Despite appearances to the contrary, given that we home educate, I’m not actually anti school per se. I’m just not sure I can see the point of it. And I think that there are an awful lot of ppl with similar sneaky suspicions out there, who are using school and just wondering if…
So let’s break it down. School was designed on a factory model, in an industrial age. It took children in to keep them out of dangerous working conditions and equip them with basic skills, mainly so that they would be more productive factory workers.
The ppl who were destined to be the factory owners never went to those schools. Home education, I believe, is in some ways a by product of that exclusion – the clause was left in the law to allow the rich and powerful to continue educating their children as they saw fit with tutors and round the world trips.
So, you have a factory line model – take all the children in at one age, feed them all the same information, chuck them out at the other end. And no amount of tweaking, or individual progress plans, or special educational plans is going to get around the fact that this model just doesn’t work. Not for lots of children.
I’ve had conversations on twitter with ppl wondering how to help their gifted children who are bored in the school environment. They are going to be bored. It’s the way it is. Even if your school is the most flexible school in the world, the teaching model is still the basic sit down and listen to what I have to say, and with the greatest of respect for teachers, many of whom really do believe in what they are doing, sit down and listen isn’t a good style of learning.
Gifted children need to be able to follow their interests, and stretch their minds. Your gifted child could well be more gifted than the teacher they are faced with, and pushing at that teacher’s boundaries. My gifted child at home is doing that to me – but when it comes down to it, I find him the tools and step back. And it works, it really works.
I’ve had other conversations with ppl worrying about their children with special needs. School is equally bad at coping with those children. Those children need family environments, to learn from their parents and siblings, because that is how children are set up to learn. And time off for the parents is a different issue, one that society should be handling differently, not by expecting parents to shove their children in to school.
I saw a tweet yesterday that said something like I get really annoyed with ppl who say homeschooling(sic) is the answer to all problems, it isn’t for everyone. And I thought about that for a while. Home education as we call it in this country does present a lot of practical difficulties, not least the fact that one parent has to be at home and therefore not holding down a traditional 9 – 5 job. Makes it tough. But it can be done. And, again with the greatest respect, let’s turn it around.
What does school add to society? I keep being told children have to go to school to socialise, but that’s a complete red herring. Where else do you spend your day with just ppl the same age as yourself, from the same social background and living area? Nowhere, basically. So what transferable social skills are children learning from that? Um, none.
Is it important to be able to listen and follow instructions? Yes, sometimes, but it’s way more important to be able to figure things out for yourself. A varied education does that for you.
I think that the problem is our style of school tbh. I think there are other models that would work better, but it would require a brave, brave society who would make the change. You can’t just tweak it a little and hope it would work.
Montessori has a lot going for it, with truly child-led education, and mixed age learning groups. The directress doesn’t teach, she demonstrates, and it doesn’t depend on her own educational background for success, as long as she is following the methods correctly. That’s the flaw in Montessori tbh, it’s easy for it to fall down, if ppl don’t just follow the method.
So what I’d really like to see is schools as resource centres. Places equipped with books, computers, labs, gyms and with a list of experts that you could book time with. Not teachers, as you wouldn’t need teachers. I’d like them to be open to ppl of all ages who actually want to learn, and open pretty much round the clock to make them as flexible as society needs to be.
Think about it – as an adult, has there been anything you’ve needed to learn? Did it take you very long? I’m a programmer – my first computer language took me a year to learn at university. (Discounting the stuff I taught myself way back when, I was never expert then.) Once I got into the world of work, we were given training courses that lasted a week, and took us a lot further into the language. University was no more efficient than school. When you want/ need to learn something, you do it fast.
I’d like to see community resource centres that offered ppl the stuff they want and need. I’d like to see families clubbing together to look after children and offer education, like I see with the historyetc and latinetc days my home educating friends put on. I’d like to see skill shares going on more commonly, and communities actually working together.
School is often held up as being a centre of the community – I don’t see that. It’s very exclusive – Big has noticed that children at her guides/swimming/whatever tend to stick just with the children from their own school. So if you don’t go to one of those, you get left out. Great social skills being learnt there then 🙁 Have you *ever* popped in to a school fayre for a school that no one in your family used? Thought not. Really bringing the community together there then.
I’ve lots more I could say on this topic, and I probably will. But before I ramble on, I’d like to know what you think. Step out of your comfort zone, just for a second, and imagine if it schools could be different. Could be better. What would they look like? And what would society look like as a result?
If you want to read more about this sort of thing, I’d recommend starting with Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling for more about what school is really up to and some John Holt for alternatives that really do work.