Down wiv school: children are best educated at home
This week need not be back-to-school week. Parents as well as their kids can benefit from home education
It is back-to-school this week. All over the country, stressed parents made last-minute dashes to the shops to force children to try on clumpy school shoes. Then they got up early, hurried their children into cars or on to buses, got stuck in jams, arrived later than intended and said a rushed goodbye. Then they found that the children had gone. Relief may have been mixed with melancholy, loss and a hope that the children were all right behind those high windows, told what to do by strangers.
The return to school is a well-established part of the journey of life. It seems normal, right and inevitable. But actually it is none of these things. Yes, it is normal in the early 21st century. But if modern civilisation started about 10,000 years ago, this way of treating children has been “normal” only for the last 2 per cent of the time. It is a new, artificial construct designed to provide education at low cost. It certainly was not created to provide a pleasant or socialising experience for children.
Schools are not clearly “right”, either. People tend to think that what everyone does and what they themselves experienced must be right. But there is nothing obviously ideal about delivering your children to other people who do not love them as you do, and who are likely to teach them things with which you may disagree. And sending children to school is not inevitable. Under the law, children must be educated. But they do not have to be educated at a school. There is another way.
Home education is not for everyone – not even a large minority. It is a luxury in most cases. The parent who becomes a home teacher earns no money. There have to be savings, or partners, husbands or wives must be willing to pay the bills. But lots of well-educated wives do not work and could save money by home educating. For those who can find a way, home-educating is a glorious, liberating, empowering, profoundly fulfilling thing to do. Far more people should try it. At present it is estimated that about 50,000 children are taught this way. The number has jumped from a decade ago but is still very few compared with America.
I have just finished two years of teaching my younger daughter, Alex, now 11. We have become very close. Many fathers see their children at supper time and a bit more at weekends. Alex and I were with each other all day, every weekday, in all sorts of places and circumstances. We knew and shared thoughts, ideas and feelings. I believe the closeness that we developed will benefit our relationship for the rest of our lives.
We had enjoyable educational trips to France, Italy and China. Instead of learning about the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius from a text book, Alex and I climbed up to the rim and peered into the still-smoking crater. We visited Pompeii and Oplontis to see the parts of Roman civilisation that had been preserved by the most famous of its eruptions.
One of the beauties of home education is that you can teach children things that you want them to know – some of which are not taught in most schools. I wanted Alex to know something of the origin of the Universe, and astronomy. We studied far more history than schools do, including overviews of Rome, China and Britain. We looked at the Second World War, using DVDs of the superb Channel 4 series on it. We started learning Italian. But all parents would have different ideas of what they want their children to know. You can go for whatever you think important. This is freedom, thrilling freedom. You don’t have to teach just what some civil servant in Whitehall has lighted upon and stuck in the national curriculum.
And as we can read from some of the many comments on this article:
Hope that the homeschoolers will begin to withold the part of the Council tax and Government taxes that go into social engineering and dumbed down twaddle that passes for curriculum content in those holding pens of misery called schools.
chris, Dorchester, England
It is a little scary to think that every child in this country is taught exactly the same thing by the powers that be; education or indoctrination of government approved ideologies?
Children become adults by learning and socialising with adullts: parents and family. Not insecure teenagers!
Nathan, Cambridge, UK
It has already started!