Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Ruminating on educating

As it's the beginning of a new academic term, my thoughts have naturally turned to our own educational arrangements. A couple of friends are facing those big decisions about whether to go mainstream or seek alternatives and our conversations have touched on the home education option. It seems like a good moment to look back at our first term and share some thoughts and observations about the business.

It's probably too much waffling for one post, so I imagine I'll spin it out a bit - by which time I'll hopefully have got back into the swing of blogging a bit more regularly.

The decision to home educate is not made lightly. Even I, who had decided almost from Eli's first month that he would not be entrusted to the state for his upbringing, felt some self-doubt creep in when it came to the end of his short time at the local Steiner kindergarten. I hadn't ever properly taken on board the very obvious fact that almost everyone sends their children to school. It is not only expected, it is largely unquestioned.

It seems that the general consensus is that school, whilst not necessarily the ideal option, is the safest. The practical considerations alone give rise to enough consternation to prevent treading another path - bringing in enough money whilst having children at home; not feeling that one has enough resources of energy to be around ones offspring constantly; not having the requisite support network and so on and so on. I am familiar with these anxieties, it can seem logistically impossible before you even get to the education bit.

I think our real fears kick in when we get to our children's well-being and future prospects. Will our children learn all they need to know from primarily being with one person, perhaps two at the most? Will they need more social contact than we can provide for them? How will they learn to read????

These questions and worries are valid and real. A certain amount of self-confidence and a sizeable rebellious streak are useful when contemplating them. I cannot speak for others or offer any sureties but I can share our experience and add to the growing numbers of people who say that school doesn't have to be the only way.


Anonymous said...

Hi Selina,

I like your post and I think it is right that we question which paths we send our children down. Herd mentality is incredibly dangerous and I absolutely think we should critically assess all information and choices that we make. However, I think it's a bit excessive to say that most parents 'entrust the upbringing of their children to the state'. I bring-up my child, and this includes allowing a limited* amount of time for him to be educated within his peer group. I question the 'limited' notion myself sometimes in that I agree the days are 'too long too soon' but perhaps that's a different argument. My point is that I send my child to school to learn to add up, spell, communicate, identify himself as person - I don't expect the teachers to teach him right from wrong, to form his character, to channel him and challenge him with respect to his own personal strengths and interests. I do that, sometimes he does that himself.

Having said this, I don't feel like your choice is the wrong one. Ultimately you are putting the needs of your child first in that you are considering your child's point of view above your own and I have a huge amount of respect for that. If I didn't feel so happy with my child's school I think I would do the same.

Catherine G x

Alice ~ writer, boater, dreamer, traveller said...

Happy New Year Selina! It's definitely not a decision to be taken lightly and I love when you say "a sizeable rebellious streak" is required - so true. It's an, at times, tiring journey in which I question myself sometimes, but I would no doubt question my daughter being in school, too! But ultimately I have (so far) found Home-Ed to be a rewarding journey and being there next to my daughter to watch her grow in every detail, is not something I want to relinquish... yet, anyway! Wishing you every happiness for 2013 x

Selina Gough said...

Thank you Catherine for your considered and respectful response. If anything, it has reminded me that when I send these thoughts out into the world I must be careful with the words I choose.

For the most part I agree that a child's primary influence will be from their parents if those parents ensure that they take an active role in their child's life, and I agree that suggesting that parents like you are allowing another to bring up your child is perhaps a little strong. I have no criticism for anyone's choices - that is not my intention here. I also think that your point about 'too long, too soon' is spot on. When we release our children to the care of other adults and the peer group at such young ages we cannot know the influences that are at work whilst we are absent. I recognise that courage here is also needed to be able to let go and trust in our children's own journeys. Ultimately though, I think when someone else is answering our children's questions, tending to their troubles and witnessing their triumphs, that represents a powerful influence in their lives. I'm not saying this is necessarily a harmful thing, merely something to consider - which you clearly already have but others perhaps have not.

Selina x

Selina Gough said...

Happy New Year Alice! It's good to hear from you. Yes, I also question myself and perhaps we do it all the more because we are doing something so far from the norm! Questioning is healthy though - hence me pondering it all here...Hope you're well and wishing you much happiness in return x