Rites of Passage?
Can we consider the evolution of the current institutionalised education system as a replacement of traditional 'rites of passage' from childhood to adulthood. Before extensive global colonisation and migration over vast distances, with its effect of breaking down the extended family unit, the responsibility for the passage of the child into adulthood was the responsibility of the family, not the State. This also included the religious as well as the ordinary living experiences the child needed to acquire as growth progressed.
Rites of passage demonstrate characteristic patterns which have been documented (When Religion Goes to School, Habel, N & Moore, B)as follows:
If we take this point by point we can see that schooling does indeed constitute 'rites of passage for young people, and initiation into adult life lasting many years.
Young children are prepared for entry into the world of school by the family talking about and visiting the chosen school, by selecting and purchasing school specific items, such as lunch boxes, bags, new clothes and stationery. Children are encouraged to look forward to and desire this new phase in their life, seen as a necessary and important part of 'growing up'.
As children enter school-life they are provided with a teacher, or series of teachers to help them learn the lessons, and also cope with school life. In some schools counselors are appointed to help children adapt and adjust to school life, or at each new stage.
Special teachers or officers devise extensive curriculum designed to inform students about their world and instruct them with processes and skills to enable them to act effectively in their world. School life constitutes a series of experiences to be assimilated, and in this children often have to find their own way through the daily presentation of problems facing them. For many school students school is a hazardous place.
Children are required to wear school 'uniforms', the mark of initiates, and there is a constant call by society to enforce this 'rule'.
As children progress throughout their school years they are welcomed into each new stage, and ultimately at completion of school life are rewarded by ceremonies, certificates and celebrations.
At the end of it all, whether fifteen, eighteen, twenty-one years old or older, the end of the 'education' process allows for the adoption of an adult life-style, including the right to work for monetary reward and participate in society fully as voting citizens.
If society has replaced the traditional 'rites of passage' with schooling, what has this meant in terms of personal and familial responsibility, not to mention the effects on the spiritual dimension of existence? And what effect does it have on individual development? Rites of passage evolved over thousands of years. Schooling, on the massive scale which now exists, is a relatively recent development.
Are families who chose to home educate unknowingly reclaiming their right to follow the ancient, traditional path, marking out time honoured and proven rites of passage for their children? This is an interesting question, and one I believe deserves further study.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since 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. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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