I don’t actually have any children at this point in my life, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the future and the kind of lifestyle that I hope my children will have. Most people it seems follow the typical route of attending public or private schools from the ages of 4-16, it’s the ‘done-thing’ and whilst homeschooling numbers are increasing as society modernises, whenever I’ve discussed this with others, it’s always been met with a glare that suggests I’m insane to even consider it. Here are my top reasons why I’d like to homeschool in the future. Also disclaimer: I’m suggesting that the ‘normalised schooling route’ is wrong and no judgement is passed on any parents, we are all individuals and each decision we make is rightfully our own.
THE ABSENCE OF CRITICAL LIFE LESSONS
Now that I’m at the grand old age of almost 26, I recognise areas of knowledge that I believe should be fully ingrained in a child’s learning from a young age. I feel that a lot of time and energy is wasted in schools on teaching children things that really aren’t that important and unlikely to equip them for the rest of their lives. One of my GCSE’s was Geography and another Double Science, interesting? Maybe. But honestly I’ve never used any information from those subjects to date and quite frankly I don’t remember a single dime of it. So that’s a good couple of years of my youth wasted (in my opinion) on learning subjects that didn’t really enhance my learning nor prepare me for adulthood.
Instead I think children* should be learning life skills such as first aid, the importance of road safety (driving), lessons in money management and things related to living independently (e.g mortgages, tenancies, budgeting, etc). I’ve worked in a homeless organisation for young people and the amount of people I met who didn’t have a clue about how to live independently was staggering. Quite honestly when I moved into my own place at 22, I didn’t really either and it was a learn-as-you-go kind of process. By homeschooling my children, I’d like to think that more time will be dedicated to topics and lessons that will contribute to a child’s learning in a way that will prepare them for adulthood.
*By child/children I mean youngsters aged around 12-16.
TRADITIONAL SCHOOLING IS A WASTE OF TIME
I know what you’re probably thinking, how controversial and idiotic for me to say – but for me, it’s just that – a waste of time. As mentioned above, half of the subjects I learned at school are not of any importance to me at all as an adult. Wouldn’t it be so much to better to give your child the opportunity to not only learn something that is interesting to them, but to also potentially excel in it? At school with a billion and one subjects, I feel that children’s minds are spread thinly and there is a huge expectation for them to be a sponge in order to absorb a wealth of information only to robotically regurgitate it during exam season.
As a graphic designer, the skills I have built that allow me to create products were not something I developed at all in school and I think it’s a shame that a lot of subjects aren’t available to young people until the age of 16 when they go to college. I’m talking about things like photography and engineering (although I think this may be available at GCSE in some schools). Kids are then expected to know what path they want to take in life at 16 without really exploring and experiencing any job roles outside of typical school subjects like English and Maths. This leads me to feel that so many years have been wasted when they could be spent on subjects that a child is actually interested in and it’s no wonder that many people go on to university and college to study things that they discover aren’t really what they want to do and those precious years from 16-21 could potentially be wasted.
Another thing that doesn’t develop much until you reach higher education is critical thinking skills. In a few subjects like English Literature and Language, you are given the opportunity to explore and analyse various pieces of information and the meaning/repercussions of this. But for a lot of subjects, I felt that my GCSE’s were spent just trying to memorise factual information (e.g components of a cell/planet) which a) I don’t remember now and b) are totally worthless pieces of information to me anyway).
I’m the first to admit that I don’t have a very good memory so my GCSE’s were a struggle and I didn’t get amazing grades. When I pursued my A-Levels, I found it really hard to achieve good results because I’d be conditioned by the schooling system to merely memorise pieces of information – not to examine them and so I found the transition to A-Levels quite difficult because suddenly critical analysis was needed in order to achieve good grades. Finally at university I was able to grasp how to properly investigate a topic and write a coherent analytical piece on it in a way that rewarded me with high results for the amount of work I put in. A few years on I have two degrees (Criminology and Social Work), the first I achieved a 2:1 (only 1% off a First Class Degree) and my second degree I received a Distinction. Prior to university, I assumed that I wasn’t very intelligent and I’d always be someone who just scraped decent grades but now I see that I just sucked at the memory game. I actually found both my degrees way easier than my A-Levels – doesn’t sound right that does it? But it’s true. And those critical analysis skills that I developed for my analytical essays have stayed with me past university as I now think critically in all aspects of life (hence the reason for this blog post) but school didn’t prepare me with those skills and I think it is this reason that things like discrimination and narrow-mindedness exist – because some people are poorly educated and lack the capacity to appreciate the wider picture (e.g causes and impact of mental health issues on the quality of life of the individual).
