You’ll hear that a lot, from all sorts of people,
especially if the whole concept of home education
is new to you and those around you.
I’ve read all sorts of lists of reasons why home education is the choice for all sorts of families. Some reasons sound plausible, some sound pretty far-fetched, to me at least.
All such lists, however, do reflect the individual considerations of the families involved, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to read those lists posted on blogs and websites from all over the globe.
Here, however, I’d like to list quite general considerations, which form at least part of the consideration for even the most normal, conventional of families.
Tyrrany of Distance
In Australia, for generations, if you lived too far away from a school to conveniently attend regularly, boarding at a private school was an option, as was that outback icon, School of the Air. Distance Education* is still an option for families who live a long way from a school, but increasingly, home education is a practical, viable option.
* If you follow the Distance Education link, you will need to scroll down after following the link, to the Distance Education heading.
Serious illness might preclude regular attendance at school. In these instances, schools are often more than willing to provide lessons that are being missed. Because of the impact of the illness, however, home education can be a gentler or more flexible alternative. It can even happen that home education begun in such circumstances continues after health as been restored, as the family recognises the advantages.
Genuine Physical Disabilities
I know of children who are deaf or blind or affected by spina bifida or cystic fibrosis who are thriving in a home education environment, and I’m sure there are many other conditions which can be successfully catered for, too. While I am not aware of many of these children around the ACT, there are some for whom home education has proved a successful option.
Gifted students in regular school classes with their age-peers are often bored, which can lead to behavioural issues as they fill in time while their classmates take longer to finish work they’ve polished off in no time. Those who are up-graded can end up bullied by their class-peers, who are older, but not necessarily as intellectually advanced. Extension classes don’t always adequately address all of the child’s requirements either.
Home education, tailored to the child’s individual and actual needs, can be a godsend to the child and the parents. Access through the wider community to advisors and resources can often help provide a valuable balance for the gifted child.
Children all learn individually, and school tends to teach to the middle line for the sake of convenience. Those who are left behind can easily have their tender self esteem damaged by being ‘held back’ or put into a ‘special’ class.
Bringing these children home to educate them will often release creativity or skill that was latent or quashed. As self belief is restored, many children who were once labelled ‘slow’ are able to blow those notions out of the water.
Genuine Learning Disorders
For children who do have genuine learning difficulties, home education can still be a kinder, more relevant option. Learning can be tailored to the way they actually learn, and they are removed from regular taunts and ridicule, or simply the awareness that they are ‘not the same’ in some way.
Genuine Intellectual Disabilities
This is not an area where I have any first-hand or even anecdotal knowledge, however on-line reading indicates that home education does work well for many children who have intellectual disabilities. There is often a high level of professional involvement or advice in such circumstances, and it appears that this can be an effective collaboration.
Children who are bored, especially when they are supposed to ‘be good’, will often act out. Whether the boredom is related to their mental acuity, because they’ve tuned out, or because the subject matter doesn’t interest them, those are all issues which can be successfully be addressed at home.
A child’s confusion can stem from many areas. Lessons might not be taught in a way that ‘speaks the child’s language’. The classroom may be too ‘busy’ to allow the child to concentrate – modern classrooms have a lot of stimulation, both visual and auditory, and this can prevent many children, especially boys, from concentrating properly.
Confusion can also have its roots in emotional areas – discord between parents at home, the serious illness of a close relative, frequent moves, etc.
Home education can effectively address each and every one of those issues, from individual, more focused learning time, to providing stability when other circumstances are uncertain.
Genuine Behavioural Disorders
Some children with genuine behavioural disorders can be truly benefited by home education. The individual tailoring and separation from taunting, negativity or relentless disapproval can help to un-wire stressed children. There are alternative therapies, often stumbled upon, which can really unlock behavioural issues. The one-on-one attention from a parent, giving the child plenty of eye contact and gentle touch, does work wonders in some cases.
To be truthful, although there has been quite a trend towards not diagnosing such issues (and thus labelling a child for life), I have seen the opposite in action. One particular child, frustrated at recognising his own ‘differences’, insisted that his parents find out ‘what was wrong’ with him. Once the family had the diagnosis, they were directed to resources that were specifically useful to those with his condition, and his ability to function more ‘normally’ was quickly observable. The question must always be, “What is best for my child?”
For many parents, what is taught in schools clashes harshly with the faith choices they have made for their lives. I use the term ‘faith choices’ here, because these are not always God-based, which the term ‘religious beliefs’ would imply.
The well known creationism versus evolution issue is a curriculum concern to many families, whether christians or not. High school students are often exposed to sex education in a manner that many families, regardless of belief, find objectionable. An Islamic family may struggle with the dress-code allowed in regular schools. A committed environmentalist family may take issue with the amount of electricity consumed by a school on a normal day, or the fuel burnt by the transport required to get the child to school. Home education allows families to decide both content and methods of dignified impartation.
Parents may consider that the values propagated in regular schools undermine those they consider vital to their children. Home education allows family values to take precedence.
Some parents consider it part of their duty to protect their children from the unnecessary rough and tumble that is often inherent to school life. Objectors wonder how children will learn to live ‘in the real world’ if they are protected in this way – in reality, life still happens, difficulties must still be faced, but with home education, parents are more readily available to help the child mature and grow. Life is often harsh – home education can help it be less so, and better managed.
There are all sorts of reasons that regular school either doesn’t appeal to families, or proves problematical. Disappointment, conflict, lack of communication, lack of confidence, unmet expectations – all these can play a part in parental frustration, but there is no need to point fingers at teachers – many of them are as frustrated with the system as parents are.
Whatever the reason behind a family’s realisation that perhaps regular school isn’t the answer to their child’s educational needs, if the school system could and did meet those needs, home education might never be considered.
Schools, out of sheer practicality, have to systemise, sequentialise and streamline as much as possible. Home education allows the freedom to make learning as individual and personal as a child needs.
The school environment can involve an impersonal bureaucracy, an excessively permissive environment, too much parental interference or too little parental involvement, questionable curricula … and sadly, even dangerous playgrounds and bullying kids.
For many, many families, none of the above are real considerations. For some families however, one, more, or even all of these issues have forced the genuine reconsideration of how their child’s educational needs will be met. Home education will not be problem free, but it may be the answer you’re looking for.
A Note on Genuine Disorders
Whether the condition is physical, intellectual, learning or behavioural, to home educate a thus-affected child requires very serious consideration.
Home educators tend to be a pretty accepting bunch, but you may still need to educate those around about you, how to support you and interact with your child, depending on the circumstances.
Where a disorder is severe, even at home it can be anything but straightforward to find exactly the right solution for your child. There are answers, however, and often the consistent reassurance of a loving home life can help the child tremendously while those answers are located and implemented.
I would add the caution that it is vital for parents to have a good support network. School-based solutions can provide welcome relief for stretched parents, especially in extreme circumstances. To bring such a situation home, where it will be relentless, it’s crucial to have some kind of respite plan in place. If you’re considering home education in these circumstances, success for both you and your child depends on you both having a reliable genuine support network.
This is by no means an exhaustive study of all the reasons so many people
choose to home educate. Whatever your reasons for exploring the option,
do your best to be neither reactionary nor romantic in your choices.
However you come to home education, it will turn out to be real.
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
~ Oscar Wilde