Sunday, October 24, 2010

"You Can't Do That!"

That was an honest to goodness response from a stranger in a shop when I explained to her that my children were home educated.  I guess she was so flustered by my children's toxic learning environment (their home) that she couldn't be bothered to get either her facts or her manners straight! 

Another time, waiting in the queue for the toilets at M&S, the most adorably tiny elderly lady engaged me in conversation and wondered aloud why my ginger haired little boys were not in school.  "Oh, I teach them at home," I responded, smiling.  She shook her head sadly.  "Well, I hope they're able to leave home sometime and get a proper education," she said in a dismal tone rivalling my perfect "Eeyore" voice that I use while reading Winnie-the-Pooh aloud to my kids.

It was easy to excuse the old lady; she's from a totally different era and was understandably concerned about the importance of a good education.  However, the first person, uh-uh.  Back then it was probably close to the first time I'd ever admitted to a stranger that I was home educating, and I was completely silent at her remark, just nodding my head politely, like a sheep.

If she had said the same thing to me today, I would have said sweetly: "Really?  I'm so glad you told me!  Because... I thought I could!" 

I honestly believe that anyone can home educate.  I certainly don't believe everyone should, but I believe anyone can, as long as it's legal in their country.

The homeschooling Dark Ages (you do WHAT?!) are, for the most part, behind us.  There are as many different brands and styles of homeschooling out there as there are churches in the Bible Belt.  Hundreds of curricula and resources are available.  So many more than there were, say, twenty-five years ago when my mother sat me down at the kid-size craft table in my bedroom in order to teach me to read, using (gasp!) phonics.  

So yes, my husband and I DO home educate our children, and in my not-so-humble opinion, we're pretty good at learning together. We have a basic schedule for the day, which looks like this: get dressed, individual maths or science lessons with Daddy, breakfast, english, history, cooking/activity/crafts projects or nature study with Mummy, visits to/from friends and neighbours, reading aloud, outdoor play, and teatime.  Lunch fits in there somewhere, as does a post-lunch hour long "quiet time" for all of us, if we're at home.  We actually took "quiet time" with us on our spring trip to the US.  If you know my kids, you know why our family needs "quiet time"! Around here, Mama runs on caffeine and the kids run on adrenaline, so we need the break from our own intensity.

Our schedule is basic, so if it's interrupted for any reason, it's not a big deal.  Last week, The Boys were having a "let's see how much we can make Mummy wish she hadn't had twins first" sort of morning.  So I shut our books and let them go.  Yes, they went off to play happily in the morning sunshine (it rained later that afternoon), out of doors, at a time of day when most children their age are confined to a classroom.  Later, after our evening meal, they caught up on the writing practice and language lessons they had found so challenging in the morning, and they breezed through them peacefully, and most importantly, willingly.

If I'm forcing information into them, how much is actually going to sink in?  How much is going to make it inside that imaginative little brain that is in reality a million miles away, wondering how much longer they have to dig in that hole in the garden until they reach the other side of the world? [note: if your hole-diggers are having a field day in your yard, try this book.  It worked for Righty; he stopped his rather extensive China dig, realising the futility of his cause yet without the loss of his adventurous spirit.]

I often find myself in the middle of cramming information into my kids' brains, while they stare at me, blank-faced.  Staring is a bad sign; it means they've left the building.  When they are really listening, they are usually upside down, or sprawled across a sofa picking their noses, or spinning around until they fall into a dizzy heap on the floor.  Anyway, sometimes I have to stop, remove my "teaching" brain, and start over with my "let's learn together" brain.

I don't believe I'm the best learning facilitator in the world.  Do I need to be, though?  If my kids are on the right track with learning now, if they know how to learn what they want and need to know, plus a bit more besides, does it matter HOW that happened?

And... now cometh the S word.


Yes.  Socialisation.  Or Socialization, depending on your spelling preference.

I found this article recently and greatly appreciated it.  It's the best I've heard on the S word for a while.  The author blogs here.  If you check out her website and read her radical views on education (the system needs to be dismantled), after you freak out, ask yourself why you're freaking out about the system disappearing.  

If you think she's off her rocker, that's fine.  Just so you know, it's not just the home educators who are the crazy people.  There are those who are convinced that homeschooling should be made illegal because they don't like the idea of anyone operating outside the Matrix, or they suffered from abusive parents who also home educated them.   I won't add links here; it's not hard to find them with the aid of Google!

At the moment, I'm neutral on the dismantling of the education system.  I mean, who wants to really get out of the Matrix?

Homeschooling fits and benefits our family.  When or if it doesn't, I think we'll be the first to know!


  1. So much respect for you and Dan teaching the boys, I wanted to be a teacher when i initially finished school but didnt have the mental stamina to complete uni. an organised class with organised rules must be easy compared to 2 different age levels, soon to be 3.
    Plus that clouds diagram you have by your back door? i didnt learn that until i was about 14!

  2. I remember the day the good circuit court judge of Pulaski, NY asked me where my kids went to school and quite sheepishly replied, "We home school them." To which he asked, "Is that legal." And I said, "yes". Later, when I shared this with your mother she had a different answer. She said, "You should have told him 'no, it's not legal but don't tell anyone'." I had a great laugh on that one. Your doing a great job, Sis. Hold your head high and remember it's the product not the process that counts. You are teaching your boys to love learning. That is much more important than imparting information in order to fulfill a requirement. Love you all.

  3. Thanks, Greg and Dad. :) Appreciate the respect from you. We don't always get that from the boys so it's nice to hear it from you! I'll have to remember Mom's "No, it's not legal but don't tell anyone." Very funny...


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