Homeschool follow up

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So it seems I have caused a bit of a stirring with my controversial views and I wanted to set some things straight…

Firstly, I am not meaning to cause offence to anyone who has chosen (or is intending to) to send their children to school. I have friends who are far better parents than I could ever hope to be who have children in mainstream schools and they are doing just fine. I also know there are brilliant teachers out there, the best. We all long for these teachers and if our children were lucky enough to have one for each subject, along with more one-on-one time and a intellectual and emotional connection with each one too, then they would sail through each subject. But how likely is that?
Like any choice that is different from the ‘norm’ my thoughts are bound to raise some eyebrows. I do believe that the school system is outdated and is no longer designed with the best interest of the pupils’ individual needs. I think things were bad when I was at school (twenty odd years ago), and that it has got worse, and will continue to do so. I am generally talking about high schools. There are many amazing primary schools in my area. However I have a lot of friends with children in secondary school and not one of them has a happy story to tell. One just the other day was telling me about how her daughter got stabbed with a pen (quite severely) and the school denied any responsibility for this as ‘no-one saw what happened’. I have another who’s child is being hugely bullied; she has met with the teachers, head teacher and parents of the children causing problems. The school say that the bulling isn’t ‘severe enough for them to take action’. They have more serious issues to deal with like weapons, rape and drugs. I could go on, I have tons of examples. The thing is, if my children have a super time in primary school and the hit these kinds of troubles in secondary school, how can I tear them out of the system then? How I can I justify pulling them away from any friendships made and dividing them so consciously and brutally? This will cause so much difficulty for all of us. I genuinely believe these problems will arise at some point and there will be nothing I can do to stop them. So I feel that homeschooling from the very beginning is the only fair way it can be done. It will be ordinary to them and I will work hard to meet others where that is also their normality so that they don’t feel like they are missing out.
My experiences of school have affected my views of course but they have not tainted them. I experienced many school settings as I moved a lot as a child. My main two examples of teenage educational settings (both of which failed me as a student) are interesting. One was a large comprehensive (2500 kids) split over two buildings. And the other was a small, country private school.
The first was intense. I was bullied from the start. Many people were. It’s fair to say I’ve always been fairly eccentric and people at that age don’t like it my experince. The girls would all buy the exact same pairs of shoes and hair bands and wear make up and smoke. I was ridiculed for not doing any of those things. Really, hugely ridiculed. So much so that I needed a distraction. I soon discovered that if I was ‘naughty’ and acted out to the teachers, people would laugh at me instead of picking on me. I then had people saying ‘Vikki, dare you to do this’ and I would! I was now likeable. I also would make fun of people less popular than myself (only in front of the mean kids which is worse than all the time really) so I looked tough. I learned many life lessons, none of them good as I was shaping to be a not very nice person. I learnt hardly anything when it came to school academia.
So concerned at my behaviour and bad reports etc my family decided to place me in a private setting. As far as my image went, this was fantastic for me. I was now able to become whoever I wanted. I made meaningful friendships. However, the school had no hope for me from the moment I began. A school like that is very precious about ‘success’ and ‘results’. They were worried about me lowering their averages. Not many people pay for a school that don’t offer excellent averages. So with every given opportunity I was suspended and at one point they tried to expel me over very little. Fortunately my family prevented that from happening. So I made it out with to quote one of my teachers, ‘surprisingly good results’. They were so convinced that I was going to fail that they didn’t want to teach me. In some classes, all I would have to do was walk through the door before being asked to leave. Sure I had a cheeky attitude but I was not a bad kid. I did leave school believing that I was though. In fact I thought I was pretty worthless. And that did not give me the courage to really try anything else educationally.
I know that not everyone’s experiences mirror mine but I can’t help but think my children are bound to have (already do) possess some of my (and our family’s) eccentricities. I want to embrace them rather than make them feel ashamed of who they are. I don’t want them to conform to the standards that someone, somewhere has decided is correct. I want them to grow into well rounded, helpful and kind people with an open mind and a passion for learning. Give me a school that can guarantee they will try their hardest to achieve this which each and every student?
Secondly (back to my last blog), I definitely allowed my anger at the growth and horror caused by capitalism to take over my main points. My fears of schools changing for the worse are caused by this, but I do realise it is a separate issue. I also suffer from anxiety so it’s safe to say that these thoughts may overwhelm me and keep me up at night on a regular basis so I know I have to evaluate them frequently. It does not make them all completely irrational though.
