The insanity of home education?

I found this story from a while back – it’s just one way of seeing it I know – but thought I’d repost for new visitors as there are so many now doubting the school way of educating……

….There he stands all smart and sparkling in his new too-big uniform, looking too small for school but with a sparkle of enthusiasm also in his eye.

He’s excited; everyone’s told him what an exciting place school is with lots of nice people and great activities he’ll love doing. He’s very keen – everyone’s been so nice each time he’s visited…

A few lessons in and the sparkle goes out his eyes faster than it goes off the uniform.

His first lesson is that not everyone is so nice, not even some of the people who smiled before. They’re too busy. Too concerned with having to do other things like keep control and make kids sit still.

His next lesson is that you rarely get exciting things to do. In fact, you never learn about things you want to learn about because you have to learn what the learning objective says. He doesn’t get what a learning objective is but writes it down in his book like he’s told to do.

And the third lesson he learns is that, despite the fact his mum shouts and gets cross sometimes, it’snothing compared to being humiliated by the teacher. And the worst thing of all is that at least he knew what mum was cross about. The teacher just seems cross all the time and about things he doesn’t understand.

And he begins to learn that he doesn’t actually like school that much but that doesn’t seem to matter.

Over the years he learns a lot more about school but only a little about the world outside.

He learns that test results and grades are more important than learning about the world outside. In fact, they are so terribly important that if you don’t get the right ones, he’s been told, you won’t have a life. They are so important it makes him and some of the other kids ill trying to get what the teachers want them to get. They try so hard but still some of them don’t manage it. Those kids are disregarded.

And the grade getting does something to the teachers too. Where once there was a glimmer of something warm in their eye, this is wiped out by getting grades and by the word Ofsted.

Ofsted makes the teachers very impatient, very tense and very stressed. Except the day when someone sits in the classroom and watches them. Then they behave differently. They’re not impatient or humiliating that day.

As time goes on and the sparkle is long erased something else becomes erased too; parts of his personality.

He no longer has a personality truly his own. He has a school persona, one that enables him to fit in.Fitting in means not being who you want to be but being the same as everyone else.

Not fitting in means braving an emotional and physical pain far, far worse than falling off your bike or Gran dying. This pain is intensified every day by the group you don’t fit into sticking knives in the wound of who you are and twisting them. Telling the teachers makes it worse because some kids have control over the teachers too.

Even human kindness is secondary to fitting in.

Fitting in is the only way to survive. Fitting in with the teachers. Fitting in with peer groups. Fitting in with what you’re supposed to learn however irrelevant it is to your normal life. And fitting into the big institution that is school which to him, now he’s studied Aldous Huxley, is worryingly similar to ‘Brave New World’where everything is for the greater good and not the good of the individual. Where everything is manufactured, even people.

You have to fit in with that. If you don’t, you won’t get an education.

But finally he realises that even fitting in doesn’t guarantee an education because, on the whim of an adult who sometimes abuses their position of power, you could easily fall out of favour and fail to get the scores. He’s seen that happen to his friend. His friend’s done for. He won’t have a life – he’s been told.

So he doesn’t think about being an individual. In fact he doesn’t think at all. No one wants him to. They just want him to do the work, fit in and get the grades, whatever the cost…

Home education insane?

Well, everything is relative, and compared to the insanity described above, it seems to me to be a relatively sane, natural and appropriate way to educate our kids!


16 thoughts on “The insanity of home education?

  1. Phwuff! That latest nugget you posted made me pay attention. As always, you are so right. Richard Gerver was one of the few Head Teachers who sees things exactly as you do and he changed his primary school’s teaching ethos completely. He wrote about his fascinating journey in his book -“Creating tomorrow’s schools today”. It’s an inspiration and a glimmer of light. If only this was a model Michael Gove would promote instead of banging on his same drum louder and louder. By the way, I have taken an extra leaf out of your wonderful book and am trying not to interfere with coaching tips when my son is in the swimming pool. In the 3 weeks since I stepped back, he has taught himself to tread water for 30mins, float like a star fish on his back, swim breast stroke and talk with his mouth in the water. All with great delight and much laughter. Previously he hated water on his face so much he refused to shower. The secret? I just let him have fun and gave him complete free reign to experiment with how his body felt to him in the water. It’s been an exhilarating 3 weeks for both of us while the hoards of school kids take up the other half of the pool doing after school lessons ( much shivering on the edge of the pool for little ones and endless drilled lengths for older ones). Thank you as always, for sharing your wonderful insights. Caroline

    Sent from my iPhone


    • What a wonderful story Caroline – so glad you posted it. I’m always totally amazed to know I have inspired – which is daft since it’s what I hoped for!! Thank you!

  2. I so needed to read this after my very first day home educating and worrying about our decision. The need to sacrifice individuality, personality and even basic kindness to fit in really rings true for us and reminded me why my lovely girl is now back home. X

    • Aw! Thank you Charlotte, so glad it’s helped. Try not to worry; first days are tremulous because you haven’t got into a pattern and seen how well Home Ed works yet – that takes quite a while. But once you do, you’ll begin to fly – just like all these young people now ‘graduating’ into the wider world never having been to school! 🙂 Best wishes. x

  3. My eldest boy was just like the ‘he’ in this article and I am so glad that we decided to home-educate instead.
    The lie that is OFSTED inspection day perplexed both my son and I. The children in his school would get treats as a bribe the following day – isn’t that shocking?
    What a fab post. Thanks Ross

      • You are most welcome! I have always thought regular schooling was more harmful than anything… I believe a school is to permit a child to reach his true potentials & blossom as a result & if it cannot do that it’s very important to find an alternative.
        If we do not, we destroy a child’s future & as we know, a child’s future is not only that, it’s generations to come…
        It is important to know there are quite a few who think in the same way & voice it too.
        Thanks for doing just that 🙂

  4. Ross – I felt quite tearful reading this, because it reminded me of all the reasons I decided to home educate. We don’t look back very often, because we’re not going that way, but I ever do, it’s only to see how far we’ve come and that’s a VERY long way. Tomorrow my sons are on a tour of a university!!

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