This comment was left on my blog last week and I asked the commenter if I could post it on the main page instead and perhaps get more feedback than I can give on my own. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Thanks.
We have been homeschooling our son from the beginning – he is now just 7 – mainly overseas. It has been the most wonderful, joyful experience for our family – it has given us peace, relaxation, the opportunity for academic rigour and depth and the freedom to explore interests without constraint (piano and fencing in our son’s case).
He has grown up kind, generous, happy and relaxed. We have avoided all the things we didn’t want for him – too much technology mainly and all the negative stuff that we thought happened at schools, competing about things and gadgets, anger from not seeing your parents enough and so on. He reads for pleasure and all the time at home and he is working several years above his age in maths and english.
I never really wanted to stop the homeschooling, however we decided (after taking exams in January at a UK school with a very good reputation where he did really well and got to interview, but just missed a place) that we should try a private school known for its success in exam preparation (we don’t feel ashamed of that – we just wanted to see if what we were doing in terms of academic level was ok and we were also curious about what happens in schools these days).
We joined part way through the year (a few weeks ago) and, socially, it has been fine for our son. Though he prefers it at home, he is such a kind mature child that he has had no issues and the other children are responding very well to him. However, academically it has been very poor so far (in a school that parents clamour to get into) – he is working so below his age. Only that would be fine – we expected and wanted him not to struggle. It is just the chaos and inefficiency and lack of care we see at the school – homework is set then not checked, it is given in pieces of paper and is all over the place, with misspellings, poor punctuation and very little thought.
We have always taught our son that whatever he does should have value and meaning – we have always been careful to value what he does. This school – though gentle and nice – simply forgets what it has asked the children to do. It seems to devalue learning much more than we expected. We know that a lot of children in a classroom is not the same as homeschooling – but I did hope that school would be even a little like it was when I was there, with focused teachers, a sense of purpose and importance given to school work. Here, everything is so relaxed that not much matters and not much is learned at all.
I am worried that my son is reading and writing less than he ever did at home – reading is assigned as an exercise and the implication is that children have to make time for it like it is a lesson. In our house, reading is a bit like breathing – we all do it without thinking.
The noise is also an issue – the teacher is nice but there is very little real discipline and lots of shouting and calling out.
I want children to be happy, but my view is that they crave boundaries and discipline and without it, lose respect for the teacher and the school. I know this school has a good reputation – its inspection reports are all ‘excellent’ in every aspect and parents seem to love it. But none of them have homeschooled. My feeling is that anyone who hasn’t homeschooled can’t know what wonderful learning happens there and how different your expectations can be of what childhood is like and what can be achieved – including relaxation. My son can no longer run to the couch with a book when he wants to relax and have some time to himself – it is now 6 hours of constant activity and (unlike in my time) constant noise. He is taking it well enough, but I think the novelty may already be wearing off. He is a naturally quiet, focused boy and I fear this will change him or make his life difficult.
I wonder if you or anyone you know has tried schooling and felt the same? Do you have any thoughts about our desire to return to homeschooling? I am a little (or a lot if I am honest) afraid – institutions make everyone feel the need to follow rules and to feel guilty when they don’t. Even after three weeks of school, I feel my grip on being the person primarily responsible for his education is slipping. I think that is a parent’s job, but the school is taking it from me and doing not a very good job in the process, sadly!
Thank you for reading this long message.
Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.