Sacrificing passion for qualifications

A letter from a New Zealand home educating mother:
Lately there have been a few posts by people wanting certain courses of study more typically taught in the school system or considering school as an option in case their homeschooled child is missing out on something by being homeschooled. I therefore thought I’d share a story that might give you another perspective to consider…

Two years ago one of my children who was 14 at the time expressed an interest in going to school. He had decided he wanted to pursue a career as a graphic designer and felt that by going to school he would be able to study graphics and art under specialized teachers which would help him get where he wanted to go. He had always loved drawing and spent a lot of his free time doodling & sketching. Although we were a little apprehensive, having never really desired to have any of our children in school. However, with regards to our son’s goals we too thought that having specialized professional teachers in these subjects would be the best way to help him achieve his goals believing at the time that I lacked the experience, qualifications & skills to  cater for his needs in these subjects at home.

The first year went ok. He enjoyed his studies and felt that he would still be able to achieve his goals. However, we noticed he was spending less and less time drawing for pleasure and was not overly enthusiastic about his classes. He opted to continue with art and graphics in year 11 but as that year went on he became less and less enthusiastic and started to complain about the boring classes/teaching, negative teachers, seemingly pointless content and the list goes on…. He had by this time stopped drawing for pleasure altogether and had also stopped completing homework assignments and was only doing the barest minimum of class work as well. He was constantly complaining of how boring his classes were and how unenthusiastic & un-motivating his teachers were and they in return were becoming concerned about his lack of effort, lack of motivation & lack of focus and participation in their classes. To put it bluntly he was bored and uninspired and to make matters worse he had lost all confidence in his abilities and no longer felt he had the skills or ability to achieve his original goals. One comment he made was “My art teacher wouldn’t even know my name, let alone anything else about me.” Sure enough at the parent teacher interviews that teacher went through the list on her desk of all the students until she came to my sons name and what work they had completed or not completed as the case was with my son. No comment was made about the quality or work, their personal skills, etc it was just a matter of ticking or not ticking off the boxes of the so called required components.The result of that year of study was that he failed both Graphics and Art because he did not complete enough of the required course work to earn the necessary credits to pass. Oddly enough the quality of his work was considered at the very least passable if you go by the grade he earned for his external Art Portfolio assessment which was moderated outside of the school. Sadly though the internal largely theory based assessments were not completed so he did not earn the required credits for a pass.

Fast forward to this year….. He has dropped both Art and Graphics and has decided to pursue other goals which he feels are more achievable and more suited to him. He has picked up new subjects and is once again hoping that they will provide him with the knowledge, experience and skills to pursue his new career plans. Sadly once again I am starting to see aspects of course content which are boring and uninspiring to him but I am praying he can push through these and stay motivated enough to achieve well.


I am sad for him. I don’t mind what he does for his future career and I will support him and encourage him to pursue whatever it is he wants to do, but I am sad that he lost his passion, his motivation, his confidence and his ambition as a result of his experiences under the teaching and guidance of these specialist professional teachers. Not only this but he lost his simple enjoyment of a hobby that was a huge part of his life before he went to school as he no longer ever draws simply for pleasure.

Unfortunately my son is still convinced that school is his best option for achieving his goals and I am sure sport, friends and lunchtime play a huge part in this view but any passion he had for learning has gone and he is now just working to check off the required course content and earn his credits so that he can achieve the entry criteria to enter the degree of his choosing.
So my point is, don’t feel your child needs a specialist or professional teacher or a formal curriculum for them to pursue their passions and ambitions because the professionals may well kill your child’s passion in the drudgery that is often the case with following and conforming to a content based formal curriculum, even under specialist teachers.

Better that they hold onto their inspiration, their passion and dreams than to become a drone to the school curriculum for the sole purpose of achieving a recognized qualification.


From the Smiths:

Updated 2 February 2013:  One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here


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