If you have not checked out part 1 you may want to do so before continuing here. Follow this link for part 1 So why would anyone consider home education over and above the convenience of conventional modern schooling? Everybody goes to school, don’t they? Why would parents want to keep their children at home?
1.Children are already natural learners.
Children have already mastered an impressive list of achievements by the age of three. In the right environment, their natural curiosity leads them and their nature is to learn.
“If in any two years of adult life, men could learn as much as an infant learns in his first two years, they would have the capacity of genius. To focus his eyes (which is not innate, but an acquired skill), to perceive the things around him by integrating his sensations into percepts (which is not innate, but an acquired skill), to coordinate his muscles for the task of crawling, then standing upright, then walking—and, ultimately, to grasp the process of concept-formation and learn to speak—these are some of an infant’s tasks and achievements whose magnitude is not equalled by most men in the rest of their lives.” [Ayn Rand – The Comprachicos]
For too many young people it is the system of modern schooling that specifically robs them of the desire to learn, the want to know, that precursor to knowledge.
2. Self-led learning is the most effective learning.
A far greater degree of retention occurs when an individual wants to learn something and is interested, enthused and engaged. We all know this from our personal experience. Information that is assimilated this way, when we are engaged and self-motivated is far less likely to be forgotten than information that is forced in under threat of testing (humiliation and punishment), or in a context of disinterest in the subject matter. Learning that is self-led will inevitably build on the child’s understanding of their world and their reality, as they naturally follow their own sequence and learn what they are ‘ready to learn’ which means what is appropriate to learn or context-relevant, or when they are learning what they need to know to achieve what they want to do. Contrast the enjoyment, engagement, meaning and relevance of this type of learning, to being forced to memorise half a page of phone book names and addresses.
3. Self-led learning facilitates individualism and sense of personal identity.
Schooling is all about conforming to a narrow mould, and at best knowing the same limited and prescribed information (the syllabus) as everyone else. Given that those who prescribe the syllabus in mainstream education cannot even agree amongst themselves what should be on the curriculum, how can anyone really presume to know what another should be learning? This is particularly true in a world where technology is changing so fast as to make information obsolete at an ever-increasing rate. Interestingly, far more information becomes available to society as a whole when many individuals pursue their own customised learning agenda, collectively acquiring a greater aggregate of knowledge ultimately then available to the community. When children are free to pursue their own agenda they are up and running defining their own identity from the start. Their life is about them, their choices, their accomplishments, their plans, their dreams. They soon learn about cause and effect, of the need to think and to plan and to act. They develop a sense of self far more ably away from the school environment of conformity. They learn self-knowledge through introspection, self-responsibility from having to make choices, a sense of self-efficacy from being at large in the real world not isolated from it within an arbitrary bubble. They develop their own individual character free from the pressure to conform and adapt to an artificial peer group.
4. School is about learning to conform and obey.
Schooling is about conditioning to obey authority, to unquestioningly follow rules and procedures, and to do what you are told. Essentially preparing people to be system slaves manning the factories, and banks and hospitals with an almost robotic acceptance of the authority of those above them in the authority hierarchy, and the implicit ‘rightness’ of the rules and philosophy behind any venture. This unquestioning state of acquiescence is extremely desirable for governments or tyrants for controlling citizens. Our educational system instils in us the assumption of believing that obedience is always desirable and necessary. It has the effect of conditioning children into herd mentality – just do what everyone else does. It does not serve children or humanity in general to produce entire generations of children who are conditioned into blindly obeying authority. The maintenance of freedom requires checks and balances of the enquiring minds of men and women who are awake, and informed. Blind obedience is slavery. What is really needed as a foundation of a peaceful and genuinely free world is voluntarism – a whole new generation of unschooled children who know that there are better ways of solving problems than with violence. Mainstream schooling is forced on children, nothing about it is optional save a few arbitrary course choices and what junk food to get from the vending machine at the break. It, therefore, teaches by example that ‘force gets you what you want’.
