A LETTER TO PARENTS ON EDUCATION

Dear Parents,

I thought I’d write you a letter because as a parent I know that you worry.

Being a parent seems to come packaged with worry. Add school and education into the parenting package and the worrying goes up a gear!

The sad thing about it is; education shouldn’t be worrying. It shouldn’t be complicated. It shouldn’t cause suffering, but unfortunately this is often what happens – usually because of schools.

The concept of school is great. The idea that our children can go off and be with inspirational people who like and support them, who’ll develop their intelligence and their potential, in a place where they’ll have good friends and a great opportunity to grow. Where they’ll spend the next part of their lives after infancy gaining all they need to move into adult lives. And for many children this is what happens.

Unfortunately, for many, many others it doesn’t work out anything like that at all.

Firstly, our children sometimes come up against people in schools who are not so great and not so supportive, both adults and children alike.

Secondly, many children don’t have their talents, their optimum learning styles, or their individual intelligence appreciated, acknowledged even, or developed in a way that suits them.

Thirdly, school – what goes on there, the stressful environment, the way learning is set up for masses of children rather than catering for the needs of the individual, the emphasis on academics and belittling of other skills – really does not suit many children. It can make some desperately unhappy, others fail to thrive, remain well or reach their potential, and others become school phobic or downright ill. It can create ‘learning difficulties’ where there are none. And many children suffer simply from being among the same group of people whom they may not get on with day after day for many years of their lives. This does not harden the children to adult life as some like to believe for it is nothing like adult life. In adult life we have choice. What it does instead is destroy confidence and self-esteem without which children will not develop a good adult life.  The impact of this can be devastating.

No one can learn well or develop well in this kind of climate.

The silly thing is that learning is really quite simple. It’s just that schools, governments, strategies, testing, league tables, schemes, targets and an over loaded curriculum have complicated it. It has also become increasingly divided by the fact that parents have been made to feel they are not part of it and in some cases excluded from the partnership which their child’s education should really be.

Now, none of this is helpful to parents, or to children. And none of it is actually valid. Parents can help. Parents can be part of it. Parents are intelligent enough to help, as long as they are intelligent enough to care and get involved. And actually, many parents have more insight into their child than many teachers who have to concern themselves with masses of children and teaching them within the confines of a burdensome curriculum and the pressures of a school.

In fact some parents have got to the point now where rather than try and be part of the education that the government is providing, which seems to have so many unpleasant issues associated with it, they are removing their children from school and educating them themselves. In other words, home schooling.

Home schooling isn’t for everyone. You have to have the time and the energy to devote to it. But that’s the biggest hurdle – the educational bit is less of a mountain because, as I said, learning really is quite simple.

Most parents are unaware that children can learn in many different ways – not just the way they do it in school. Children can develop in many different ways – not just the way it happens in a throng of other school children. And children can grow into adulthood without ever having to suffer in the name of education. Many home educating families, whose children are moving onto university and work, are now proving that.

Now, I’m not necessarily advocating home education. But neither am I advocating school.

What I am advocating is that you stick up for your child’s right to a good education. One that suits them and makes them happy. And I’m advocating that you stick up for your children’s rights to have their individual needs respected and attended to whether they are in school or not. I’m encouraging you to make sure that your child’s educational experience is a happy one, which is also their right.

Many parents think that private schooling is the answer to failing state schools. This doesn’t really help, it just creates a divide. And many parents think that happiness isn’t the point.

But the real simple truth is that happy children learn well!

And it’s time to be demanding change, demanding that schools are happy places for our children to be, not academic hot-houses, before our children stop learning at all, as so many are doing.

Change can be accomplished by asking both more and less of our schools: More care, less stress; more emphasis on personal development, less curriculum pressure; more caring staff, less strategies; more importance attached to individual strengths, less importance attached to league tables; more humanity, less cloning of our kids through standardisation of their abilities.

