When your first baby is born, and you first become a mother, it is a life changing day. You are responsible for them and they, at first, are totally dependent on you. As they grow and develop that dependency changes as they learn to find their place and way in the world. In those first few years they learn so much with you at their side as support and guidance. At some point in their third or fourth year, here in the UK, you have to make a decision about their future learning. Will it take place at home or outside the home more usually in a school. For most the decision has to be school, usually for financial reasons as one parent needs to be at home and therefore cannot be out earning. I know that we are very fortunate to be able to afford to live on one income.
The words I most often hear when I am talking about home education is 'I couldn't possibly do it' and I have recently been considering what these words actually mean in the light of a decision I was making myself. Schools, in the main, are by necessity, a structured environment. The structure is built round a curriculum which is decided by the government, how the school actually teaches this is left up to them and some schools are incredibly creative at weaving this into the fabric of their teaching. But, again by necessity, all children in a class have to learn the same thing at the same time. This is what we as a society have come to think of as an education for children. Going back to that earlier statement I couldn't possibly do it, do we really mean I could not do as they do in school, at home. So let's take this apart a bit. A child in school is taught a curriculum, it includes many subjects, English, maths, geography, history, science, design and technology, art, music and more. Do we need to teach these subjects, as they do at school, for learning to happen at home. If a child is really interested in a particular subject and wishes to spend hours reading, drawing whatever it is that they wish to do, they may not have the opportunity to do this in school. The school day is not and cannot be structured in that way. My argument is that at home they can, if they are interested they will learn rather than be taught, when they are ready.
I have been pondering the future of my eldest's education since the beginning of this year. By the end of next year I will need to apply for a place at a local secondary school, should I want him to attend school for that period of his education. I couldn't put my finger on why I was so bothered about those who were suggesting that home education at secondary age was different and would be too difficult to do at home. I realised, eventually, that it came back to curriculum, again. Most of my friends were at school prior to the national curriculum, so our primary eduction was more free form but at secondary school we were taught by subject with a different teacher for each of those subjects and that is still the basis for secondary education now. Of course I could never teach every subject to my own children, that would take years of study on my part but is that not what I want for my children. We have not engaged with school education at primary level because of the curriculum and learning is happening, why can it not be the same at secondary level too.
It will depend of course where my children's interests lie in the future, as to what we continue to do long term. There are some subjects, particularly sciences which will get harder for us to learn at home so then we will have to look elsewhere. As they get older the structure of school and a curriculum may become the right framework for them, as it is for many children, so school will become the place for the them to learn rather than the home. But for now home is right for us. I am not teaching, they are learning. It is perhaps a leap of a faith to leave the direction up to the child. But when they can hold their own with school educated peers I know that we are doing ok, square pegs, round holes and all that.
I am not trying to be critical of all you lovely readers who do send your children to school and I do hope you will not feel that I am judging you. But I do hope these words will make you pause and ponder..........