Thirdly, I am not intending to shelter my children from anything; quite the opposite. My eldest daughter is only three so I am only just starting my research and plans for our educational journey. I am reading heaps of books by fascinating and inspirational authors such as Alfie Kohn, John Holt, Maria Motessori and Rudolf Steiner to name a few. There are many home ed groups in my surrounding areas and I am planning to meet as many like minded people as I can and help develop the community. I feel there is a higher chance of building something wonderful for education locally outside the grip of school than in it when there are so many people to go through. I am planning to offer free music and cooking classes to children in the same situation as mine once a week with the hope to inspire others into sharing their talents with our children. I plan to bring accomplished friends in for days here and there to teach my children skills such as knitting, sewing, shooting, fishing, climbing, sailing, horse riding, building, carpentry and what ever else might be on offer. I also intend to en-roll my girls in any groups they wish to join. Susannah is starting a dance class next week. There are also drama groups, gym classes, sports teams and all sorts that we can look into depending on their interests. There are also local forest schools that we can attend every now and then to develop their nature skills. That’s the social side of things explained.
As far as the life lessons school gives: let me be clear, I am not at all wanting to raise my children wearing blinkers. But what kind of lessons of enormous value will they be missing out on exactly? The only one I see is how to survive (if they do) under huge amounts of unnecessary pressure. As far as knowing about the troubles in the world, to start with, we already have a lot of stories in our direct life that proves how different  one life experience can be from the next. We are also going to do community work once a month to meet all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds with the intention to teach my girls that anyone can end up anywhere and to never to judge. We are going to keep a daily journal for ‘random acts of kindness’. They will have to take it in turns to think of something kind we can do each day for another person. This will hopefully show how easy it is to be there for others when one puts their mind to it. A valuable life lesson that schools most certainly do not focus on.  I want compassion to be their main attribute to anything they do. I feel it’s the most important trait any person can possess. Without compassion there is no room for growth or change. Without compassion, everything else one does is inconsequential. Without compassion, the world and everything in it has no worth.
A last huge pro to home-schooling is being able to chose how we learn. We can take trips, meet people from around the world, any time, any where. I will be there to help with every struggle educationally and emotionally. Not only will that make my understanding of my children a deeper one but I will be able to be actively involved when we hit any walls (which of course we will).
I have no doubt that my gorgeous, intelligent and funny girls would survive with Muzz and me as parents through the manic school system. (Which compared to many countries I accept that we are extremely lucky to have). We could guide them the best way we know how.
But to me, survival is not enough. I want my children to reach their full potentials, intellectually and as human beings. I am not saying I can absolutely do that, that is a massive assumption. But I am willing to sacrifice everything to try. Because I think I have a better chance of achieving that than anywhere or anyone else as far as my kids are concerned. Maybe I am crazy, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Why I intend to homeschool my younger children

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It’s probably easiest to start this post with a list of what I think it is most important that my children learn:

1) Compassion
2) kindness
3) The ability to reflect and grow
4) The acceptance of others
5) The skills to forward think (anticipate political, educational and environmental changes etc and have an opinion on these things)
5) The art of debate
6) Respect for other living things, and for the planet we live on
8) To listen and be open minded
9) How to live off the land
10) How to care for animals
11) To be inquisitive
12) To forgive others and themselves for wrong doings and learn from regrets.
13) To look after their body, mind and soul (by soul I mean the desires inside that are often ignored i.e the individual’s personal path to happiness.)
14) To be patient.
15) To appreciate the input of others and not compete at life.
16) To be able to express and understand their emotions.
17) To appreciate the beauty of art, drama, dance, music and literature.
18) To be confident.
19) To be spontaneous but not reckless.
20) To appreciate the beliefs of others.
21) To make clothes.
22) To nurture the born desire to learn in their own way and in their own time. There should be no race to knowledge but one should understand what they have learnt and find a way to make it interesting for themselves what ever the topic.
23) To confide in others.
24) To be approachable
25) To always help others in need.
26) To be brave enough to stand up for what they believe in.
27) To laugh and have fun and enjoy every moment they can.
I’m sure there are a million other things that I will think of after posting this. But you get my point- I believe that teaching our children to be compassionate, helpful, and respectful of the planet and everything on it should prioritise any other kind of learning. Knowledge of other subjects is of course valuable, but it is not helpful alone especially if not taught well. If all children enter this world with a passion to learn, it seems to me that the factory setting of a school annihilates that yearn almost immediately. The pressure ‘to do well’ by the teachers coincided with the demand ‘to fit in’ by their peers is a recipe for disaster for most sensitive human beings. And most human beings are sensitive in my experience. I don’t ever want that to burden my kids with those unrealistic and meaningless expectations. That’s why I will never force, only gently encourage them to learn in fun ways, and I will learn with them. I will embrace their individual flair, aptitudes and talents. Or I will try my damn best to anyway.