A FOCUS ON THE WRONG THINGS
I can’t help but feel that the school system is too rigid and oppressive to the level of individuality that a person has. I’m not just talking about uniforms, I’m talking about proactively squashing any attempt of the child to explore and express their individuality. School children are in essence and in my opinion, robots. They go to school and present themselves in a way that their teachers proclaim is ‘right’ but gives them little room to experiment with their individual characters. I see stories on the news about a child who has been sent home from school because their hair cut is too ‘out there’ (it wasn’t, the kid looked like any ‘normal’ kid) and others who are penalised for dying their hair a ‘non-offensive’ colour. Yes it’s the dress code and expectation for everyone is the same, but what a shame to discourage any creativity and curiosity that an individual may wish to explore in favour of making them all look and dress the same. Here is the biggest lesson I think every child needs to know: we’re all different and those differences will only become more pronounced as we enter adulthood – what with some people having disabilities and mental health illnesses (myself included), it seems counter-productive to try and put every child into one category when there is a whole host of things waiting to be experiences that will eventually make them into the person that they are when they grow older. If a teenager wants to have purple hair then why the heck not? Who are they to determine what is ‘ok’ and what is ‘normal’? As long as they’re pursuing something that makes them happy by embracing their inner desires, then what harm is there in a little experiementing (with reason of course)? We’re all individuals – we should be embracing that fact, not trying to beat the life out of it.
SCHOOLS ARE RIGID AND HAVE DOUBLE STANDARDS
How many times have you seen in the news, stories about youngster’s parents being punished for removing their child to take them on holiday? Fact is, as a parent it should be the parents ultimate decision as to whether they believe trading a few days of education for a holiday (a lifetime of memories!) is worth it. Family time is arguably equally as important as learning and unfortunately not everyone can afford to pay the premium rates involved with taking a summer break so why should some children suffer because they come from a poorer household? They shouldn’t. Schools preach that it affects their learning blah blah blah, but they don’t seem too concerned when they place a child in solitude for a day for wearing incorrect shoes. Learning can either be sacrificed for a day or two or it can’t, the reason behind the absence is essentially irrelevant. In my opinion, parents and families shouldn’t be a slave to the system and with homeschooling, thankfully it is avoidable.
FLEXIBLE LEARNING & SOCIALISING
The problem with schools is that they don’t offer the flexibility needed to tailor the individual learning needs of children. Some people for example learn through role-play, whilst others can easily absorb word for word from a text book. By implementing a system that is supposed to ‘catch all’, it’s unsurprising that some kids don’t reach their full potential. Some kids have a short attention span or lack of patience with traditional textbook learning. Sure they could sit down for an hour or two and read about dinosaurs, but wouldn’t it be so much better to go and visit an actual museum where they can explore and burn off energy at the same time? This flexibility can be extended to a variety of activies – take sport for example, not everyone enjoys running for example and/or they may detest step aerobics, sure they could join in and hate every second of it, but as children they could burn off all of that energy in a park or soft-play. As older children they may prefer to pay particular attention to one favourite activity like swimming or traditional cardio/weight machines in a gym environment and guess what, that’s ok. You could even kill two birds with one stone and take your family for a day out of hiking = exercise and family time. When I was at school I did a variety of sports and to be honest I hated it – I have asthma and running was a nightmare, yet I loved trampolining and using gym equipment but unfortunately you have to go with the masses which meant a lot of the time joining with things that you simply hated doing. Sure they could just suck it up, but why if there is another option? Finally the other thing I hated was exercising and having to sit all stinky for the rest of the day – adults wouldn’t do it so why should schoold kids? It’s unhygienic and unpleasant. Don’t even get me started on the lack of locker room privacy…
WRAPPING IT UP
I’m not by any means saying that learning is unimportant, but I think there is a much better way to go about it than to go to school and sit down at a desk for hours on end – it’s boring and monotonous. With two degrees, I get that education is important and kids need qualifications to be able to go to college and university if they wish but this is still an achievable target through homeschooling. A lot of people have the misconception that being a homeschooled child is lonely and kids sit around at home all day but this couldn’t be further from the truth – there are specialised groups for homeschooled kids to socialise and there is no rulebook that your child needs to fulfil a certain amount of hours each day so learning is completely flexible to your family’s needs. I know the option is not for everyone and indeed not everyone is in a position to be able to offer it to their children, but if I can in the future then I certainly won’t hesitate.
What are your thoughts on homeschooling?