Why is school normal?

Often, when parents of schooled children find out we home educate, the very first question they ask is ‘what made you choose to home educate?’, and I usually bite my tongue, but think to myself ‘what made you choose school?’.

We allow our babies the time to find their hands and feet, to harness the drive that makes them crawl and walk, to master their first word, and then suddenly the only way they can learn anything is to be taught by a teacher?  Yet children have an innate need to learn. They learn by observing, and listening to the world around them, they learn by copying their caregivers and their peers, they learn because they want to learn. They do not need to be lectured, they do it themselves, just try and stop them!

Obviously, school is the way we educate children en-masse. It’s the most common choice. It’s the path most families go down, without even questioning it. It’s the ‘default’. But why?

The schooling that we think of today is a relatively new concept, and started for ‘ordinary’ people at about the time of the industrial revolution (1760) and it hasn’t changed all that much since. It was there that children were grouped into classes of children their own age. It was there that they were expected to learn standardised information all at the same rate. It was there that they learned to do as they were told, and stop thinking creatively. It was there that play had to take a back seat to academic subjects. It was there that they spent the majority of their week, allowing for their parents to work too. It was there that they were moulded and shaped into docile, obedient factory workers for the jobs that awaited them once they finished school.

Except those jobs scarcely exist anymore. In addition, many parents today are waking up to the idea that maybe mass schooling is not the best way to prepare their children for the life that they will lead, for the jobs that haven’t yet been dreamt up. Technology is advancing at such a rate that we cannot say with certainty what our children will be doing as adults. So, we desperately need them to hold on to that creativity, become confident, free-thinking, resilient leaders, rather than followers.

Many very successful people have been through the school system, but is their success because of the school system, or despite it? Don’t get me wrong, school is not bad, per se. Many children thrive in the school system, and follow along the curriculum happily at the rate that the teachers expect. Most children will leave school with a handful of exam results allowing them to attend college or university, or to go off into the world of work. But for some children, it really doesn’t work. Children don’t naturally learn all at the same time, they lag behind in some things and catch up, they excel at other things, and it usually all balances out in the end, given time.

But more and more parents are realising that they actually have the resources to go another way. They can offer their child a flexible, handpicked curriculum which values the creative arts as much as mathematics. They can have the time to find their children’s strengths and build on them, and the time for the child to come to writing when they’re ready to. They can have the freedom to truly bask in the glory of nature and the wonder of the world around us.  Home education is a truly magical gift that many of us have the capability to give to ourselves and our children.

So I’m still thinking on an answer to the question, ‘what made you choose to home educate?’

But the best I can do for now is, ‘for the freedom’.

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