It’s that time of year when parents are thinking of school again.
Of course there’s a whole community of parents who are not thinking about school. Who educate their children outside of school, happily and successfully. And there are already many young people in the working world who never went to school; who were home educated for the duration.
Thousands and thousands of families choose a different path for their children’s learning because firstly, it’s so successful and secondly, the education system is increasingly so bizarre and pressurised it’s failing many, making many more unhappy and even worse making some kids unwell. Parents are rightfully questioning whether it’s worth it.
I imagine there are quite a few others who feel the same, who would like to home educate but find the concept so scary that they can’t make the leap.
The fears parents have are pretty much the same for everyone. We had them too. So did all the home schooling families we met. And the same five things seem to come up again and again:
– You’re afraid you wouldn’t know what to do learning wise.
– You think you couldn’t help them because kids need qualified teachers to learn anything.
– You worry your kids will have no friends and be isolated.
– You don’t know how you’d cope with the kids at home all the time.
– You worry about the future.
Looking at those individually, here are some answers that may put your mind at rest.
1) Learning wise, all the information and support you need is accessible. The internet has revolutionised home education making everything you need readily available through websites, organisations, forums, social media networks; the opportunity to find out and connect is endless as are the facilities to learn, from sites like BBC Learning to others you wouldn’t think of like the museum websites or YouTube. The National Curriculum is available online as are organisations that offer free courses, facilities, games, videos, films, tutorials, etc. 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. Through social media you can easily connect with other families doing the same, read their blogs, ask questions, get all the support you need as a parent as well as learning facilities for the kids. And arrange physical meet ups.
2) Very few people know this but qualified teachers, aren’t always the best help and 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. Furthermore, something else people are unaware of is the fact that 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 a teacher does – you’ll also be able to give them far more time and attention than they’d get in a classroom. And in our information rich society, your role is more to encourage your child to learn, to seek it out, enable their learning, than it is to ‘teach’ facts. Anyone can find out facts. Not everyone can inspire. Not even many ‘qualified’ teachers. Many home educating youngsters take on their learning for themselves because no one’s forcing them to do things they aren’t interested in for a test they can’t see the point to, they become more motivated to learn for themselves. (Blog here – how can you home educate if you’re not a teacher)
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 educate 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. Once you get connected you’ll discover a whole community to engage with. (A whole blog on the issue here)
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 youngsters 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 – just do it as long as it works for you. 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.
If you’re thinking you’d like to home educate but felt unable to take the plunge I hope this puts some of your fears to rest. Any other fears you have may be resolved through reading my books.
Home education is an exciting, inspiring, innovative and workable approach to learning that grows continually. That’s because it’s so successful. There are thousands of youngsters out there working now who are living proof.