5. School is no preparation for life.
The government school curriculum is woefully inadequate in preparing young people for a successful and happy life in the real world. Thinking is implicitly discouraged, regurgitating what is fed to you is what you are trained to do. If you are good at regurgitating the desired ‘information’ then you do well if you ask challenging and awkward questions in any thesis or essay, you will not. Many people’s real-life experience has proven this time and time again. Generally speaking, government education produces followers, ‘yes’ men, and those well suited to work for others. It does not produce thinking and questioning individuals, leaders and entrepreneurs, that is not its purpose. It doesn’t teach you how to think rationally and critically, it doesn’t teach you how to prove something is true; it doesn’t tell you how government functions or who controls it, it doesn’t teach you how to construct an argument and persuade others, it doesn’t teach you public speaking skills, it doesn’t teach you civics and rights, it doesn’t teach you philosophical fundamentals, it doesn’t teach you the importance of nourishing yourself properly and thus how to be healthy, it doesn’t teach you to follow your bliss and joyfully go forth into the world as a unique individual pursuing your dreams and passions. Government schooling teaches young people how to fit in, not how to stand out!
6. In school there is a lack of positive role models.
In the school environment the ratio of ‘relatively enlightened’ adults (teachers) compared to peers is low, and depending on the school can be as low as 1:30. However, in the home environment, the ratio is much more favourable. A higher percentage of the child’s interactions are with a trusted parent or guardian who is a positive loving influence in their life. When you add in all the peripheral people who take a much smaller role in the child’s active un-schooled life, then the ratio becomes even more favourable. Children are exposed to a higher degree of positive real-life role models and learning experiences than they are in school There is a well-known maxim that says “it takes a whole village to raise a man”. Un-schooling and being at home gives a child far more opportunity to interact with all the men and women (in real life context/situations) that their parents interact with. They get the opportunity to witness and learn from the modelling of moral behaviour and loving interactions with a diverse range of family friends and acquaintances, as well as all the real people in the world in shops and banks and libraries or where ever they are. Compare this with the experience in the sink or swim artificial social environment of the classroom or schoolyard where bullying is commonplace and the lowest common denominators of social behaviour are the ‘norm’.
7. Separation of subjects and arbitrary sequencing is unreal
In real life, all knowledge exists in context. In fact knowledge out of context is a contradiction in terms. In reality, context is everything – in school context is dropped, firstly by virtue of being there and therefore not in real life, and secondly by the arbitrary separation of knowledge into subjects. There is similarly little need for arbitrary sequencing of subjects to be mastered at or by any particular age. The dropping of context is a dangerous and counter-productive mental habit that undermines effective thinking and reasoning. Yet this is what young people learn in school. The dropping of context helps make it possible to hold contradictory beliefs.
8. The social setting of the school is unrepresentative of real life.
Nowhere in real life does the situation exist where anyone is surrounded by a load of people all exactly the same age – except in school. When age groups are mixed more beneficial learning takes place. Older children learn to help younger children, and young children enjoy seeking the help of older children who know more than they do. Building real connections with real people based on shared interests and situational relevance is far more useful and real-life than simply basing interactions on someone being the same age. In my experience of school, the segregation by age seemed to have the effect of shrinking the available pool of friends. Boys in a higher year would be aloof and look down at those below, possibly even ordering them around or bullying them. There was little socialising between the age groups. How unnatural? Yet bizarrely people always wonder how a child will learn to socialise without the help of school!
9. Robbed childhood?
School is a hugely inefficient waste of a child’s early years in life. Some even say it is a waste of childhood. Vast amounts of young peoples lives are spent sitting silently, either gazing out the window or obediently sucking up information in order to regurgitate it later. Just imagine how much time children would have to find and follow their passion if they didn’t have to go to school and do homework as well. Children also need time to learn how to just be; how to amuse themselves and how to be still. Just imagine… being free, and able to do as you choose… Imagine being able to have control over your whole life…
10. Do we trust our children?
Most people hastily conclude that children cannot be trusted to intelligently manage their own affairs, but experience counters these claims with empirical evidence. Issues like playing too many computer games or eating too much junk food do have to be monitored and advice given, but it is observably true that children respond to the trust we place in them. If we imagine the two extremes: in one case never allowing a child to choose the wrong option, always ‘making sure’ the ‘correct’ choice is made, in the other allowing mistakes to be made, over indulgences to be experimented with, and responsibility to be taken. Which scenario will result in a young person most quickly learning to make decisions and to choose wisely? I have seen my own children respond positively time and time again to being given responsibility. Most of us are aware from our own experience that people react positively to being given responsibility, children no less. Placing trust in our children, while being on hand to supervise, is a beneficial component of home facilitated self-education, and one that is absent from schools by definition.
For the last part of this discussion on what is left un-taught in modern schooling, please go to part 3