Wednesday, 29 June 2011

'Should I home educate?'

Really? But it's true. Someone is come to grit's day for help in making up their minds!

Do not let me be involved. I have no responsibility towards decision making, not even my own.

As for yours, marry her or divorce him; send your child to school or pull them out. I claim no part in helping anyone go this or that way with profound changes in a life. Catch me doing that in the same way I'd run from a burning building.

As for grit's day, all you get here is one type of reality for day-to-day learning of children out of school.

I won't deny, some days are all so much heart-laughing head-turning, I can only think I must be on permanent holiday with a endless supply of Malibu-based cocktails.

Other days, well, I try not to disguise the downside of kids all day long. In fact, I wearily include, for your benefit, all the bits of the educational day that make me wish I was dead.

But you could spot a philosophy that runs through these ordinary daily activities: one that keeps me going. Every day should be an adventure and a discovery. Learning should be natural, not forced and theory not removed from practical observation and experience. Combining theory and practice in learning is hardly a radical idea, so don't credit me with that. Aristotle already linked the two.

So, by all means use here for information, but decide from your own instincts and your own child; find your own philosophy of education and seek out Aristotle if it helps.

But because I aim to be so very helpful, here is a question if you haven't thought of it already.

What do you want school for?

I grew up with the fond idea that school could give me choices and access to areas of learning that were beyond the reach or interest of my parents. For example, I longed for school to teach me about pottery; my mother would have none of that clay-up-the-wall misery, thank you very much.

In reality, school did not teach me about pottery. We had a one-hour lesson for which I had to wait nine years. But I was already hopelessly in love with the whole pot business, and taught myself basic techniques covertly. The access never widened. The opportunity was gone. The desire, never fulfilled, languished, and has now sublimated into wistful staring at shapely translucent old pots in museums.

But what if you, resourceful, active, and energetic parent, could spot that pot yearning in your own early child, feed their interests, and ably provide opportunities for clay-based joy? Maybe you can move on to real potters with kilns and proper workshops. Artists who talk glaze and firing temperatures and willing to work with a bunch of home ed kids for a steady six weeks. You can find them, of course you can, because people with all their skills, learning and experience, they make up our society.

Then, not only pottery, but all the other weird and wonderful kid interests, such as butterflies and beetles? Horses and weaving; beading and fish-spotting; sea froth and cooking?

Compared to what you can provide, what is school for?

Well, that is the academic side. Now here is an activity we all enjoyed today. A walk in the woods with similar minds.

And a dog.

If I have another observation about this choice of life, it is not about clay or materials science, maths or grammar or electrons. It is about being a person.

Being a person takes time. I am still learning.

With children, I have noticed this: they grow with unique delights and unfathomable fears and strange wisdoms and laughable terrors that inform their learning of the world.

I believe this bizarre and beautiful protean start of human should be respected with time, decent treatment, a listening ear. I simply could not trust that enormous job to a classroom teacher, no matter how well meaning, burdened with the pressures of hundreds of children, streaming through a cold system which feeds them all to an output end.

Children need time to know their who-they-are.

So the dog. I have watched this fear of dog - maybe we are now in sight of the end - give it a year or two - no dreadful repetitions of the running dog with the clacking jaws and the screaming woman - I can see how this fear will grow and change, helped by friends who listen to what it is to be a child.

Would that time be given in school? Would anyone care? Would the fear have worked its way through, or would it have been dismissed and disregarded?

What is a person to do with their delights and fears and wisdoms and terrors? How will those inform and shape their world?

Here, at least, we have the time to begin to find out.


Nora said...

You are very dedicated and patient and you have a love for learning and sharing it that not everybody may be as capable of. The parent has to be the right parent also. Someone a little unorthodox who is not afraid to overstep the boundaries. You don't give yourself enough credit in this endeavor.

KP Nuts said...

What a fabulous post! I love the way you have turned the question on its head. I am so often tempted to do that when people ask "Why do you home educate?" often all I can think to say is "Why do you send your children to school?"

There is a comment on my blog where a friend with now grown home educated children wrote "The hardest part of all was de-schooling myself"

It is so ingrained in us isn't it.

Ditto above comment btw

RuralDiversity said...

I think it's interesting that school education and home education are even set against each other! People learn all the time, we never stop learning! Learning doesn't start (for school children) when the bell rings in the morning and end at home time - or vice versa, depending on your opinion of school! I think that learning happens all the time, just in different contexts. I can answer the question of why my children go to school - it's to learn things I don't know about. Not reading and writing and stuff, because I'm perfectly capable of letting them learn that themselves. No, I'm talking about the norms of society - I haven't got a clue about them. I see the function of school as being primarily about reproducing society - otherwise what else is the point in it? As the RuralDiversity parents aren't too hot on what those norms actually are, we send our children off to do field research for the family and we try and work it out together (us parents do the same research at work and in our various voluntary commitments). I think that learning how society works is quite important as a life-skill, especially if one is an odd-ball (we all are).
Maybe this is arguably an incorrect approach, but it's the one we take and fits in with the reality of home-schooling not being allowed here and the relatively harsh system of this country which only allows for eccentricity if it is solvent :-/

Grit said...

nora you are very kind; i probably agree that home ed does not suit everyone; it can be a pretty exhausting experience, and sometimes i feel that i do not choose it either.

hi kp nuts! yes, the home ed crowds are still the minority ones (and i think we only now rarely deserve the label 'odd'); i think home ed is becoming much more of a mainstream choice as people weigh up the educational services on offer.

i think too that the uk will become more like the hk experience; i think we will see many more private companies offering educational packages, and i think we will see many more schemes of parent-local authority flexischooling popping up around the country. to free up the in/out us/them method of education we have had in this country, that might be a positive step, but i guess it will not be a landscape without liberties issues.

hi rural diversity! your comment is welcome, thank you, come and have a beer. you raise so many interesting points i want to talk through them all.

Deb said...

Brilliant, Grit.

As usual.

RuralDiversity said...

I'm always up for a beer. Discuss. Or, cheers!