Q. You’re planning to home educate? You mean he won’t go to school at all? Wow. Do you mind if I ask why?
A. No I don’t! I am always very happy to answer any questions about home education, especially from people who seem genuinely interested. I fully admit that our path is not necessarily the “norm” in our society, and that people may not have even known it was a possibility. So let me share the many reasons that have led us to choosing the path of no school.
1. School is not a good fit for our son. At three years old I can already see how much he has in common with myself at his age. He is a bright and confident little boy, brave, challenging, curious and talkative. However, take him out of his comfort zone at home or with family, and drop him into a crowd at a toddler group or with unfamiliar people, and he transforms into a whole different person. He clings to me. He won’t dare speak or ask questions. He won’t play. There are two very small groups where he knows the children and the room which he has been going to since he was tiny, and at these he will play more. But he is still not the boy I know. He is a more timid and fearful version of himself. He is a classic introvert, just as I was as a child (and still am now to some extent!) and I remember the fear of being thrown into the busy classroom at school so tangibly. Walking into the lunch hall was absolutely petrifying for me. I never raised my hand in class, even though I usually knew the answer. I was always afraid and always wanted to be at home where I felt safe.
I want to be able to provide an environment where my son will always feel safe and always be able to be himself – the boy who very few people have the privilege of knowing.
2. I want him to be able to follow his passions. Right now he is fascinated with diggers, trucks, bulldozers and building. We visit building sites to watch the machines work. We read stories about them and he role plays with his own toy versions of them. We go and watch tractors working on the farms nearby. We are able to sink deep into his passion and he is consequently learning a huge amount. I believe children learn so much more easily and retain so much more information when they are actually interested in the subject.
But in school, this isn’t always possible. I remember doing a topic on space in junior school. I was fascinated and wanted to know more, but before I was ready, we moved on to the Tudors or something else history related. I can’t remember exactly as I wasn’t interested. I was still consumed with a passion for space. In moving on before I was ready, not only did I lose my passion for space, when no one would answer my questions any more, but I didn’t get much out of the history project either. It’s all about timing. I actually very much enjoyed learning about the Tudors several years later, but hadn’t retained any information from my earlier teachings on the subject. I want him to learn, not just to be taught what he “should” know.
3. I want him to grow up free from public shaming and humiliation. There is a common theme in the schools in my area, (and I’m sure that it is widespread throughout the country) and this is behaviour modification through public shaming. They call it the “Sad cloud” or the “Sad board.” When a child behaves in a way the teacher deems inappropriate, their photograph or their name is stuck on the cloud for all to see to shame them for misbehaving. This is used completely at the whim of the teacher and her (or his) mood that day. I have heard of it being used for things as simple as a child refusing to eat his lunch, or not wanting to sit still to listen to a story. Having raised our son up until now with trust and respect, the thought of subjecting him to such a disgusting and controlling practice turns my stomach. Combined with point number one, this would have a huge and catastrophic effect on his self esteem. I would never want to put him through it.
4. I believe that children should be free to enjoy their childhood. Strict schedules and routines conflict with this need. Children are full of energy, passion and curiosity. They need to be free to explore, not chained to a desk and reprimanded for talking to the child beside them. More than anything I want my son to know he is free and his life is his own.
5. I don’t want another adult being his main role model. Childhood is a time where role models are vital in guiding and instilling values in our children. I take this role very seriously and I don’t want to give my power over to somebody I don’t know. How well do parents really know the teachers who are taking part in raising their children? It places a lot of trust and responsibility on someone who is practically a stranger, and quite frankly, I don’t want someone who doesn’t love him and have a long term investment in his life, having a major influence on his upbringing.
6. I love his company and I want him to be around. Yes I get tired and need a break sometimes, but I don’t believe that school is the answer. I love how close we are, how we are so connected and in tune with one another. And I see so often how school creates a barrier to that smooth and effortless connection. Being apart for most of the day and getting back together in the evening when everyone is at their most tired (and irritable) means missing out on the best time together. It can take a week or more for children and parents to get even close to being on the same page during the school holidays, and it’s not uncommon to hear parents claim they can’t wait for the new term to begin so things can go back to normal. I don’t want to create that separation and lose that intense connection. That connection is what prevents behaviour and discipline issues. It is what makes parenting joyful and easy. I’m sure it is possible to stay connected and do the school thing, but it would take far more effort and thought. I prefer to keep things simple!
7. And lastly (although there is probably more I haven’t written!) I want him to be immersed in real life. To socialise with people of all ages, not just children more or less the same age as himself. I want him to learn about the world and how it works, I want him to have time and opportunity to travel and see how other cultures live, to explore new environments, to go outside when he pleases and not be confined to an ever unchanging classroom.
I want him to enjoy his life, his childhood, to learn rather than be taught, to hold on to his curiosity and above all, to be free to be who he is.
If you have decided to avoid the school system, what were your personal reasons for doing so?
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Image courtesy of [chrisroll] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net