Homeschooling Using Distance Education
by Beverley Paine
Distance education is school delivered by the post or on the screen - but concentrated! In a classroom the teacher spends time (not enough!) talking to the children, explaining things and children work together - there is considerable social learning occurring. This is an efficient, though hard to monitor and record, way of learning. Distance education makes up for this by throwing more paper or online screen work at children: more reading and writing. And that takes a lot more time and is way more tedious than talking to the teacher or working through the content in the classroom.
Teaching face to face covers more ground more quickly and efficiently than delivering by distance education (even if there is an audio/video component to the lessons). Technology is still very clunky and can't provide the kind of feedback necessary for the teacher to fine tune the lesson, so the lesson needs to compensate and be incredibly comprehensive. Children who do distance education actually end up spending considerably more time learning the same thing as their classroom peers. And if they aren't visual learners... a lot longer!
Pre-teen children tend to be active learners - they need action. Sitting and reading and writing and thinking aren't active enough. Learning is a whole of body thing, not something simply done in the head. Our bodies have to move for us to make those connections so necessary for holistic development. A few children thrive on distance education but that is because it is a perfect match for their learning styles and preferences, but I contest that these children are a minority. Most children learn when offered a range of activities that include play, creation, construction, and movement.
Distance education can be a useful transition tool from school to homeschool. Rather than considering it as the children's education, think of it as a learning tool, a resource, something you are using to help your children learn what they need to learn. This might help you to feel comfortable with the fact that they might not always meet the deadlines and schedules set up by the distance education teacher or classroom. We use tools when we need them for specific purposes. On our terms. It may be difficult to get over the feeling that we're doing something 'wrong' if we're not using the tools the way other people want or demand us to use them, especially if they resort to emotional blackmail to coerce us to use them in the way they want!
Over time, as confidence as home educators grow, we realise that are children are learning and learning efficiently and learning a range of things they aren't being taught or are not covered in the curriculum and carefully planned activities. Life learning sneaks into our home education routines and gradually become a major part. We find our own rhythm and structure that meets our family's need. That may incorporate structured lessons, either delivered by distance education, a homeschool curriculum package, using a range of school resources, community resources and more.
We don't need to jump when or just because other people say jump. We can take back the power they seek to remove from us and have traditionally removed from us. We have the ability and can dictate the terms upon which we will use the tools we choose to use to home educate our children.
Ultimately the providers of distance education to children want the same thing as we, the parents of those children, do: a comprehensive education. It's not our fault if they can't deliver it to our children in a way that meets our children's individual learning needs - it is their fault. Their inflexibility is their problem, not yours, not your child's. They are failing to educate your child, your child isn't failing to be educated.
Take what you can use and what does work from distance education providers and leave the rest. They might give your child a 'fail grade' for an assignment, a chapter, a subject, a year in their eyes, but basically they are failing your child, your child isn't failing.
If all parents enrolled in such programs did this, little by little, distance education might progress and reform, become better tailored to the real learning needs of students. Distance education isn't holistic and doesn't cater to the range of learning styles. It works best when parents pick up the short fall and offer a range of activities to help their children learn. Yes, this is extra work for the parent but it is definitely worth while and helps to build confidence as a home educator, eventually building to a point where you can let go of the need to be attached to the distance education provider (if that's an option).
See also the list of Australian Distance Education Providers
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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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