Some call it home educating or homeschooling, others call it unschooling, freeschooling and flexischooling. Whatever term you prefer, it’s the process of providing an education to your child predominantly in the home environment, rather than sending them to a school.
We invited home educator, Emily, to tell us in her own words about why and how she home educates as well as addressing some of the stigmas associated with it.
“Put simply, my partner and I choose to home educate because we feel we are the best suited people to provide for our children’s needs, particularly in the early years.
While I’m not anti-school, my own experience at school as well as talking to friends and teachers suggested to me that these environments are not fully equipped to cope with individual needs, particularly given class sizes and the time pressures of the school day.
When we first started thinking about home education and began our research, we took inspiration from the Swedish education model, where children do not attend school until they are seven years old. We began to explore the idea that many learning opportunities exist within the home environment to provide a good education, as well as outside of the home where we intended to engage in as many exciting vibrant activities as we could manage as a family during our children’s early years.
As a home education family, we attend groups on a regular basis, attend athletics classes, rugby, dancing, drama and singing groups. At home we stage puppet shows, cook, bake, run science experiments and tap into Open University resources wherever possible. We are not wedded to the curriculum, and place a greater emphasis on being led by our son’s own curiorisity and interests. For me, this is a more natural and organic method of educating. A walk in the woods, for example, will throw up opportunities to identify plants, trees and bugs, which, in turn, will lead to exploring questions around life cycles, the weather and geography.
If I don’t know the answer to a question, we go home and look these up together, which will then often provide the inspiration for our next project. In this way, we can satisfy our child’s thirst for knowledge and cover topics and ground efficiently and quickly. In this way, we can remain flexible and keep things vibrant, exciting and rewarding without forcing our child sit down and learn something he may not find interesting at that particular moment.
Home education is not something to take on lightly; it is a huge responsibility and commitment. By and large people respond very positively when they hear that I choose to home educate, but there is a huge stigma attached to the idea of home education. The main criticism is that a home educated child will lack social skills. This seems to come from the idea that a class of thirty children of identical age will provide the optimal social environment. However, home education does not happen in an isolated bubble. When you go shopping with your child, they will chat to people they meet. At an education centre or a museum, your child may ask questions and engage with others. These are all forms of socialisation. The forced association of a school classroom does not equate to socialisation.
Recent studies into the socialisation of home educated versus school educated individuals suggests that, on a daily basis, a home ed child comes into contact with a greater variety of people of different ages, gender and social background than their school educated peers, and that home educated children have greater developed social skills.
Neither do home educated children fall behind. A home educated child of a family friend of mine is currently studying for their degree at Oxford and plenty of well known figures like Einstein, CS Lewis, Condoleeza Rice and Thomas Addison were all home educated.
For me and my family, home education gives us the opportunity to respond to our children’s needs as we go, while always keeping an open mind to new opportunities and the idea that they may enter the state system if they choose to or if we see fit. Through this whole process, we hope to lay a foundation for our children that will help them achieve emotional stability and maturity as well as a sense of raw individuality, that they may move forward in life with a sense of who they are, what they enjoy and who they are meant to become, without that being tampered with by a system that may not cater for true individuality.