We will tackle each subject like a game and make sure that everyone is enjoying the work and absorbing the knowledge. I know this is easier said than done but I will of course take on the challenge. I will not be authoritative, that is part of the respect. If they are having trouble with a subject, I will cross that bridge when we get to it. Even if it means hiring a tutor for certain parts. I am not saying I am capable of teaching all topics but I do want to work with my children’s personal strengths and weaknesses, and make decisions with them as they go along; as they start to process more about themselves, and what they are most keen to excel in.
To learn is a beautiful gift that makes us human and I want my children to realise this. I will urge them to discover that there is no limit to knowledge. I want them to be hungry for it and feed that hunger for self satisfaction and not because they are told to.
There should be no such thing as failure. Failure is a word I will not tolerate. It is a destructive word that offers no advice. It is a label. If something is not understood, we will find a new way to approach the learning of that field. One that suits their wavelength and pace of learning without making them feel stupid. Schools have many ways of making a child feel useless without even saying the words. Putting a child in ‘sets’ for example: anyone put in a ‘bottom set’ may as well be told not to bother because they are too stupid. Anyone put in the ‘top set’ may as well be told “go on kid, prove yourself or you are going to fail like the people below you.” Worst of all, the childrens’ abilities are so often misjudged because of a lack of confidence, or different approaches to learning that don’t fit in with their standards, or simply because they did not gel with their teacher. That in my eyes is unacceptable. And potentially mis-shapes our childrens’ future.
I don’t believe in grades however I also know that I would never want to limit the options for my children as they grow up. I also want them to be able to communicate with other kids they meet in clubs or at the park without seeming like they are from a different world. That is my only reason for deciding to follow the national curriculum and enter exams (only the big ones though I suppose some how we will have to practice for those but definitely not until they are in their teens.)
All though, deep down, I have no idea where our country will be at that time and whether I will want us to stay in it.
Possibly the main reason I am in anguish for my children is because of their undeveloped mental health. My family has a long list of victims of pretty much everything you can think of when it comes to mental health issues and addiction problems. Also, It seems to me that as time goes on, more children generally are suffering with anxiety and depression, self loathing, body issues, addictions, crime, even psychotic episodes. I do not think that the children or the parents are to blame. Our culture is. We have created something too big for most people to live in peacefully and right mindedly. Half the people I know are on medication just so they can survive this insufferable rat race that is every day life.
People regard ‘sucess’ as being wealthy and in a high-flying job. It sounds crazy but I feel sick every day by how much people seem to ‘need’ material things. The business, the noise, the smells, the anger, the bullying, the expectations, the poverty, the sickness, the ignorance, the loneliness and suffering. Money, things, money, things. I can’t bare the reality that we are living in. I don’t want my children to be a part of something that I consider the opposite of natural.
I read a couple of weeks ago that the 85 richest people globally possess more than it would take to wipe out world poverty. I honestly lost sleep mulling over this for a while. How can anyone be ok with having so much money when there are people dying every day from hunger and ill health because of being so poor. I know it sounds cliche, but it is happening and people ignore it. I hate that people justify this. The guilt and sadness this truth fills me with makes me unstable. I’m sure I’m not the only one. It will never be ok to me. Why it is to anyone else is beyond me. I just don’t understand it.
People are so strange. We all have the same fears, but the way I see it is that we focus on the wrong precautions that ironically contribute to the problems. We are terrified our children will succumb to bullying, drugs and crime so we ram exams down their throats and judge their ‘intelligence’ on a daily basis and most of the time tell them they need to do better. We fear war so turn to the government for support with weapons and armies instead of preparing for a life after mass destruction. We are already destroying our planet and each other every single day but we condone every moment of it. And we pretend it won’t affect us even though it already is. We tell ourselves that there is nothing we can do about it.
Imagine if we lived in a world where everyone literally looked after their neighbour.
Imagine if we all followed our basic instincts and turned away from the monstrosity we have created around us.
I don’t want to be a part of it but sadly, I am. We all are.
I can’t control my children but I can give them all the tools I think they will need to survive as healthily as possible in this hell we are all part of. That to me is success. Everything else is a bonus.