The subject of home education has been in the news again recently with the decision of the actress Emma Thompson to educate her daughter out of school.
Gaia has been withdrawn from school at 15 to continue her study at home because she doesn’t like the ‘sausage factory of formal education’ her father Greg Wise told the Telegraph.
Their approach may differ from the majority of home educating families in that the family have built a ‘classroom’ at the bottom of the garden and will employ a tutor to help her study. But their common concerns for the welfare and education of their daughter, who feels school ‘wasn’t for her’, will be familiar to most parents who also choose to educate without school.
He also aired another common view among home schoolers that education requires a far more flexible approach than the prescribed one on offer in schools to accommodate the changing nature of jobs, career and contemporary life.
In her programme on BBC radio (2:07:21) Vanessa Feltz also touched on the subject. But as with most other media coverage on home education she had little understanding and illustrated the many misconceptions still surrounding it. Namely that:
- Children always need teachers to learn. Not true; they can learn for themselves with guidance and support and sometimes teaching gets in the way;
- Children only learn how to be sociable by being in school. Unrealistic – in reality children learn social skills from being in a wide range of social circumstances not just those restricted to their peer groups.
- Children only become educated through a structured curriculum and assessment. Also untrue – they can also learn in an unstructured, or interest led, untested, autonomous way, through a variety of resources and techniques, conversation and demonstration being part of them;
- Schooling is the most effective approach to learning. Wrong – it is one approach and young people can and do learn through a multitude of other approaches many of which do not reflect ‘schooling’ at all;
- Children who don’t go to school will appear weird. Not at all – once out in the adult world home educated young people appear no different to anyone else, are living productive and ‘normal’ lives, and have the same social skills and friendship groups as anyone.
Although it is good to see home education being mentioned in the media and awareness raised for those parents and children whose needs are not met by school, it would be more helpful if the misconceptions surrounding it were overcome and people began to understand that families who home educate are as ‘normal’ as any others, with all the normal concerns about their child’s progress and wellbeing.
Most parents have reservations and complaints about their child’s education. Home educators are the same; it’s just that they take steps to change it.