I have to say that my passion at the moment is torn to my defence of the home education world. Its a very understood part of society, particularly as we group every home education family into one basket when they are so different. Believe me, they vary a great deal more than from the commercially produced factory belt families that our society produces. Don’t get me wrong, I see the reason and the needs for helping the masses – we’re a very big population – but then I can also see the need for helping those who have unique requirements and passions.
I guess I should say what qualifies me to garble on about this and I reckon its something that many people don’t have. I’ve been a tutor for 15 years, a lecturer in a college for a short time (3.5 years) and I’ve seen how the system works. Its affected by paperwork, grades, targets, bureaucracy, health and safety and risk assessments. I’ve seen it go wrong, with teachers yelling at crying children, and I’ve seen it go right, with pupils enjoying themselves so much they don’t want to go right. Teach right, in a well structured school, with the correct funding, then you can have a lot of well educated students who are happy and enjoy the experience.
A private tutor, five years ago I started to teach one and a half hours a week for a home education group. “Home education group?” I hear you ask in shock. Yes, the home education world has places were kids and families can group and chat, getting to know each other and socialise. These kids aren’t locked away, in the corner of the room sat in front a lowly desk, quill in hand. They don’t scream “The light! Not the light!” as they emerge from their homes, disintegrating under its glare. They have social lives, get over it.
I was there to aid their learning as some home education parents can’t help as much when they hit their GCSEs. I taught maths, biology, environmental science and even history. It was lovely as for once it wasn’t about the grades and marks. These kids had picked to do this work because they enjoyed it and their parents didn’t demand As and Bs or even passes. A lot came along to just sit the class and listen, rather than take an exam at the end, and it was fabulous to see kids learning because they wanted to learn. Can you imagine that? I gradually integrated into the home education world, having expertise in the state schools and also understanding education in this new environment. I read about the different reasons for home education, the different forms, and found out why people enjoyed it so much. I even fell for a home education single mum and have four lovely kids and a beautiful partner. Its safe to say that I may not be the master of either side but I know about both.
There are two, well actually three things that bug me the most and really have to be addressed.
Firstly, society groups the home educated under one big umbrella. If your kids learn at home they are home educated and they are all the same. Really? Do you know what racism, sexism and homophobia are? They’re grouping people and unfairly judging them because of characteristics. How can you say that all home educated families need to be registered just because they are home educated? We already know if there are children in a family – there are these things called birth certificates – so why the heck does there need to be a special register? I’ll come back to that later.
My point is that we home educate for different reasons but, in my eyes and from what I’ve seen, they can be boiled down to five main ones:
1. Religion – With religion sometimes contradicting what is preached in the schools, some families want to bring their children up with religion in the background. Remember school assemblies where we had to say the Lord’s Prayer? Now have you thought what its like if you’re another religion? Or maybe schools have removed the religious features now and this is what a family wants. Its their choice, not the government’s.
2. Advanced or needing help – Schools in the UK have the most stupid system of putting children in classes according to age, not ability. Why? Surely if I’m struggling I need to stay at a lower level? Or why should I be held back if I have an advanced age? Its not a necessity to pass GCSE’s by a certain age, to get into college by another and to shovel teenagers off to university by a deadline. These are just outdated traditions.
3. Bullying and mistreatment – A child’s work suffers if they are being bullied or even if they have been. Couple this with the fact that worse things can happen, I’ve seen one teacher yelling at a seven year old kid while waggling a finger in their face, then their school work can be severely held back. Home education can provide a secure environment which can help them recover or just provide an atmosphere where they learn better.
4. Conditions – There are tonnes of conditions that affect kids. Anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, autism, dyslexia…the list just doesn’t stop. Now theoretically these kids are supposed to have help in schools, have assistants who can aid them but I can tell you this doesn’t happen in A LOT of places. I know one child who was put into a special needs class without finding out what was holding them back only for me to discover they had bad dyslexia. The child was getting headaches when viewing white paper and they wondered why it held his maths back!
5. The system – Its safe to say that our education system is outdated, traditional and backward. It needs changing. Look at the European countries, child centred learning, open schools – all these things improve learning ten fold and make it far more enjoyable. I’ve met numerous families who are just fed up, watching their children become held back because of the way the commercialised system holds them back. We are no longer a mass producing ‘get everyone educated’ world of the late 19th century. Change the system.
Okay I’m going to shut up now as I have used up a lot of my time and…ahem…written an essay. I’ll gas on about my other frustrations at another time but until then have fun!