When you think of home educating what’s your biggest fear? Because it’s usually fear that stops us going for something we’d like to do but which is a bit different from what everyone else is doing. And it’s often this time of year, when back-to-school looms nearer, that parents consider home schooling again.
The fears parents have are pretty much the same for everyone. We had them too. So did all the home schooling families we met. The same five things seem to come up again and again:
1) You’re afraid you wouldn’t know what to do learning wise.
2) You think you couldn’t teach them because kids need qualified teachers to learn anything.
3) You worry your kids will have no friends and be isolated.
4) You don’t know how you’d cope with the kids at home all the time.
5) You worry about the future.
Looking at those individually, here are some answers that may put your mind at rest.
1) Learning wise you easily find out what to do. All the information and support you need is available. There are home school networks to tap into. Walk into any bookshop and there are masses of workbooks which support the National Curriculum. You don’t have to think up ‘lessons’ all the time. Children learn a lot form daily life. There is also a wealth of information available online now. In fact, so much curriculum is online you wonder why we need schools anymore! There are also distance learning organisations which have complete, tutor supported courses which can take a learner right through to an exam if you wish. Where once it was just the domain of schools, the internet makes learning available to all.
2) Very few people know this but qualified teachers don’t know all there is to know. They look it up too. Some of them are also poor at teaching what they do know even though they’re qualified. Children don’t necessarily need qualified people to learn with. They need caring, supportive, encouraging people. And as many of us have experienced, not every teacher could be described as that. So you may do better at helping your child learn than their teacher does. And in our information rich society, your role is more to encourage your child to learn, enable their learning, than it is to ‘teach’ facts. Anyone can find out facts. Not everyone can inspire. Not even many ‘qualified’ teachers!
3) The friends issue? We met many home educating families. There wasn’t an isolated or friendless child among them. Forums, websites, social networking, have expanded the home educating community. Schools do not have monopoly on friendships; they’re not necessarily the best place to form them either. And no one need home school in isolation. We had so much interaction with others, both social and educational, that we sometimes had to stay at home just to get some work done!
4) Just because the kids are at home full time doesn’t mean you never get a minute without them. You manage it so you respect each others’ space. You time swap with others. You build in separate working times. You get out the house loads. (More education goes on out the house than in it, despite the myth you’re tied to the house!) And when you take away the conflict school sometimes causes you’ll grow a different relationship with your children. Despite myths surrounding home education, it tends to make them more independent and more able to occupy themselves without attention.
5) And finally; the future. Don’t you worry about their future in school? Everything always changes so rapidly. Nothing is guaranteed even when the children are in school. Opting to home educate doesn’t mean you do it for life. The best way to take care of the future is to make each day a good day with the children and all those days pieced together will make a good learning life. A good learning life will enable the children to enjoy education and make it part of their lives forever. As it should be. Education is for life, not just for schools. Home educating makes it even more so.
So, is home educating scary? Sometimes! BUT, I was far more scared when my children were in school!
(If you’re considering home schooling you’ll find all these questions and more answered in detail in my Book ‘Learning Without School. Home Education’. See Pages to the left.)