“Home schooling” or “Home education”?

“Home schooling” or “Home education”?

Posted in Over a Cuppa

The term “home schooling” will virtually always conjure up an image of children at the kitchen table or at desks awkwardly arranged around the living room with Mum-turned-teacher standing in front lecturing from a book or trying to illustrate something on a jury-rigged white board-on-easel arrangement. In other words, a home school is just conventional schooling taking place in the home. This is how we started out nine years ago. At their desks with assignments before them and me prowling behind them, my children’s attention span would hover around the 12 minute mark. One day it was more like a 4 to 5 minute attention span, and I got so frustrated with it all, that I just flopped on the sofa, told the kids to come sit on my knee and I’d read some history to them. An hour and a half later I was running out of breath and suffering a parched tongue when it dawned on me that the once fidgety brats were quiet and attentive angels. When I would stop reading they would call for more. I wondered….

For several months we were driving up and down the country with our business, dragging the entire family along every time. At 3am barrelling down the Desert Road, the children couldn’t sleep, so asked for a story. I began to tell about the drive I had done through another desert years ago in Afghanistan and from there talked about the Russian invasion and from there into an outline of Communist political history all perfectly designed to cause 9 and 10 year olds to drop off pretty quickly. But after a good hour of that, when I paused for breath, they chorused as one for me not to stop just as it was getting interesting , but to tell them more.

Many little events like these caused me to come to the conclusion that “home schooling” is the wrong word. We should be talking about “home education” since we are educating our children in everything we do, 24 hours a day, not just schooling them for a set period five days a week.

The old saying that much more is “caught” than is actually “taught” is so true as your children are able to observe you for so many hours and in so many situations.

But there is something special about a parent speaking with his or her children. They’ve known that voice since before they were born. It is a voice so intimately connected with comfort and security and all things good, they just naturally love to hear it. This is a special bond that we parents as educators should exploit to the max: Read the children’s text books with them.. ..go over their assignments with them a little more than you need to….do the work with them whenever you can so that you are doing it together rather than you making them do it on their own….make the learning situation less formal by lying on the sofa or sitting outside or being a bit unorthodox. One whole year our main teaching method was for all of us to sit around the table and I would read and explain the subject matter to three different age groups (7, 10 & 11) with a fourth listening in while they drew and painted and played with toys. The subject we spent longest on was atomic structure and basic chemistry. To this day we all remember that period as the most enjoyable.. . .and they can all still remember the difference between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.

Having said that, my four have also always enjoyed having their own desk and private space and set times and set assigmnents. … as long as they clearly understood what was expected and could see that they could manage it. There is a certain amount of basic skills that must be imparted, and the practice that goes with it needs set times: things like learning to read, handwriting and composition skills and basic maths computations. But for the rest you can capitalise on those “teachable moments” when they ask a question about something out of the blue, or you are so excited about a subject they are quite happy to listen to you go on and on way over time, or you are watching the cat have her kittens, or there is a particularly brilliant sunset, or one of them asks you to show how the ironing is done. One of the great advantages of home education is being flexible to exploit–or even to engineer–those “teachable moments”.

From Keystone Magazine
March 1995 , Vol. 1 No. 1
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
email: craig