We tend to accept school as the only form of educational provision. It’s certainly what we’re used to. But is it really the best way to help our children develop?
Over ten years home educating, and roughly the same teaching in conventional schools, has raised many doubts in my mind as to the answer to that.
For a start there’s too little opportunity for individual development and thought. The tight curriculum, geared towards an outcome of exam passing rather than experience means that a) children cannot develop vital thinking skills and b) children having little say in what they learn and how they learn it. This leads to a lack of the skills needed to become independent (independent thinking is where that starts). Consequently our youngsters are dis-empowered and often lacking in initiative and motivation. This makes them ill-equipped to deal with life outside school’s institutional structures, something employers often complain about.
That same prescriptive curriculum, for the single objective of grades, means that the approaches towards learning become more like drilling, making the learning dull and uninspiring and switching children off to the delight that a subject can have. It also hampers teachers with demanding paperwork, target ticking and rigid strictures so their particular teaching talents often become wasted, many leaving the profession after a few years. Teaching used to be something you entered into for the pleasure of encouraging youngsters to find their feet. It is now more about coercing them into getting grades.
This rigid approach has become more about forcing kids to ‘fit’, rather than grow, without regard for the fact that they might well need other approaches to reach their growing potential. They might need a more practical or experiential approach for example. Or more time to progress. They might be bright and bored. They might need a different learning environment altogether; not all kids flourish in crowds. But instead of it being viewed that it is a failing on the part of the system to provide this, we instead label the children as failures if they don’t achieve within this one set approach.
There is nothing wrong with children who don’t settle into a school climate. They just prefer different settings. Just as there is nothing wrong with any adults who doesn’t like crowds. We all have different preferences. But to make out that there is something ‘abnormal’ about those kids who don’t take to a school climate is in my view as unacceptable as saying there is an abnormality about someone who doesn’t like football matches. We are all different and require a variety of settings in which to thrive and meet our potential.
And our children’s potential to achieve in areas that are creative, non-academic or physical, is so squeezed they are lucky to survive schooling at all. When do we hear of a creatively gifted child being encouraged? There is a subject snobbery as old as the class system that informs the options children take.
It is for these reasons that I, and many parents like me who opt to home educate, are doubtful as to whether school is now the best route for our children to really flourish and reach their potential.