The Whys and Wherefores of School At Home.

School at home - coloured alphabet letters pinned on to string.

We are currently in a bit of a ‘process’.  As you already know, we home school our kids.  Up until recently, that has pretty much looked like ‘school at home’.

Obviously there are different philosophies when it comes to home educating, and different approaches to actually doing it.

There are unschoolers, who do not have set study, but who believe that children through life, and that they learn best when they are interested in the subject matter, and so their learning is child-led.

There are those who do a formal version of ‘school at home’, still working with the National Curriculum, and still working towards whatever exams the students take in their particular country.

And then there is everything in between.

We were in between, but I’m not really sure what we are any more.

I’ve got to be honest; we have been internally swayed from one end of the spectrum to the other over the years that we have been doing this.  Not that what the kids are doing has changed that much, but we have read about all the different approaches, and why each one works best, and the arguments for both sound great.  So what is a parent to do?

Well, I guess what we need to look at first, are our goals for our kids.  What do they actually need to know?  And on the other hand, what do they learn at school that is actually pretty useless?

From my own perspective, and that of my husband, neither of us have used anything we learned at school, out here in the real world, with the exception of three things: reading, writing and basic math.

I have not used anything that I learned in Geography.

I vaguely remember from History that the date 1066 is a well-known one, and that at some point the Magna Carta was signed, though this is perhaps only of interest if your schooling took place in the UK.

I enjoyed learning French and German, and I loved Biology, but have never used them since being at school.

I did learn how to regurgitate facts for exams; facts that I would forget the day after the exam, and which I would never use, ever again.

Another really important thing I learned from my school experience, is that forced association with classmates, is not the same thing as socialisation.

I also discovered that being myself was just not acceptable, and so I tried really hard to be what I thought others wanted me to be.  That didn’t work out really well, either.

Other important things that school did not teach me are these:  I did not learn how to budget, how to run my own business, how to think creatively and look for solutions.

I did not learn to be definite about what I wanted in life, or how to go about achieving that.

School did not teach me how to be self-disciplined; or that thought patterns and habits become fixed, and therefore to develop good habits that lead to independent thought while I was still young.

I did not learn to look for good in difficult situations, or learn to find that teeny seed of benefit that comes in each setback that we endure.

Another thing I did not learn, was to express my own thoughts fearlessly and to decide for myself whether to accept or reject the ideas of others.

I was not taught how ridiculous it is to believe a thing merely because a teacher tells me it is so.

I wasn’t taught that my only real limitations are those that I set up in my own mind.

And I did not learn to be true to myself, and find out that you can’t please everybody all of the time.

I also did not start to find out who I was as a person, and what my real passions were, until I hit about the age of 30.

So…here’s where we are as a family right now:

My 10-year old is currently half way through Grade 7 math, and my 8-yr old is a couple of topics into Grade 7.  Unless they go on to a career in engineering, or science, or something where they need more advanced math, I’d say they have already learned everything they’ll ever use in everyday life.  In fact, they probably learned all that at least a year ago.

So here’s the question: will my son learn the more difficult math better if I keep on pushing him through it, or will he learn it better if it’s something he’s motivated to learn because he wants a career in engineering or something math related?

Is it best to push him onwards, or to let him find out for himself where his interests lie?

If he is allowed to find out who he is as a person, and what his passions are, then he himself will be able to discover what path he needs to take in order to achieve his dreams.

Will that make him more motivated than if I push him to study something he’s not interested in?  For sure.

Actually, I guess I’m preaching to myself here.

I see the total senselessness of forcing children to memorize things they have zero interest in, and will never use again.

And I see the total obviousness of letting them discover their dreams and passions, and letting them throw themselves into that with all their hearts.

One approach will create a robot, and the other will produce a creative, passionate, motivated human being.

One approach will create a nagging parent/child dynamic, and the other will create a loving, nurturing environment where we are all excited about learning, and where we as parents become facilitators instead of dictators.

I think I know which direction we are headed in.  We can at least give it a year, and the kids will still be ahead if it doesn’t work out.

Thank goodness for school???

I have five kids who I home school along with my husband.  There’s one thing I’ve noticed time and time again.  I hear it on the radio and I hear it from people I meet.

“Thank God the holidays are over and the kids are back at school.”

Or, “Can’t wait for the break to be over.  The kids are driving me nuts.”

And you know what?  That makes me sad.

I dunno, maybe people are just disappointed and feel let down with their whole parenting experience.  Maybe they feel that these so called ‘joys’ of parenting are not what they signed up for.  Maybe they feel that they no longer have an identity of their own, but are just ‘Johnny’s mum’ to everyone else.  I totally get it.

I read a post the other day which gave a list of reasons the mother was happy that she sent her kids to daycare.  And I couldn’t agree with a single one of them.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I do see that in fact, my house would be tidier if my kids went to school and daycare.  I do see that they would come home tired, and that I would only have to look after them for an hour or two before dinner, bath and bed.  I do see that I would have plenty of ‘me’ time, and I might even be able to get a job all of my own.

But is that why I had children?  Just to pack them off to daycare?  To let someone else raise them for me?  Because make no mistake, that is what’s happening.  Why create these beautiful little people if all you want to do is get rid of them, or park them in front of the TV to keep them quiet?

None of that is for me.

I want to enjoy my kids.   I want to experience life with them, alongside them; I want to travel with them and see the world.  I want them to know themselves, and to fly and soar.  And I would love for them to want to hang out with me and my husband when they are older and we are old.  I want to bring them up, not their school teachers, their peers or the TV.  And the way I see it, is that I’m not babysitting children; I’m raising adults and I need to parent as such.

We have chosen to home school our kids for many reasons.  One of the most important things to us, is having flexibility.  We like to travel.  A lot.  And it’s far easier for school to come with us, than it is to pull the kids out of school (even if we would be allowed to do so).

We want to teach our kids a variety of things, and we want them not only to read about different cultures, but also to experience those cultures for themselves.  We want to teach them how to run a business, how to be problem solvers who are not daunted by anything, but who believe they will find a way.  And aside from all this, we just love spending time with these wonderful small people, who won’t be small for very long.  We want to spend time with them while they still want us around, and we want to cherish and share with them their triumphs and joys, and be with them in their sorrows and disasters.

We are a family, and we want to live, love, laugh and learn as a family unit.  Yes, there are the usual trials and tribulations, and a healthy dose of selective hearing going on, but it is worth it.  There are the times when after repeating myself fifteen times, or mopping up spilled drinks for the umpteenth time that day, or when my laundry is piled to the ceiling, that I feel like tearing my hair out.  But…they are so worth all of the little annoyances.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I can always have a pristine looking show home, and a manageable laundry pile once they move out.

At the end of my life, when I look back, I will want to see a life filled with meaning.  I won’t care that I spent all my hours working for a difficult boss, or travelling the world by myself.  I will care that I nurtured and raised 5 decent human beings, and that I gave them a good start in life.  I will care that my husband and I became the best people we could be, and I will see all the sharp corners that got rubbed off us, because of these children being part of our lives.  I will see how much I loved them, and how much they filled my life with love, and I will know that I’ve lived a life worth remembering, a life of meaning; one with far more meaning than if I had chosen a career or anything else over them.  My husband and I will have been responsible for how five members of the next generation turned out, and that in turn will be passed on to their children.  Surely that is worth some gritting of teeth and pulling of hair now and then?