Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Issues in home education

Ever since Radio National ran a talk back show on homeschooling a few weeks ago, I've been feeling defensive. Thinking of words like enmeshed, hot-housing, extreme. I was thrown by the number of people who were prepared to criticise our choice in such a public forum, especially when I make it a mantra not to criticise the choice of others to send their children to school. My radical ideas on the school system ( that it is designed to raise cogs for the capitalist system, that it lends itself to desensitising children to fascism ) I keep to myself, even amongst other home educators. The only family I'm qualified to make decisions for is my own and that's fraught with practical and ethical issues all of its own.

So I felt soothed this week when Lucy told me that she'd decided to have a go at writing a picture book, and she could take all the time and space she needs for it. It felt good to hand Arwen a copy of Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf, taking seriously her stated aim of becoming a Tolkien scholar, being able to promise that we will find her an Old English tutor if that is what she wants. It's not called hot-housing, it's called having the time and the support to follow your passions. And I'm glad that Snowy can have snuggles on demand!! Extreme affection rules!!

I was shaken by the ignorance and ready judgements of that program, both from the general public and the expert educators and psychologists speaking out against home education. This lifestyle has its costs - I'm no fanatic - but it also has a multitude of gifts.

1 comment:

  1. There seems to be some prejudice around home schooling, ie, people holding strong views based on little information, and people running down something they don't understand.

    This is what I see.

    By home schooling you avoid -
    *arguing for your children’s right to learn SOMETHING instead of sitting in non-scripture
    *parent teacher interviews
    *other people’s children, who have an ipad at 6, or attend Lady Gaga concerts at 8, or watch M rated movies at 9
    *school uniforms
    *seeing the school canteen selling fairy bread and sugared water
    *the waste created by sending children to school with packaged snacks
    *witnessing the parents daily breaking the law by parking illegally
    *helping in the classroom, but not enjoying it because the children are so rude
    *nagging your child to do homework

    By homeschooling you are able to facilitate the childrens’ interests and explore their ideas, you can have a hot lunch in winter, go to the art gallery on a weekday and spend a whole day on maths or art or reading or sport or making something. I won’t say you don’t have to be somewhere at a certain time, because your do go to extra-curriculum classes and have activities with other home schooling families.

    I’ve been spending time in my children’s classrooms lately, and otherwise helping out at school, and this is what I’ve noticed. The tone is set by the teacher. In some classes the children work at their desks in silence. In some classes the children call out and roam around, and the teacher is stressed and struggling. In some classes the teacher is happy, keeps control, the work gets done and the kids still feel free enough to share what they are thinking. In some classes, the children are scared of doing the wrong thing and upsetting the teacher.

    There is such a range of needs in each class. It probably is impossible for the teacher to be in control and not thwart the children’s imaginations and creativity, yet instil good manners, cater to everyone, and be happy together as a group. There are kids who have physical disabilities (who are well supported and integrated) and those who can barely read in Year 3, and those who can’t sit still and won’t do as they are told, those on the autism spectrum who aren’t aware of how their behaviour effects others around them, and those who are bored and need more challenges, and those who are selfish and mean, those who call out and believe their own needs to be primary all the time, and those who are kind and considerate. Those who do not satisfy the requirements for their year are promoted to the next stage; I don’t know why there is a policy of not asking children to repeat their year of schooling.

    Melissa, being at the local public primary school is hard work. A lot of the parents are happy to not engage with their children's education.