What our babies and toddlers learn is often overlooked or underestimated. They do a similar feat and it is no wonder they get frustrated! Learning to walk involved falling down, over and over. It involved bumps and bruises, tears and tantrums, hurt pride and a willingness to get up again and again.
It's funny how we just trust children to do these things with support, in a really natural and easy way. I mean, we know it's NOT easy, but we scaffold all these major transitions and cater for them domestically and in a non-trained way and treat school as the place where kids learn the real stuff, the hard stuff. But THAT is the hard stuff. Parenting a child and helping them learn to use a toilet, patch it up with a friend, get themselves dressed, or learn how to calm down after having a nightmare - that's the hardest stuff of all.
Yet when parents take the leap and decide to home educate, they often get really scared. Suddenly, having helped their child do the hardest things in the world, they don't feel qualified or expert enough.
Want to know a secret? Learning to read and write and memorise stuff is, in comparison to learning to walk, a piece of cake. Anyone can do that stuff! Not so easy when you expect or demand children to do it at a very very specific age... or against their will.... but when allowed time and freedom to learn at their own pace, it's a doddle!
Parents have happily outsourced the education of their children to others for a relatively short period of history. Before that children managed perfectly well to become quite proficient at all kinds of things.
But we live in a different era now. The explosion of information and the internet makes teachers of the traditional kind redundant. Anyone can teach themselves nowadays by reading books, watching documentaries, completing ecourses and surfing around on youtube educational channels. Even simple play is more complex and educationally rich than ever before. Families are free to draw on the expertise of a plethora of different people in their communities and beyond. There are interactive, hands-on museums, home ed groups that meet regularly to do sports, visit museums, learn drama, play music together, all sorts of things. Every area is different and of course, there are after school clubs and activities of the traditional kind - scouts and swimming and so on. Home ed has never been so easy, with yahoo groups for support and even facebook communities of home educators to support, advise, inspire and guide one another.
Until people actually do it and take the plunge, it seems a very daunting thing to do. We have been hoodwinked into thinking education must be a formal thing, taught by teachers who have studied subjects to a very high level - the truth is information is no longer held by a few elite key-holders. The keys belong to everyone now. Anyone can find out and study anything they want to know very easily.
Are children motivated to learn? Intrinsically yes they are. They are wired to make connections and piece together what the world is, and how things work. Squeezing that learning into 9-3 on demand in a schooly manner is a harder job. But if you relax, and take the approach that children have their entire childhood to discover this stuff, if you trust that they will come to it when ready, then they just do. They do because the world just IS interesting! It is full of wonder. It is literally wonder-full. It is full of surprises and secrets and discoveries yet to be made. With home ed, instead of focusing on the 'right answers', families can pause to really explore the QUESTIONS themselves, looking at many answers. This is the beauty of home education.
Answers are limited within the school system to what the examiners of the day, deem to be correct or worthy. With home ed they become limitless.
Home ed challenges you to think creatively around things. It helps children to become solution-focused, rather than focused on problems. When you start to think like this you soon find a way of bending around problems. Your thinking gets bendier, full stop! You stop seeing the limitations of things and try and work out alternative ways of getting to where you want to go.
This attitude helps home educated teens get into colleges and universities and apprenticeships, and helps them actually stand out from their peers in a positive way. People often think their children will stand out in a detrimental or negative way because they were home educated, but in fact it can be a real plus to skip out on the usual route, which every other kid has done, sometimes without any real passion. When a home educated kid wants a job in something or they want to do a course, it is usually because it is driven by a sense of real purpose or passion.
I have written this post to encourage people to really believe in their children and themselves and to not succumb to feeling patronised or undermined by folks who have invested their own belief in the traditional school system. Of course children can get educated that way very happily and many will do well. But if a parent resolves to educate their child at home, they should know this one thing - home educating your child is one of the most rewarding, life-enhancing, pleasurable and easy things you can do. You don't need a degree. You don't need to know every subject. You don't need to invest hundreds of pounds in reedy-made curriculums.
You just need to trust in your kids, trust in the flow and process of learning in all its unpredictable glory, trust in people, trust in life. Open up to possibilities. Find ways to bend round things. Look for positives, for solutions, for the things that make your children happy and make them light up.
Home ed has so far (been going at this for 13 years) been the most incredible learning adventure for our family. I hope this post inspires others to take the plunge and bend round the things in their life that are making them unhappy, including, if appropriate - school!