There has been a sharp rise in the number of home educating families recently, as much as sixty five percent in the last six years. The recent debate over the SATs testing and its detrimental effect on children and their learning has prompted a further increase; the resulting media coverage raised awareness and prompted more parents to choose this alternative to the test obsessed route through school.
An informative article in the press reported one parent, a former teacher, who found that teaching left her disillusioned and destroyed her belief in what she’d once thought was a good system, whereas home educating has been a much more uplifting experience that has reignited her own interest in learning as well as the children’s.
This is the case for many parents. But most parents who choose to home school do not come from a teaching background. And some ask how then could these parents possibly ‘teach’ their children at home.
This question arises from an assumption about learning itself; the traditional view of school based learning that always requires the teaching we’re all familiar with.
It goes back in history such a long way that it’s easy to forget that teaching was needed then because it was the only way anyone could access information and academic skills, and teachers were often the only ones in poorer communities who could read.
In our modern, info rich and accessible culture, where everything we need to know is available online it is now completely different. The information is all there for anyone to access, as long as you have the skills and facilities to do so and even those are available in libraries. So the content once denied to some who would never be able to reach it, is there for the taking.
And it is not just information that is accessible. There are networks for support, for social interaction, for teaching and tutoring, there are films and tutorials and academic resources. And forums where it’s possible to ask questions, raise concerns and find a diverse range of advice and support about almost any subject.
With this rich treasure trove of help and connection more and more parents feel confident in facilitating their child’s education without them going to school.
But something else that’s impacted on parents choosing home education is a different view of learning that is becoming more widely accepted as those already home educating document their experiences in their personal blogs.
It is becoming apparent that children can and do learn for themselves. They don’t always need the type of teaching we’d always formerly associated with learning success. Given the access to content and resources, young people can adopt an approach to their own learning which we’d usually associate with older students. They can manage their learning by themselves and many prove able to do so.
Instead of teaching the parent becomes a facilitator, guide and mentor, supporter and sometimes motivator! But it’s not often the case that the child sits and listens and the parent teaches, for traditional teaching is not the only approach to learning. And this is how families are able to facilitate their child’s education without being teachers.
Other teachers, tutors and professionals may become part of this education, especially later when the young people are studying for structured academic outcomes and the subject matter is complex. Some undertake this in colleges or Unis.
But most home educated children attain a good standard of education without the traditional teaching we’ve come to understand as the only way to learn.