Despite some brilliant schools and brilliant teachers some schools fail to provide for the most simplest of needs of our children. And sometimes we fail as parents to expect the simplest of things from schools. We should really expect of schools that:

-          First and foremost they are happy places for our kids to be

-          Children’s individual learning needs are met, their talents recognised and developed

-          Children have choice and control over what happens to them

-          They have good relationships

-          They are shown respect in return for being respectful themselves

-          They do not suffer in any way, are not bullied, humiliated, degraded, shamed or hurt

-          They progress and develop and move towards successful outcomes that are relevant to them not just the school statistics

-          They are treated as equals, not as inferior

-          They are treated as an individual human being in a humane way.

These are not unrealistic expectations. They are just the kind of things adults would expect in the workplace. Sometimes though, just because children are children, they are not afforded this respect.

It might also surprise you that none of the above expectations appear to be about learning. Yet they are in fact vital to it.

Put these elements in place and children will learn. Home educators are proving that. They know that actually children want to learn, want to be adult, want to know things and want the qualifications that gain them entry into the adult world and workplace – and pay packet! By putting these elements in place home educating families have found that their children learn easily and move forward successfully into their working lives.

Learning is not difficult. With the internet all information is available. All you need to do is treat children well and give them opportunities. Is this really too much to ask of schools? Is it too much to ask of governmental policies?

Home educating has been a great journey and a great joy for our family. But I do know that home education is not ideal for all, but some of the schools are even less ideal. The real ideal is to give children an education which suits their individual needs. We can either do this by home educating or by demanding exactly that of state education.

Worrying, compulsive though it is, doesn’t get us anywhere! Taking action – even the smallest of steps – does. It really is time to face the fact that so many educational policies are not working at all for our children and teenagers. Even worse, these policies are deadening our children’s educational experience.

All of our children deserve no less than a happy and fulfilling experience with education. And it is exactly that, over and above everything else qualifications included, which will set them up for a happy and fulfilling life.

Which fundamentally is, after all, what education is for!

25 Comments

25 thoughts on “A LETTER TO PARENTS ON EDUCATION

  1. I’ve only just come across this post of yours from years ago.It was just what I needed to read at this stage of our home ed. You are truly inspirational Ross and a mentor for so many.Do you mind if I add a link to this post in my new home-ed blog? I’ve just separated the home-ed from the lifestyle and self-publishing in the previous blog – I was finding there was just too much home-ed to fit in there!

    • Thank you for your lovely compliment Helen – I just came back from holiday and was trawling through stuff and found it! Such a treat! Do please pass it on – that’s what it’s here for! :)

  2. A must read to every parent, teacher and the school system staff. My second is only a second grader but I swear their lessons and all can be very stressful. I do admire the children’s ability to cope which I may say better than my stress coping mechanism. Things seems way harder now than I remembered. Kids needs to enjoy and have fun learning. They need to be kids that will grow with a well balance life. Thanks.

  3. Hello,
    I am so happy to have found your blog. It is backing up my whole thinking. I am a home educator and a qualified teacher too. I started on this journey after trying private schooling for my son. We found that his needs where not met and especially the level of the work provided to him. We then looked into home education for him and decided to give it a go. I also provide some French courses (KS3, IGCSE and A-level French) mainly designed for home educated children who might be finding learning a language very difficult on their own. Thank you for writing this page.

  4. Pingback: A LETTER TO PARENTS ABOUT EDUCATION | Thoughts From A Woman Loved By Jesus

  5. Thank you for this. It’s been just the ‘push’ I need to clarify a few things in my mind. Almost ready to take the leap I think.

  6. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this, its given me the confidence to persue my desire not to return my yr5 twin daughters to school after the Easter break. School was a postive experience, but recent events have tainted that experience and has left me feeling angry and desperate. Now I’m looking forward to the quality time I’ll be spending and learning with my girls.

