Why Home Education: Our Reasons
I am often asked this question. It isn't an easy one to answer, and as time passes the reasons become more numerous! Generally most people really only want to hear the historical reasons - why did we start 'teaching' our children at home? It is a long story.....
In 1985 we opened our eyes and looked about us for the first time. We became paranoid with fear, nuclear arms fear, fear for our children's future living in a polluted, violent world. At twenty eight years of age we had finally become aware! And frightened. We looked for alternatives. Alternative lifestyles. Conscious, life affirming attitudes and decisions.
In a cloud of idealism we listened to the 'prophets' (the authors of the dozens of books I read), and the 'gurus' (those that went down this path before us) and then made our 'informed' decisions (how little we knew....). Instincts also led the way (luckily).
We found permaculture at the same time as natural learning and home education. It is interesting that the choice to educate our children at home is a vehicle for supporting both philosophies. This included convergent attitudes and values about the environment, conservation, health, and just about everything else!
However, you really want the truth, don't you? Not this philosophical rambling, but the plain old, practical truth...
We were running a weekend business, and if April, our then five year old, went to school, we wouldn't see much of her. We couldn't bear to be separated for the six hours a day school would steal her away from us. And I was pregnant with Thomas, our third child, due to be born just weeks before her sixth birthday. Who would send a young child to school for the first time, only a few weeks after the birth of a sibling? The psychological repercussions of being 'replaced' would reverberate throughout her childhood and adolescent years...perhaps never to heal. We couldn't do that.
But that isn't the whole truth. Not yet. There's more. We loved our daughter too much to share her. We needed, with a burning instinct, unrecognised at that stage, to protect her. We desperately needed to be a part of her growth and development at every stage. We needed contact with her to help us grow and develop, not only as parents, but also as people...
Okay, okay! I hear you - this is yet still more rambling. There has to be a more down to earth reason... and there is. Perhaps this is finally the real truth...
I am a closet teacher. If I hadn't failed Matriculation I might have gone to teacher's college..... Boy, am I glad I failed! Early in adult life I quickly realised I didn't have the patience to 'teach' a classroom of children, and began doubting my ability to cope with future parenting! Nature has a way of determining these things though, and soon enough I was happily parenting two lovely children, with one on the way. Breastfeeding and Nursing Mothers, family day care provider, playgroup coordinator, active kindy parent.... those years were busy. A steady progression of 'on the job training' - getting ready for my, as yet undreamed of, role as home school 'teacher'.
It took years for me to stop playing teacher.... Thomas finally taught me how, but by then April had chosen to go to high school part-time, and finally full-time, at year 11 level. I am a slow learner. It took an adamant and uncompromising natural learner like Thomas to show me how learning really occurs. Even John Holt couldn't convince me. I needed to see with my own eyes....
That sounded real. Good, the final truth. But it isn't. I have found that there are many reasons for home education, on many levels. Some you don't know about until years later. I have dozens, but the one that explains it best of all is very personal. I am a rebel. A black sheep masquerading under a snowy, quiet and amiable exterior. Outwardly I appear to conform, but inwardly, in private, I search for conflict. For conflict is where chaos reigns and chaos leads to evolution, constant flux and change, the place where adaptation reigns supreme. The place where new learnings hide waiting for discovery.
My brain yearns for excitement, for the thrill of the chase as I prey upon these new learnings.... I will not patiently sit, accepting what is before me. No! There is more! I have an unquenchable thirst to search for meaning, meaning in life, meaning in actions. I constantly ask 'why?', 'why does it have to be so', 'why not different', 'what is the best way', 'where is the most energy efficient method'? I am a child of nature, and 'school' doesn't support my ways, my questions, my life's quest for meaning. It is too conservative for a rebel like me, thriving on the edge of evolution.
So, in essence, my kids were doomed from birth. By selecting me as a parent they were, in effect, denying themselves the opportunity to live peacefully as sheep, in the school paddock, conforming happily. Even April questions the 'wisdom' of the school ways....and rebels in her quiet but persistent way....
Home education is a way of life that can't be denied. It is incredibly empowering. It offers the opportunity to grow in very liberating ways. It offers opportunities for true democracy. It demands personal responsibility. By choosing to take full responsibility for all of my children's education, not choosing to delegate sections of it to others, I am challenged to question all of my values, attitudes and beliefs. I cannot be complacent. I need to grow and change with the world around me. I am a full time learner!
This sounds so good, so nice, so... Unreal. Well, the truth is there are many days that I'd like my children to go to school, conform to peer pressure and behaviour and the gross waste of a consumerist system.... There are days when I really want to quit. Days when I want to go back to school myself, and have someone else be responsible for me, and organise my day! Luckily, my children keep me on the straight and narrow, demanding I pay attention to their needs, their quest for learning, their own inimitable styles, reminding me of the quality to be found in a truly individualised learning environment.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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