I always knew my children would not go to school. When my eldest was young , I wasn't sure what would happen but I just knew for certain he wouldn't go to school. I never really thought about homeschooling until he approached age 4 and everyone starting asking about it. That's when I really had to think about what to do. I dismissed the idea of homeschooling because the idea, at that time, was daft, however the idea kept returning and eventually I started researching homeschooling. To begin with I think I was looking for reasons why it wasn't a good idea. To my surprise the more I researched and spoke to people, the more I became convinced that it was a wise move.
I don't want to use this article as a chance to knock the education system. I went through it and so did most people I know, in addition most people's children are in this system too and I don't want to make anyone feel bad because I know everyone is doing their best and I respect that.
Having said that, I knew I had to do what I knew in my heart to be best for my child. I looked at schooling these days and I saw how much it has changed since I was at school. I may be wrong, however it seems to be more about passing tests, league tables and funding that it is about providing an education. I would hope that an education sparks a love of learning within a child so they want to learn during the school years and continue their whole life.
For my own children, I want to be sure their education inspires them, supports them in their interests and development and to teach them how to think (not necessarily what to think). It was also really important to me that my children receive an education that meets them on every level of their being, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I wanted to ensure they received an education that addresses their heads, their hands and their hearts.
I have been asked many times why I chose to homeschool. People's reactions are varied, what surprised me most is how supportive and understanding teachers and ex-teachers are. Not just one or two of them but lots of them. They come up with positive reasons to homeschool that I hadn't even thought of! They must know what they are talking about because they know the system really well.
What are they teaching in schools? I don't agree with a lot of the content and I don't believe the way it's taught is effective or enjoyable. Within a few years of being in school many children seem to lose that insatiable curiosity about the world, a curiosity that should be there for a lifetime.
What are they not teaching in schools? There is no help managing financial affairs or managing relationships, two areas many of us fail in so miserably. Maybe parents are responsible for these areas? I find it shocking that children are no longer taught music in schools. In most schools artistic expression is allowed for one or two hour lesson each week and it taught as a seperate lesson. Everything is taught as a seperate lesson and life isn't like that, it's integrated and to end up with healthy adults who are integrated they need to receive an education that is too.
In the past I wouldn't have considered myself artistic, however I have developed many artistic skills so that I can effectively teach and support my children through their education. It is important to me that their education has artistic expression throughout. Why? Artistic endeavours stimulate the right side of the brain. Most of the things children do in school stimulate the left side of the brain. To have a healthy, happy human being there needs balance between both hemispheres of the brain and an education that is creative and artistic will support this.
So much learning is done sitting at a desk. HUMANS DON'T LEARN WELL WHEN SITTING STILL. WE NEED TO MOVE AND USE OUR MUSCLES SO WE CAN REMEMBER THINGS EASILY. Sorry to shout but all this stuff is really clear when you start learning about child development. Children are not ready for academic work until the age of 7. Almost every basic study of child development will support this. So why do we send our children to school at age 5, sometimes 4 even? I read an interview with a teacher in one of the broadsheets a few years ago. The teacher had a class of 5 year olds. In the interview she said she spent most of her time trying to get the children to just sit still. Well, that's because they are not supposed to. Children are still developing their physcial body up until the age 7 and to divert their focus to learning is depriving them of building a strong physcial body. Boys especially have a hard time sitting down quietly and holding a pencil to write. They are still developing their gross motor skills and need to be moving frequently and yes, given the chance and space to make a lot of noise. By pushing them into early learning we are crushing their interest in learning and we will crush a part of them as they lose confidence in themselves when they are not easily able to do what the teacher asks them do. In various European countries formal learning does not begin until age 7 and many studies will show that this in no way hinders their long term achievements. If anything, children who begin academics later do better because they are ready for it and it comes naturally to them. (I saw several reports this week about 20% of boys in US are diagnosed with ADHD... I believe they are just healthy young boys. It's the problems with the education system they are in that needs addressing, not them and they certainly do no need filling up with drugs to make them more subdued!)
I find it bizarre that children are removed from society and lumped in a setting together. There is limited opportunity to learn from elders and to be a guide to those younger. There is often 30 pupils in a class. How can a teacher possibly meet the needs of that many young children? One of the many benefits of homeschooling include knowing the child really well, knowing how they learn, what brings out the best in them and what they are interested in. Most people I have spoken to about this have agreed that they did best in those subjects where they had a good relationship with the teacher. They wanted to excel to please and bond with the teacher. Having a parent as a teacher means you probably have one of your biggest fans guiding you through your education. We have a plan in place and follow a chosen curriculum, however if my child shows a strong interest in something, I incorporate it into his studies. It's amazing to see how much he absorbs when he is interested and excited about something. I guess we are all like that so it makes sense.
One of the biggest reasons we homeschool is because I believe in family. I didn't have children so that when they got to 3, 4 or 5 years old I hand them over to someone else to educate/programme/mould. When I had my children I realised I was the best person to guide them through to adulthood. I know them and I love them and I see it as my duty, my job to provide them with the best education available to them. If their needs change and they need more than I can provide I will find the relevant, qualified people to help them.
I am taking it step by step, term by term, year by year. If at any time things are not going well I will consider sending my children to school. Homeschooling has to work for everyone involved and there may come a time when we want to end homeschooling but for now, I have real trust that we are doing the best thing.
I said I wouldn't knock the education system and I guess I have, sorry. I don't have it all worked out yet, but I am striving, genuinely. It's a beautiful world, I really believe that. I also feel that many of our systems are not working anymore and instead contributing to the mess I believe society is in. Many families are broken, many people are broken and spirits are broken, or worse, not even acknowledged as existing. We are all in this together and I don't blame any system or person, I don't put blame anywhere. I do however hope people begin wanting better lives and systems for themselves and their children. When enough people demand it, things will change. Many blessings to you and your family, Carole
John Taylor Gatto is an American school teacher with 30 years of experience teaching. If you have time please read the following text of a speech John Gatto accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990