Is it possible for children to ‘learn a different way’?

Home-Education is About Learning, Not Schooling

August 2011 sm_067

An excellent article by Contributing Editor with JUNO magazine interested in science, tech, the environment, green and gentle parenting

I wonder whether approaching the subject a different way would have been more tactful. First, a barrage of questions washes over me; ‘What do you mean, you’re going to teach them yourself? How will you know what to teach? But you’re not qualified to teach that subject?’ Then, more adamantly stated, ‘Are you sure it’s legal?’

These are the incredulous comments of a teacher friend of mine after hearing that my husband and I plan to home educate our children. She studied for four years in order to teach in a school, and she strongly believes that teachers who study for less than two years are not ‘properly qualified’ to impart knowledge to young people. So, I’m having trouble conveying to her our decision not to send our children to school. To say that we plan to ‘home-school’ our daughter does not offer much explanation, as the term implies that teaching will take place in a structured fashion, in the home instead of the school, with a strict timetable, exams and homework, and to a strict curriculum. If this was the case, there would be little difference between home education and school education.

Thankfully, there is another, more natural way of learning, which is perfectly legal and does not require ‘qualified’ teachers. This type of ‘life education’ is known as autonomous learning, and it is not restricted to a specific building or term times and timetables of learning. Life-learning is what most passionate individuals do naturally every day, every hour if not every minute, thanks to an innate thirst and a passion for learning, or self-educating, which is with us from the moment we emerge from the womb into the sounds and smells of the world. Humans are born autonomous learners.

But we treat children differently. At school, they are forced to learn subjects that may not come naturally to them and which, in some cases, they will never use again. This is demoralising for any individual and it creates a passive mind and voice in a young learner. It also makes learning seem dull and monotonous. In the school setting, criticism of teaching methods, individual opinions, independent thought and asking too many questions is frowned upon, often because teachers simply don’t have the time to deal with them. Facts are absorbed, parrot-fashion, but a certain passion for the subject is missing, which is an inevitable outcome of forced learning for both children and adults alike. Children look forward to ‘holidays’ away from school, where their minds are free to roam and grow without constraints, and they no longer have to worry about retributions for what is deemed as poor work, or about making the grade. Few children ever make the grade in every class.

Another common misconception about home-schooling is that it is anti-education, or against the education establishment. The distinction that is missing here is that the autonomous learning movement is entirely pro-learning, but anti-formal education, which is, by its very nature, draconic and cannot suit every child’s needs.

Home educating parents recognise that attending to every child’s individual needs is an impossible feat for any teacher with a class of 30 children to get through exams, coursework and so on. Home educators are able to offer one-to-one guidance, knowledge, and resources whenever they may be required. When children learn ‘at home’, they are free to learn autonomously instead of being sent to a large building where unknown individuals prescribe their learning. They can choose their own routes into education, whether through visual and audio aids, hand-on messy experiments where the kitchen becomes a lab for a week, through reading and Googling, and by asking questions and absorbing the answers- which all children naturally do. Through taking charge of their own learning, they acquire the skills they will need in later life; the skills that will make them good at their vocations, without the negatives of subjects they were ‘no good at’ hanging over them. They are also free to pursue specific areas of interest as far as they want to…

Read the full article here:


From the Smiths:

Updated 1 October 2014:  Three years on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here


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