I am pleased to introduce Ross Mountney Author of A Funny Kind Of Education who has kindly agreed to doing this guest post for me. I love her work, I hope you do too...
I’m so thrilled by Lisa’s invite to do a guest post. Our family’s home educating days are over now that our two have moved onto Uni and beyond, but I never miss a chance to talk about it and increase understanding. It’s such a fabulous, successful way to raise and educate children.
You may have read about our early home school days in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’, in particular the sort of myths that build - sometimes accusations - about home education! And Lisa asked if I might like to talk about these and whether they turned out to be true or not.
The first, and most common was; ‘they won’t learn anything’! The bizarre thing about this is people’s assumption that learning only takes place in school. I used to ask ‘haven’t you learnt anything since you left then?’ And remind people of the common saying that the really useful life-learning takes place outside school. Most people don’t understand that schools and teachers do not have the monopoly on education. The best educative opportunity anyone can have is experience. Home education gives plenty of opportunity for that. My children did do a spell in school (I regret it!). It totally killed their love of learning and switched them off. Home educating re-established their enthusiasm and they continue to learn, as they progress into adult life, from their own volition and not because someone makes them. For the most valuable things they learned through home educating were; a) how to learn and b) that learning is the most inspiring and life enhancing thing, not necessarily associated with grades, which they can take charge of and develop throughout their lives. They’re still learning... so there’s the first myth disproved!
Secondly, I was accused of ‘tying the kids to apron strings’. For a start ‘Home’ educating is a misnomer; the children learn out of the home as much as in it – no strings anywhere! But that aside parents seem so afraid that giving individual attention makes the children clingy and unable to integrate or be independent. The reality is that the opposite is true. Children who feel secure and loved, who don’t have to adopt strange behaviours to get the attention they need, who have the chance to build character and confidence in an unthreatening environment, are the ones who become independent. Far from being clingy both our kids have gone out into the world independently away from home, face up to difficult obstacles, set themselves demanding challenges and are actually far braver than I ever was about getting out there!
And that brings me to a third myth; that kids need to get out in the real world to learn how to function in the real world. That statement is of course true, but by ‘real world’ folks meant ‘school world’. And this is the real myth because school in no way represents the ‘real world’. Our children had far more experiences in the outside world than those who are confined to a classroom.
And talking about the ‘real world’ another myth about home education is built round ‘socialisation’. We were accused of preventing our children from mixing and increasing their social skills. This accusation is based in ignorance of the fact that social skills are developed from being with people who do have them - adults mostly – in social settings, not by being in an unnatural cluster of people all the same age as in school, in a threatening climate, who don’t know how to behave socially. Home educated children generally get out and mix within a much more ‘normal’ setting, with a larger proportion of adults who encourage good social interaction, in a healthily social way, unlike in school. They develop confidence, empathy, awareness, conversational skills, all necessary social skills, and seem far more able to interact comfortably than many an adult I’ve come across. The way school children interact is usually based on threat and fear rather than social competence and empathy, is as weird as the scenario in the book ‘Lord Of The Flies’ and is not replicated anywhere else where we have choice about our mates.
And that word weird was also used as an accusation; of being weird and making our kids weird. I find that staggering in a society which is supposed to be inclusive. That aside, what people forget is that home educating parents are no weirder than any parent; we want exactly the same things for our children as anyone - for them to be happy and achieve and we see flaws in the system that prevents that. If that makes us weird maybe we are. I think it’s weird not to do something about a child’s unhappiness and failure to thrive. And did the kids turn out weird? Well, they seem to be doing okay. They have a wide circle of friends and busy social life. They are achieving what they want to achieve. They are confident and happy and know what they want to do. They function in the world and are independent and intelligent – but I would say that wouldn’t I!
So maybe the best way to measure it is by a remark made to my eldest when she was in work one day and one of her colleagues found out she was home educated. The response was; ‘Oh! You can’t tell’.
As my daughter said, I think that was meant as a compliment!
Ross Mountney http://rossmountney.wordpress.com