Phew! Finally getting a moment to write a post! There has been a lot happening here, and I STILL can’t really say all of it yet!! I am sworn to a certain level of secrecy at the moment, and that may continue for a while. We have trialled a new medication for our son’s anxiety this last two weeks, and boy…what an amazing difference it’s made so far. OK, that’s all I can say for fear of saying too much 🙂 Back to my main post topic.
It has lately come to my attention that many people have different opinions about homeschooling. Well, der.. of course, that’s obvious! What’s not so obvious is that I have started realise that people don’t really seem to understand what their opinion is. I am getting some very conflicting points of view and often from the same people!
For example, I have started noticing that when people speak to my son (a very regular occurrence because he just talks to EVERYBODY!), they will often seek me out to chat to me and ask me questions. I have had several conversations that have gone like this lately. All with total strangers, and all after striking up conversations with my son.
Stranger: “Hi! Your son was just having a chat to me. He was telling me some very interesting things!”
Me: “Oh yes? Well he’s a very interesting little fellow!”
Stranger: “I was wondering why he isn’t in school today? Is he feeling sick?” – This is pretty obvious to me that they believe a child his age should be in school at that time of day, and they are trying to work out what my story is!
Me: “Oh, he’s homeschooled. He’s just on a break right now.”
Stranger: Often they’ll raise their eyebrows in surprise, look from my son to me, and you almost see the gears ticking in their heads… then to my surprise, they’ll say something along these lines…”Oh! I thought there must be something different about his education! He’s so incredibly articulate and polite! He speaks beautifully!”
I usually thank them politely and they often move on. This got me thinking though. It’s fairly widely frowned upon if you homeschool. Either you are a religious zealot who is trying to shelter your child from the evils of the world; you have something you need to hide and don’t want your child telling everyone all your family secrets or perhaps you have a deep and political/social mistrust of government, system and rules and want your child to benefit from your views.
With all those rather negative views in mind why then, do people unconsciously associate homeschooled children with being smart, articulate, polite and well educated? Yes, they also associate them with being naive and not having a larger understanding of the world, but actually that seems to take a back seat to the former. It doesn’t make a lot of logical sense does it.
My theory is that we, as a society don’t really think as hard about education as we could do. We are fairly lucky in Australia in that we have a reasonably good schooling system (when compared to other countries around the world in terms of safety, and freedom of choice, resources etc…I’m being fairly generalised here so don’t shoot me!), we enjoy the ability to choose whether we send our children to certain educational facilities and if we have enough money, that choice widens further.
Sadly, home education has suffered a bit of a bad reputation, and I’m inclined to blame a number of (being deliberately vague here..) political and religious parties for getting everyone to think that kids need to be herded into classrooms and made to follow a set of rules which may or may not work out for that child’s best interest intellectually.
Ok, so everyone blasts on about socialising kids and that teachers are trained to teach and we should therefore let them take our little people and mould them into good citizens. Fine…if your kid fits the bell curve. Fine…if what they are learning from their peer group is to be kind, respectful, understanding and tolerant. Unfortunately, in my experience, there are too many schools and communities, where those are not the things the kids are learning. They aren’t being taught that stuff by either their peer group, or their teachers.
Now, to cover my arse, I will specify that I’m talking about the schools I’ve either had personal experience with, or heard about from friends. There are bound to be many brilliant teachers, peer groups and school communities out there who are teaching the right things!
I guess what I am trying to say, is that schooling is a choice. The education that my son receives at home may well be better than the one he could receive at the local school, or at a $15,000 a year private school. While he’s small, I am getting to choose the people he hangs out with. I am careful to make sure he hangs out with different types of people from cultural backgrounds different to ours too. I am able to socialise him in appropriate ways, and teach him tolerance and how to deal with bad stuff in life in a constructive way.
There will be plenty of time for him to learn that kids can be mean. There will many opportunities for him to see hatred and racism, sexism and many other things in the world. Why would I want him to learn that stuff now? Why wouldn’t I want him to learn stuff the other way BEFORE some other group of seven year olds help him form other opinions on that stuff?
Just have a little think about what you really think about education. What do I REALLY think?
I think that education in a free and democratic society should be about choice. Not just choice for the parents, but for the kids too. Whatever form of education works to teach your kids the right lessons about life, and also all the good knowledge and skills they need to learn about whatever they are interested in, then that is the type of education they should be getting. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter to me where that education happens, as long as we as parents are mindful of what is being learnt and that we see it as a positive experience that will help our kids grow in all possible ways.