What’s new in education? The hunt is on for radicals.

The Observer has joined up with Nesta to find fifty trailblazers in 2014 who are making radical differences to their community.

Although radical is a strong word home educators are surely among educational trailblazers, as they succeed in educating their children outside the school system through different approaches.

They are not being radical for the sake of it. Probably half of the home school community would not have even considered it if their children had thrived and achieved in the system. Although some families believe from the outset that school is not the best place for their kids to learn, others have come to it more reluctantly. But once involved in the growing community and seeing proof of how well it works they don’t look back and home education becomes more the norm than radical.

For is it really radical to want your child to achieve and be happy? The two go hand in hand. Happy children remain well and learn well. Unhappy children rarely reach their potential.

Is it really radical to do something about a situation that is causing you grief? If your work climate is abusive, threatening, disrespectful, lacking in any kind of choice, I’d guess you’d change it. It’s surely not radical to think that children should be afforded the same opportunity.

Is it really radical to expect to have some say over what happens to you? If you elect to go into the army for example, you’d expect to have little control. When children are in school, neither they nor their parents, have any control over what happens to them in the name of education. It is no more radical to elect not to go in the army as it is to elect not to use school. It’s just a choice.

Is it really that radical to have individual thoughts that differ from others? Thoughts that maybe you’d like your child to have an education that is less oppressive and more choice led, less tested and more productive, less structured and more creative, less controlled and more inspired, and certainly for there to be respect on all sides?

For these are some of the ideas that home schooling parents bring to their child’s education.

Radical or not, what is so trailblazing about them is that they are beginning to prove that much of what we thought children needed to become educated like endless academic practise, testing, coercion, age and time restrictions, institutional boundaries, and the squeezing out of sport and creative activities, are not necessary or even working. In fact families are proving that the opposites create a better educational approach for many children.

Children do succeed when given autonomy, they don’t need coercion for they are motivated when involved in the decisions, compliance isn’t useful for developing thinking skills, children still become educated when their activities are less academic and more experiential, practical, broad and varied. They do become social outside school and they can make intelligent decisions about their own futures when given choice. Children still succeed without all the control associated with systemised education.

So although these ideas may seem radical, they are working and becoming the norm for many.

And home educators are among the trailblazers for education as they show that many of the approaches we’ve believed for centuries are essential to learn aren’t necessary after all.

Consequently they are creating new models for learning and education.




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A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.