    • And thank you Rosi, for taking the time to leave your comment, it is very uplifting to know that this work has inspired. Hope you find the other stuff here and my books gives you continued support. And best wishes for your exciting journey. x

  7. Hello, I’ve just discovered your site today and it’s a breath of fresh air! Only very recently have we even started to consider homeschooling our five year old as a result of some problems at school but by beginning to read your site (and hoping to read your books soon) homeschooling does begin to look like a very good option for us.
    Many thanks
    Sian

  8. Hi ‘Dad’,
    I Home Educate our 15 year old son, yet I and my family are on benefits due to my husband being severely disabled. We actually find that Home Education is cheaper than schooling. We no longer have to buy lunch box ‘foods’ that conform to peer pressure of what biscuit is the in thing this week. We don’t have to worry about the latest shoe craze. We don’t have to pay out every time a teacher or assistant becomes pregnant/ gets married/ retires or its the end of the term present buying time. We don’t have to buy uniforms that for us were being replaced weekly because they were being torn to shreds by the playground bullies tearing the clothes off him.
    Then there was the ‘donations’ for charities, mufti days (and the donation for that) and raffles, plus the ‘donations’ towards book costs, or towards cookery ingredients, or the sports team uniforms. We go on many more educational trips, that are much more in-depth, much more relevant to our son than anything the school provides, at a fraction of the so called ‘voluntary donation’ travel costs.
    I nearly forgot the travel costs of actually getting to school, we were just inside the free school bus limit. When we added it all up, school was costing us between £12 and £18 a WEEK. That is an awful lot of money to find when you are on benefits.
    Lastly, he is actually getting an education that fear was stopping him getting at school.

  9. Hi Ross – yes, we can HE on a *very* low budget. We do public transport, small house in bottom Council Tax bracket, lots of bulk home cooking, car boot sale / charity shop resources, free/low cost community events, rarely eat out/ visit cinema etc (birthdays being the exception perhaps) , 2nd hand furniture, no costly habits (like cigarettes or alcohol), etc.

    My daughter knows that if I worked we’d have holidays and new clothes and a bigger house and more – she is willing to forego all that at 6 just to HE. I guess my point is – try asking the child/ren what they prefer, the money/stuff or more of their parents time/ attention/ involvement. As I see it, school based education is not there to support us in income generation sufficient to maintain a happy life but to keep us in pursuit of a consumerist lifestle (and children see right through the sham of it all until they get taught at school that buying lots of stuff is so very important – ‘stuff’ being anything from ‘essential’ school trips to the right kind of uniform to a university education) .

  10. Hi Ross – yes, fair point – I meant a luxury not from a financial point of view but a time point of view – some parents work long hours just to pay for basic living costs (food, housing, clothes) – they cannot afford to stop working to look after their children (one of the reasons why the state provides education as a universal entitlement). For some the life style change required would be so dramatic as to seem practically impossible. That’s not to say it can’t be done (as you rightly point out) it is just that many can’t see how it can be done.

  11. Hi ‘Dad’,
    Many thanks for your comment and compliments. Just wanted to say that home education is not really a ‘luxury’ only a few can afford. I know many families on very low incomes who still manage to make the education of their child a happy one without it involving huge expenditure, just by changing their way of life. Education should be inspirational and actually, it doesn’t take huge amounts of cash to make it so! Huge amounts of brain power, energy and time maybe, but it can be, and is being, achieved by thousands, very few of them on luxurious incomes!

  12. Excellent letter Ross – and spot on with so many points. The industrialised education process, much like a sausage machine, takes all types and tries to turn them into uniform and compliant members of society by squashing them through a one-size fits all curriculum. Home schooling is probably the only way to ensure your child thrives as an individual – sadly it is a luxury that few can afford, hence the willingness to contract out the job of education to the bureaucratic state.

  13. Great letter Ross. my son has a teacher who told me yesterday she loves that he hinks outsdie the box, knows who the prime misister is and has a vivid unusual imagination. Then she told me I must have taught him well because sadly school doesn’t teach these things. I lOVED that she understood and appreciated him. He is ratehr fabulous. Great letter.

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