We loved every minute of our home educating years. Well – to clarify – it wasn’t roses all the time but then parenting isn’t roses all the time is it? And although it was a decision hard to make since the children had started school, it wasn’t a decision that we ever regretted, even for one single moment. And we don’t have any complaints from the now-adults we practised on either!
So what was it I loved so much?
Firstly, the children got their love of learning back, their wonder and curiosity about everything, destroyed in school whilst they had to learn and practice other stuff that was of no interest or relevance. I mean, what use is knowledge of frontal adverbials to a nine year old when there’s a treasure trove of real world stuff under their noses they want to know about?
Secondly, along with their passion to learn, their health was restored too which had dwindled into constant and miserable infections. Although their infectious laughter had been wiped out, along with their joyous mental health. Home educating reinstated both.
I loved the freedom to learn in ways that suited us best whether that was going out or study, playing or doing practical stuff, visiting museums, castles and historical sites, galleries and exhibitions, nature reserves, parks and playgrounds and beaches, or the library. Or meeting others for exercise and get togethers, sports or workshops. The realisation that you can take your learning any place, anyhow, at anytime. Learn into the evenings if early mornings weren’t suited (as they’re not to teenagers).
I loved the freedom they had to pursue and develop their own skills, talents and interests, the flexibility of curriculum or timetables (when we used them), subject matter and approach. Instead of sticking to a rigid set of objectives deemed important by someone else but not important to the learner at all. The freedom to keep it balanced.
I loved the diversity and opportunity to match life and learning to our needs, rather than the needs of an institution, or a test. Learning and living became one and the same thing for that’s what education is all about anyway, isn’t it? Learning to live life in a happy, productive and successful way – not learning to be tested. Home educating gave us the opportunity to make truly independent decisions about what was happy and productive and successful. Which is ironic really since home educators are often accused of keeping their children dependent on their parents. The truth is, the opposite seems to happen; being independent learners makes them independent in many aspects of life and very competent decision makers – they’ve had the practice. Whereas most school children are so ‘schooled’ and have such little choice, they are the ones that become dependent; on an institution making a decision for them.
I loved the social side of it; the opportunity for the kids to make friends in real social groups, not enforced groups with limits on age and what brands you owned, the high proportion of adults to kids to set respectful social examples, the way we could chat confidently with all sorts of people in differing situations.
I loved home educating. It was the best thing this family ever did. It worked for our circumstances, for our personalities and I felt incredibly lucky that we were able to do it, for I know it certainly won’t work for all. But for us, it released the children’s learning from the strait-jacket of a political system and returned it to the holistic development of a balanced individual with an intelligence broader than that required to just pass exams.
And most of all I loved the fact that the children discovered the real truth about education; that it was not something inflicted upon them by others sometimes in dull and degrading ways. But a living and ongoing opportunity for investigation of the real world, for growth and personal development, that was fully theirs – not a school’s – that they had charge of and was a way of living that would enhance their life.