I’m asking this because of a comment someone made to me recently;

“We met some home schooled kids the other day…they seemed so clever”. It was the surprise in their voice that was amusing. Because they’d clearly made the common, but wrong, assumptions that;

You can’t be clever without going to school. And home schoolers are bound to be weird, not clever.

Since we home educated, and had contact with many others doing the same (now thousands in the UK alone), I thought I’d put the facts straight.

To start with, far from being weird most home educating parents are dead ordinary, so are the kids. They are exactly like all parents in that they want their child to be happy, to achieve, to have their intelligence encouraged and nurtured towards leading a fulfilling and productive life.

Isn’t that what all ordinary parents want?

It’s just that instead of moaning about all the things wrong with the school, the system and the teachers, these parents have decided to do something about it and take the legal option of educating their child out of school.

But in all other respects home schoolers are quite ordinary. Admittedly, there are some extremists – religious, academics, hippies, controllists, neurotics and can’t-be-bothereds. But you find a small selection of those in all walks of society whether school using or not. That’s just the nature of societies. Most of the home educating parents we know are just ordinary people wanting the best for their kids.

And what’s ‘cleverness’ anyway? And how do you develop it?

In this context, I guess we’re taking ‘clever’ to mean ‘educated’.

Children may appear to be clever, or educated, when they obediently learn the stuff and get the grades in the way school expects them to. But some Unis and employers are complaining that although the youngsters come with the A’s, they lack other skills needed for ongoing education or work. Skills like self-motivation, initiative, thinking skills, problem solving skills, etc. They can tick multiple choice boxes but can’t come up with ideas, or solutions, when things don’t fit the box. They’re great when they’re told what to do but lack initiative when they’re not. They might have written a great CV but have nothing to say in interview.

It is these kinds of skills that really make young people educated. A range of personal skills that puts their education to use. Because no amount of A’s are any good at all if you don’t have the skills to transfer them to real life situations and living life.

And it is exactly these life skills that home educated children have had the chance to develop during their education out of school, through a diversity of experiences, interaction with a wide range of people and a broader approach to their learning, which develops their questioning, observation, decision making, communication, analytical and thinking skills. It’s these skills that add ‘cleverness’ for want of a better word.

Interestingly, colleges and Unis tend to welcome home educated children, sometimes even without the GCSE grades, because they are beginning to recognise that these children have qualities more important than grades. They recognise that it’s no good being ‘clever’ with grades, if you’re not clever enough to be able to apply what you’ve learned during the process.

But most home schooled kids do study for those grades, in a variety of ways at home, in small groups, or with tutors when needed, and most of the ones we’ve mixed with come out with A’s. So they end up with both the grades and those essential life skills.

Which is perhaps what makes them more than ordinary; but certainly not weird.

And proof that you can be ‘clever’, or well educated, if you Home School.

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Laura is a Francophile with a passion for literature and linguistics. She also loves skiing, cooking and painting.