I’m popping this here because it’s something I’m asked about and some parents like help with, especially in the light of the LA often asking for it. The thought of ‘educational philosophy’ can be rather daunting. Don’t fret; it doesn’t have to be – it’s just your thoughts on education, so it’s best to have some, then call them philosophy!
However, it can be a bit difficult to think about if it’s new to you to do so, so some of these ideas might help with a starting point.
At the risk of shocking everyone with this admission; when I first starting out teaching I thought, like many others, that education was just something delivered by schools quantified by exams. I didn’t teach for long before I completely changed my mind about that.
I also soon worked out that ‘qualification’ was certainly not a measure of an educated person, judging by the way some of the supposedly educated behaved. And teaching for exam passes didn’t necessarily make young people educated either.
When we home educated our own two children we had to think about what education really was, if it was not something that was just learning a prescribed syllabus, delivered by schools for the purpose of grades, which by then I definitely didn’t believe it was – and we weren’t planning on doing anyway.
What was it then?
Our ideas changed over the time we home educated and have matured even since then. And this is an attempt to try and note some ideas down that may help you decide upon your own.
A precise educational philosophy is quite hard to capture because it is entirely based on your definition of education in itself. And that has been influenced by your own schooling and by society’s definition of it as a grade-getting process that is measurable in those terms only. And accountable in those terms only – in terms of how many and how high.
But I believe education is something far broader than that. And I look at it not in terms of grades, or perhaps in terms of what education is, but more in terms of what an educated person is.
My definition tends to be person based. Not qualification based. Because it’s not the qualifications that matter – it’s what you do with them. And you need far, far more personable skills and elements of character to apply yourself to an educated life than qualifications. Elements like respect. Or responsibility. Or care. Or the ability to communicate.
Grades are no good without those.
You can have the most qualified, titled and knowledgeable person in the world who can be an arrogant arse and not care a damn for the next person. I wouldn’t call them educated. So care does come into it.
You can have a person who has been privately and expensively educated who looks down on those who’ve had less opportunity as if they deserve less respect. But I wouldn’t call that the behaviour of an educated person. So respect comes into it.
And you have people who seem to spend lifetimes collecting degrees but are unable to function happily, communicate and establish relationships, or understand how their awareness of others and the planet is important. Their educational qualifications don’t seem a lot of help. Awareness is part of being educated too.
So I believe that however ‘qualified’ or ‘educated’ in the conventional sense of the word a person is, it’s how he BEHAVES that matters and counts as to whether they are really educated.
People who are educated are people who not only have knowledge and skills but are people who show respect, responsibility and care towards others both near and far, towards their environment both locally and globally and who show awareness, compassion and understanding, who are keen to be the best they can, make the best contribution they can, and who strive towards good, happy and fulfilled lives. And I know that now we’d need to define good, happy and fulfilled but I’ll leave those definitions to you!
But these are the types of qualities I expect an educated person to have, however many grades. It is about the quality of a person – not the qualifications.
And that’s very difficult to measure. But schools feel the need to measure something so they focus on the measurable bits and neglect the rest. That’s where it’s gone so wrong.
Now, this is all very philosophical but how do you home school to that?
Well – creating good, happy and fulfilled lives on a daily basis is a start! One day at a time; make each day a good one and you make for a good education and fallow days count here too. (See this blog)
I also understand that many parents worry about describing it to the Local Authority. We did too and I spent many hours contemplating it. I describe what happened in my book ‘A Funny Kind Of Education’ including the letter with our educational philosophy we finally sent to the LA. So I thought it might help if I copied it here too:
‘We are unable to fill in your enclosed form because it is inappropriate to our Home Education situation and the education we plan to provide for our children.
We plan for the education of our children to be centred around their needs, for the most part autonomous, deriving from their own interests and daily pursuits, mostly democratic, where their learning is shared, helped, broadened and encouraged by our parental input. Our aim is for happy, confident, self motivated children who take pleasure in learning. We hope to provide a stimulating environment in which they may do this, both in the home with materials, books, television, computers, and in the community and further afield with trips to libraries, visits to places of interest, field trips and activities which encourage an interest and curiosity about their daily lives and environment, all of which are sources of learning and educational opportunity.
We see learning as an integral part of our children’s daily lives and not separate from it or segregated into subjects. Therefore it is not timetabled or structured; this would be unnecessarily inhibiting. It may take place from the minute they wake to the minute they sleep, over meal times, social times, unusual times, any time, by discussions and questioning, conversations, investigations and research, not necessarily in a formal procedure. We see it therefore as mostly spontaneous and unplanned. Thus we can take advantage of the purest receptive moments when learning potential is at its peak.
We are quite confident that contact with family, friends, social events, clubs and activities of this nature provide our children with plenty of social interaction.
Having said all that I’m sure you must appreciate that our children have to recover from the numbing effects of school, which has damaged their learning potential, and it may take us some time to settle into our Home Education. We look forward to this with enthusiasm and excitement.
We hope this fulfils your requirements.”
An educational philosophy doesn’t have to worry you. You will already have ideas about what education should be or you wouldn’t contemplate home educating. These ideas are the basis for a philosophy and they just need formalising and getting down, always allowing room for change and moderation. Allow them to develop over a period of time and read lots others. Use any of the ideas you like here to help.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Think what you want for your children personally (things like confidence, keenness to learn, happiness, etc)
- Think what you might want for them academically – helps to focus on skills here – in line with where they’re at right now (it’s best to not look too far ahead at this point)
- Think about others – have you ever seen a model of a family or child that you’d like to strive towards (probably you have examples of the opposite – also useful!)
- Think what suits your child’s needs, your needs and your circumstances and what kind of lifestyle/approach will help you move towards the above.
- A final point to remember; children change, so their needs change, so your approach and styles and philosophy may change throughout your home education. Therefore it is wise to include this fact in any statement you may make to the LA
Allow yourself room for flexibility – the key to successful home education – and development of ideas as, like ours did, these will change.
Just as home education changes you. Exactly like life really!
If you’re new to home education you’ll find more help in this book, especially for beginners.