Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Free education

Yesterday I stumbled across a business, selling workshops, classes and clubs for primary home ed. My heart sank. Here is the future franchise model for services to the hard-pressed, home educating parent.

Need Geography lessons? £30 Book online. Add to cart.

I admit. I'm a hairy home ed hippie-leaner. I think, A seven-year old's education? It's all about life. And that's free. Please, people, you do not need to hand over cash to introduce your seven-year old to geography. Hand them an OS map while you go walking in woods, paddling in streams, and finding fungi. Neither, I would argue, is there any pressing urgency to employ tutors for your nine- or even eleven-year old in reading, writing, maths, or working out how to construct a den that stays up. Unless a specific development issue is arising for which you need specialist diagnostic and support, you can forge ahead with learning through living, and picking up a book.

Need Physics lessons? £40 Book online. Add to cart.

Especially at primary. Here, learning comes on the cheap, thanks to ordinary life, and active, messy, risk-taking play. Watch them. Kids learn, discover, explore, and test a theory by throwing their bodies about, on trees, swings, muddy riverbanks or the back of your sofa. Let them do that, and slowly the experiment turns from beating at the physical laws of nature to the inquiries of their imaginations and minds. The grubby mini people become the beautiful grown-up curious thinkers, speculators, creators of stories that begin, what if? The least good at this stage comes from sitting everyone down and teaching them about essay-writing techniques.

Need English lessons? £50 Book online. Add to cart

Do not be panicked into paying for it, that's my advice. Reading will grow from snuggling on sofas with books, pointing at signs, sharing puzzles, playing letter games, visiting the library, stacking a bookshelf, seizing the abundant resources we already have - from the street signs round where you live to the ingredients list on that Granola bar. You do not need to pay someone to teach that for you. Neither do you need to pay for your own culture to be told back to you, neither for your family history, the history that's around you, the geography of your home, your neighbourhood, and the tracks through the local woods to the ditch where the yellow iris grow.

Need History lessons? £80 Book online. Add to cart.

You are your child's teacher, and people around you are your teachers. People who work in shops, walk down the High Street, look at your teeth, fix lenses to your face, say hello on the bus, in the shop, at the cinema. They're all teachers. Home educators around you, in your area, around the corner from where you live - they're attuned to identifying the resources and opportunities already here; cohering them, shaping them, and sharing what they have. Usually, they do not require a fee. They give that information readily, in the expectation of solidarity and mutual support, offering to help each other, exchange wisdoms and swap experience, including whether the granola bar works best with golden syrup, or treacle.

Need Science lessons? £100 Book online. Add to cart.

Each of us parents is good at something. One might create storytime, or snap up the theatre seats. Someone offers messy play. A friend suggests the walks, and another wants to run a science co-op. Together, we share. The days are shaped by connections which help build and strengthen this community. Yes, home ed can become extraordinarily well-networked. The parents begin to know each other and the children, they grow up together. The outsider can't see this unknown world; it's maybe sinister, even cultish. Then it's okay to me that we're stereotyped. It's true, I might not bother with the Ladyshave come December, and touch my muesli and you die, but otherwise I understand the stereotype to mean a person outside of this network doesn't understand how this community works.

Need Maths lessons? £100 Book online. Add to cart

Mostly, in the home ed world, money doesn't change hands, unless it's for hire of scout hut or art workshop. As the kids grow up and out of primary, we parents huddle together, whisper Exams are coming! Whatever shall we do? Then we group hug, share the wisdoms, read up the syllabus, and choose, or not, maybe out of our skill set and comfort zone, to buy the services of those tutors. We'll divvy up the costs, find a room, sort a group, make it happen. We organise ourselves. To guide us is self-interest, the advancement of our kids, our understanding of interdependence, a spirit of co-operation, and the knowledge that we're doing something useful - we're helping to create a shared endeavour.

Need Art lessons? £100 Book online. Add to cart.

Sure, I pay for stuff, so paying for stuff is not the point when my heart sinks into despondency, as I see that business roll by on screen. My heart sinks because the offering of educational services to home educators looks like a sort of home ed; it feeds a market for home ed; and the business may even go by the name of home ed. You might think, newcomer, arriving into this world, So this is how it's done! Those wily home educators! They book the lessons, make the timetable, buy someone's time, pay by paypal, drive to the classroom, and give away that responsibility for the hours. But that's not the only model. There is this other one, where we parents with our children determine and influence what's happening. We choose the tutors. We have some say in shaping lessons. We take part, keep our children close, and we don't give up on power, or responsibility.

Need French lessons? £150 Book online. Add to cart

And there's the other problem. With a business supplying services for the needy home ed market, we watch a subtle change; the ground shifts by which the local council is understanding this strange thing called home education. They speak the language of that business leader. Words where education is not roving through fields, creating that loose connective of parents building learning for themselves, but one that is identifiable via your paypal account, timetabled on a system, organised into disciplines - English, Maths, Geography, History. How easy is it then for the council worker, annually appraised in their jobs by tickable boxes, to hear that inquiry and reply, Home ed? You might like to try the services over here. The lessons come with our blessings.

Need Sports lessons? £200 Book online. Add to cart.  

I accept there are new generations of parents coming into home ed. The landscape is changing. I may be at the dwindling end, while the franchise educational business is looking bright. But when we're gone, we're gone. Us hairy-legged hippies sharing out our home-made Granola bars. How could we ever tell any parent of those primary years, don't fret! You can do home ed yourself! You can take the control, join the co-ops, organise the outing with your own resources, your own contacts, your own freedoms: not for sale, not for purchase, not for profit. Just freedom to learn, not for any price.


Deb said...

I adore you so, Grit. Exactly right.

coffeebooksna said...

Thank you Grit. You are not the only hairy-legged hippy out there - we shall rally round your granola bars and tell them to stick their package deals up 'em. Keep the faith, fellow cultists!

sandjwhiches said...

mmmm, balm for the soul of this home educating mama. i just like to say "i'm a stay at home mom and my kids are stay at home kids." i WANT them with me, and yes i am trying to avoid the curriculum of the school system, so why would i buy curriculum to do at home? are you familiar with the phrase "life learning" ? it sounds a bit smarmy to me, but i also agree with it. i am so glad i found your blog. :)

Blue Dragonfly said...

I agree, I do so hate to pay for anything remotely resembling educaaashion! Shan't and won't!
I learnt my lesson with the ordering of far too many curriculum based work books in my early HE years which have sat ignored and unloved gathering dust on a high shelf since they arrived.