I was reading an article last week about homeschooling, more specifically “unschooling” and I couldn’t help but feel really surprised by the response to the subject. I’m actually fascinated by homeschooling and it’s something that we seriously considered ourselves when Reuben was younger, I often think that he would flourish under that style of education but to be completely honest I don’t think that I have the patience to teach him. I’m very much the frustrated parent when doing homework (seriously buddy, you read that word two lines ago! Is a common phrase to escape my lips) and I really don’t think that I could fit my work in around it.
Despite that I’m always in awe of the mums/dads and families that do take on homeschooling. It’s such a huge commitment and something born out of a desire to make life better for your child.
It would appear that not everyone thinks that way.
When we were thinking about homeschooling I was surprised by how many friends had something to say about the matter, almost always negative. The perception was that children who are homeschooled are “weird” and “geeky” or there is something “wrong with them” medically – all of which rubbed me up the wrong way. I mean, for a start there is nothing *wrong* with a child who is perhaps homeschooled because they have autism or are on the spectrum. “Wrong” is an insulting term and one that is so steeped in ignorance – ironically often learned in the mainstream schooling system. Another big comment that kept cropping up was that it was cruel and socially imbalanced. How can kids grow up “normal” (yawn) if they are never around peers. This is such a common misconception! I know so many homeschoolers who have come up against this question time and time again, but they have to repeatedly explain that they have small communities around them, filled with a mixed demographic of children and adults, they have clubs, classes and so much going on that the social aspect of homeschooling probably outweighs the mainstream.
As someone who doesn’t homeschool, I still can’t understand the animosity and the misunderstanding of it. The image of homeschooled children as “weird” or “socially inept” is one that is constantly thrust upon us by the media and it’s something that I see constantly on social media. The BBC recently showed a clip about unschooling and asked people “what do you think?” In the clip they showed a child (alone with a parent) at a play park with the caption “Have you heard of unschooling? We allow our children to choose what they want to learn.” Naturally they chose a child with brightly dyed hair (vegan hair dye is not damaging and I personally have no issue with this – but to me it was an extremely obvious way to instantly highlight the difference between mainstream and home ed). Instantly the comments were filled with “how stupid is this, my kids wouldn’t want to do anything” and “Yeah great, so when we can’t read and write, it’s all fine yeah?”
Just no. I hate that the media does things this way, I hate that is always seems to divide and never to educate. The irony huh? I will never be able to understand why we can’t all just be different and respect each other for that.
I asked some homeschooling bloggers what they thought and this is what they said about home education and whether they had experienced any negativity:
Kelly from Kelly Ann Writer – Our home education is exactly that, education at home, not school at home. We follow the children’s lead, researching things together, following their passions and encouraging tonnes of play. We spend a lot of time outdoors, we attend groups or events, we learn together and we couldn’t be happier. I think society can sometimes have a very negative view about home ed, but then a lot of people surprise me and say supportive and lovely things. I wish people would try to see it from our point of view rather than constantly compare to school, because they’re two very different things.
Jayne from Sticky Mud and Belly Laughs – Homeschooling our children is the best decision we could ever have made. As a result, I have two confident and very bright little boys. Learning doesn’t have to be from a desk, we attend endless events, museums and spend lots of our time outdoors. We have had nothing but praise and admiration for home educating our kids, which is lovely. It may not be for everyone, but it works well for us.
Jenny from Monkey & Mouse – As a home educator I don’t ‘teach’ my children, but simply facilitate their learning by creating new opportunities to learn every day. Children are sponges and love to learn when they find their own way. So for us it looks a bit like this: learning odd and even numbers while looking at house numbers on a walk to catch the train, looking at soil structure whilst digging a hole in the vegetable garden, learning words from signs or about gravity from throwing snowballs. Everything we do is about learning, there’s no ‘time off’.
Despite an apparent increase in the number of home educators there are still a LOT of people who dislike the idea of people home educating. Apparently only teachers can teach kids, but as many teacher friends will tell me a lot of their training is actually about managing a class and less about teaching. The fact that a lot of teachers are choosing to home educate their children speaks volumes to me! I also don’t teach, I facilitate and if we don’t know something we look it up and learn together. Opinionated people are often putting home education down and saying that our children will be weird and can’t socialise, yet it’s found they are better in socialisation as they spend a lot more time with groups of kids of different ages. I am also ok about the weird bit, all the best people are a bit weird!
Karen from Grumpyish Mum – Our home education is semi structured, with some learning within core subject areas in the mornings and child led learning in the afternoons. I follow their interests and build learning opportunities and experiences around those.
We are often asked how the children are socialised which amuses me – we are hardly ever on our own! x