There are plenty of reasons why you might choose to home educate your children. In the 2013 NCHENZ survey the top 5 reasons, in order of the number of responses were:
– learning at their own pace
– more flexible lifestyle
– closer family unit
– not happy with the school system
– family values more central
Interestingly the 2015 survey found an almost identical choice of answers. And as you can clearly see, the majority of people actively choose this option from a positive perspective. Of the top five reasons, four are all about the positive benefits of home education and only one is about avoiding the school system.
I think that this fairly reflects my view on things too. As neither of our kids have been to school, there were no issues around bullying or being left to drift, or possibly struggling in some areas. We haven’t been forced into choosing this path for the Oh Waily kids, and our view has always been about the positives rather than the negatives.
While both the Oh Waily parents did very well in school, there were things we thought home educating would do that schools simply can’t. Individualised learning being one of the main ones. Our kids can go as fast or as slow as they want in learning, without fears of being teased or ‘aware’ that they are either ‘geeky-bright’ or ‘falling behind’.
The little blighters have one-on-one tutelage available to them on call, 24/7.
We have a fabulously flexible lifestyle that allows for lots and lots of experiences that school kids often have to ‘save up’ for the school holidays or weekends. We get to go places in the quiet times and enjoy a more relaxed meander through and around places that otherwise might be teeming with people. Case in point – last week we went to Auckland with Mr Oh Waily, who had to be up that neck of the woods for work. While he worked, the kids and I went to Kelly Tarlton’s, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland Zoo and Butterfly Creek. We finished off with a game of mini-golf at Adventure Golf. And along with that, they got to catch up with their grandparents as part of the trip.
Are we a closer family unit? I’d like to think so. For the most part my pair of monkeys get on really well and look after each other when they need to. They scrap like other siblings do, but are also brilliant at co-operating when the mood takes them. And I hope that this continues and grows as the kids age.
Is it all a bed of roses? No. We are together 24/7 and that has its moments. But I love being with them and can’t imagine farming them out on a permanent basis to anyone else to teach and be with. Even when they’re driving me nuts. Well maybe not right at the moment they’re driving me nuts, but afterwards… for sure.
As for being unhappy with the school system, yeah I guess as we’ve gone along I have come to thinking that way about things. This isn’t to say that it’s all a mess, but there are things about it that no longer make sense to me when I watch my kids learning. First off, I don’t want them to disappear in amongst 20 or 30 other kids. I don’t want them to have to take tests to show skills – at least while they are young. This was reinforced in my own mind when I had to sit tests and exams last year for a university paper I took, and had it confirm for me that all it was doing was showing how many snippets of knowledge I could remember and get out on paper in three hours.
I don’t want them to waste their lives on ‘busy work’ while they wait for the remainder of the class to catch up (or be left behind and have their self-esteem and confidence take a blow, while others waited on them). I don’t make my 7 year old daughter do stuff that she has clearly shown she understands and is capable of doing, over and over and over again. Revision of information, sure. Repetitive work, no.
I don’t want creativity sidelined for ‘academic’ work. I want my kids to be as rounded as possible – as whole as possible. I want them to indulge their sporting sides, their art and crafting sides, and if it ever shows up…their musical sides. (In the meantime, I’ll settle for their love of dance and appreciation of the wide variety of music I play to them. This being a current favourite.) And I don’t want them to be convinced that their interests are ‘geeky’ or ‘odd’ or ‘weird’ or whatever the term du jour is for kids who dance to their own beat.
Pretty much that covers the family values side of things too. I want the kids to be themselves, learn at their own pace and be valued for who they are and what they’re interested in learning about. I want them to have a childhood where they can spend at least 50% or more of their time in creative, playful explorations of their own. I want to provide as many opportunities for life experiences as we can and is sensible to do at this stage of their lives.
I think we can give them the best environment to do that in.
I know that’s not possible in school as they would already be spending seven hours most days following other people’s rules about how they spend their time. They only have to follow mine for a tiny fraction of that time during our days.
I don’t know about your household but that would leave roughly two hours in the morning (6:30am rising in this house, people!) and four hours in the evening for “their time” – and that doesn’t include time out for dinner and to do any homework. (I included an arbitrary 30 minutes before & after school in my estimates for travel & general faffing around, but knowing the shamble that my pair are like getting ready to go anywhere…it’d be much longer and more nagging on my part than I care to think about, just to get ready.)
Is this choice for everyone? Nope. Not at all.
Does it have its downsides? Yep. You don’t get nearly as much ‘time off’ or ‘personal time’ or ‘personal space’. You need to have a robust support network or ridiculously strong internal fortitude – either / or both. You will often have to live your family life on one income and still fund all of the learning opportunities you want your kids to have. