Sunday 25 March 2018

Why We Home Educate

Inspired by a post on The World is Their Classroom, I (Solomon's dad)  thought I would write a post about why we home educate. After all, deciding to home educate is not an easy decision, it is a huge commitment, and whilst it is on the rise, society still expects that your child goes to school. Luckily my wife and I were both in a position to question society's norm and lucky enough to be able to do something about it.

4 is too young!
We did not decide straight away that we would like to home educate our children, rather we have inched towards that position. We started from the position that 4 (the age that most children start school in the UK) is far too young for formal education.

Around the time we had our first child, some Finnish friends of ours also had a child, and the news was continually telling us Finland was an education superpower and British children had to work harder to keep up in the global workplace. But whilst the government promoted increased testing and taking the children away from the bad influence of parents at an ever younger age, this is the exact opposite of our (and Finland's) thinking:
"[no] formal schooling until the age of seven, have short school days, long holidays, relatively little homework and no exams"
It is undoubtedly in the interests of a country's GDP to have parents back to work ASAP and for as long as possible (at least in the short term), but for kids to reach their potential they need emotionally secure foundations, and putting them in overcrowded classrooms for increasingly long hours at such an emotionally vulnerable age is undoubtedly storing up problems for the future.

Once we decided we were interested in home educating, we were pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it is in this country. Literally just do nothing (unless your children are already in school or have special educational needs).

There is no going back (probably)
Once the first step has been taken, and you accept the idea of home education until they are 7 or 8, it is hard to then imagine ever putting them into a school situation. With one-to-one interaction, they can leap ahead with the reading, writing, and arithmetic, freeing up time for them to explore other subjects that they are interested in. School no longer seems to be a place of education opportunities, but a place that restricts a child's education opportunities, where you are praised for conformity and being average.

As our eldest pointed out when we read Matilda, "she's like us": we are a bookish family, shelves filled with books, reading at every opportunity, and it was inevitable that our kids would be interested in books at an early age and we would teach them to read. But if you arrive at reception having read all of Roald Dahl's books, whilst most others are learning their phonics, you will either be bored or be labelled as 'different' - different in a good way by teachers, different in a bad way by fellow pupils. Now, six months of home education later, we find Solomon is leaping ahead with his maths, and unlike reading and writing, those differences are likely to continue to be discernible throughout his education. 

We have the opportunity to home educate
For all our dislike of the schooling system in this country, we nonetheless recognise that most people have little choice, and we are extremely lucky in being able to home educate. Increasingly society (and house prices!) are geared towards two wage families, and people are uneasy about those who don't conform to expected social norms. We are privileged in both being able to afford to home educate, and having little negative reaction to our decision.

We both work from home, and are sufficiently well paid that we both only have to work part time. This means that most of the time both of us are around, and even though there are three children when one-to-one help is required it is available. It also means that there is support and a sharing of project ideas; no single parent is stuck wondering whether we're doing enough with the kids or what we should do next.

We've also been lucky in support from family and friends, or at least they've not been overtly unsupportive. Most home educators have some tale of falling out with family or friends over their decision to home educate, but with the exception of one acquaintance who fell by the wayside this has passed us by. Although our family and friends have little experience of home education they trust us to do what we think is best for our children, even if they wouldn't do it (or have done it) themselves, and with those who have kids in school we don't preach that our way is better. Like most home educators we are asked questions about the socialising side of things, but luckily as we've both got PhDs no one has been brave enough to question our ability on the education side.

In conclusion...six months in...
We've never had cause to question whether we're doing the right thing: The children are thriving, we love it, and our only problem is there's so much to explore and so little time. How anyone has time for school is an absolute mystery to us.

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