Well I wouldn’t actually!
Staying home and ‘schooling’ my children would be worse than sending them to school! What I’m doing is providing my children with choices. You see a long long time ago a little 4 year old girl got disgusted with being treated as though she was a fool! Being told to stop reading so much, watching other little children being sent back out into the rain after coming to school late, just to get a ‘late note’, listening to peaceful happy children become bossy as they imitated the teachers, well that little 4 year old girl just got more and more angry!
But she had a choice. At first she chose to change the teachers and let them know what they were doing wasn’t right. Of course this didn’t go down well. There was a very sympathetic Librarian who cried over this little girl and told me she was a ‘heroine’ of hers and inspired her to remember what it was like to be a child.
Next the exceedingly grumpy now 5 year old became just like the other children and changed who she was in order to fit in. This was followed by a distraught 5 year old who realised that she was being nasty to her little brother and mother, who she loved very much… but she was free to make new choices.
We knew people who went to other schools, but they had the same problems that she en-counted; parents not comforting upset children once on school property, teachers yelling commands and ushering children like cattle, children being told to stop learning so that the class could do the same things at the same time and move on to the next activity, and the next and the next etc. There was no going back to the Montessori preschool to do extended day… and the regret of choosing Kindergarten was deep.
But the little girl had another choice…
Now, you may think that children need to ‘adjust’ to school life. If she kept with it she would get used to it and learn to fit in. You may even think that if she was older she wouldn’t have reacted this way.
So we did a bit of ‘school at home’ but she was a child who wanted to learn, she didn’t want to be told what to learn! But wanting to learn wasn’t enough… she had ‘lost’ her ability to self educate. She had been programmed to follow orders, not to generate her own ideas. Not being able to be told what to learn and not being able to decide what to learn herself meant that NO learning was happening. From being a four year old child who could read a newspaper she was going BACKWARDS fast! What a horrible catch 22 she was in! We HAD to de-school her! We found a ‘Montessori like school’ but the teacher lost his smiles once the parents left and he often yelled, was frightening and the materials were not presented correctly because no one had the proper training. So we had to school at home again…
Eventually we got into a really good rhythm… learning went from forced to spontaneous and we began introducing much loved Montessori materials, which I was trained in presenting.
The once 5 year old turned 7. You might say well that’s great, but don’t turn your back on schools! What about socialisation?
Through the broad range of home educating families we were developing a network of playdates and playmates for her, her younger brother and her mum! Together there were some 25 people we had regular contact with. Four of those children she had known through the Montessori preschool and one of those was starting at a local school after home educating for some time. The school would hopefully start a Montessori Class! 1 year of normal class then onto a Montessori class WITH her best mate! Too good to be true. It was not without risk. If the class didn’t go ahead at the end of the year would she stay at school? Would she go back to home education and have to become an independent learner all over again? What about Socialisation? She had SO MANY friends that she would hardly see and her memories of children being bossy in schools was still there.
We found out the best friend was moving and the Montessori class would never begin. After such a negative memory of schools we discussed the pros and cons and then she made her choice.
For a year she went to school. She turned 8. She was often frustrated with the fickle nature of friendships made and broken over slights and misunderstandings. She was also frustrated over the immature nature of the children, perpetuated by teachers who made choices over what the children learnt, when and for how long. Programs that sounded exciting were segregated up according to age so that some children played drums for the whole year of performing arts while others got more varied instruments.
Scientific experiments while exciting were rare and given as a display… too many children for each to have a go… easier for no-one to have a go.
I never chose for my daughter to stay home and be schooled. I never chose for her to not go to school. I chose to respect that it was my own choice to have my two children so my life must be about honouring their lives: To be the mother they need and want, to be loving, responsible, kind, caring and courageous for them.
Both of my children have now chosen NOT to attend a school. They will always be free to change their minds but their minds are currently fixed. They have several reasons for this, here are a few.
- They want to learn and you don’t get as much time to learn what you are interested in in a classroom
- Teachers always tell you how to behave but people know how to behave when they are with their friends and family… you learn manners from each other and it’s more gentle for young children then being yelled at.
- Children who don’t go to school get more time to be out and about and learn how to be part of the community. We get time to talk about lots of stuff with heaps of people; in shops, at parks, with friends and their parents and their brothers and sisters. You get to talk more and it helps you to grow to be more aware of other people’s thoughts and feelings
- If you really want to lean something you can learn it right away. It’s easier to learn things when you are interested in it. At school you have to learn what the teacher wants you to know and everyone is hurrying up to be the fastest one finished the work. It’s not really as good for learning.
- When you learn something and understand it you can use it right away, like maths or knowing how to spell a word. At school you have to do the same work over and over again and you end up getting bored of it. Also you can forget to use it in real life. It’s much better to learn how to do something and then just use it! Worksheets with the same questions on them are not as good as learning it in real life.
So I set up a learning space in the house, use some common values that we have discussed together and agreed upon, organise for sports, science, art, music, nature, playdates, excursions, library visits and other outside the home activities, spend time with them discussing what they are interested in and supporting them in every way I can. I read the board of studies requirements and observe that they naturally learn most of it themselves! When they don’t I point out what still needs to be covered and we discuss the subject, Google for information, a game or what other relevant and interesting way to learn that information or skill and then they have finished what ‘the other children are doing in schools’… well what subjects they cover. Usually it takes about a third of one year to do a whole years work learning this way. Still they are attentive to learning on average 45 hours per week, although they are required to only do 25 hours. Apparently in schools children have on average 90 minutes of quality learning per day…
It’s not stressful, it’s a privilege that they want me to be part of their lives and this time moves fast. To watch them learn everyday and become more confident, willing and able to be themselves is nothing short of amazing! I mean, I chose to have them but they choose to love me and all because I respect them and put their needs in the forefront of my choices. I don’t ‘homeschool’ them… I house their bodies but not their minds! They are self educating beings driven by their own curiosity and passions. My dd is obsessed with reading and science and my ds loves to create buildings, machines and factories in his mind, on paper, on the computer, with lego, with math materials… with the cat if he stays still long enough!
They are learning from within themselves that their desire to learn has a theme and they match that theme to the world around them, bringing their imagination to it, watching how others have created and discovered ideas and solutions; learning about scientists, architects, authors and engineers. They learn about the childhood’s of these creators, what they thought about and felt, what other things they were interested in and how their life’s work made a difference to others. They know that a small child playing with crayons can be the making of a designer, a small scale home movie can teach you something, just be a fun activity, can entertain others or be be a Tropfest junior entry!
No… I don’t see why ANYONE would ‘homeschool’ either! Keeping them indoors and making them do worksheets from 9-3? Actually… I don’t know anyone who DOES do that!