true love of learning? Or is it a way of teaching children how to follow instructions without question or complaint? Of forcing compliance, defeating enjoyment. Can children really and truly connect with a subject and learn if they don’t enjoy what they are learning about?
When you are interested in something, when someone is talking about a subject that fascinates you, how do you react? I expect that you develop a deep desire to listen to that person and are easily able to remain focused. You will probably find yourself want to know more and it is easy to pay attention, possibly making notes as you listen and thinking about how to go about seeking out further information elsewhere.
Learning is made easy. It is natural. It is enjoyable.
But what happens when you have no interest in a topic. If a friend is chatting to you about something that bears little relevance to you and you don’t want to hear about it – how does that make you feel? Bored? Do you find it difficult to stay totally focused and to really truly give your all and listen? Does your mind start to wander off and think of other things?
Isn’t this what could be happening to our children in the classroom? If a child can see no point in learning about something or no interest in a topic, why should it not be ok for their mind to also wander, just like ours?
Children have an amazing natural ability to learn. They are always learning. What we oh so wise adults seem as play, is a learning experience for a child. Cause and effect, strategy techniques, decision making, teamwork, co-operation, listening, reading, comprehension, counting, following instructions, etc etc.
As you can see a child is never ‘just playing’.
The law regarding home-education differs from country to country. Here in England we don’t have to follow any certain curriculum, take exams or have regular testing or check-ups. If a child is named on a school register, then they have to be legally de-registered from that school but a letter to the school suffices. There are many examples of such a letter available on the internet, such as those available here.
Part #2 of our Home-education series will be about why we have chosen home-education for our family and how it is working out for us so far.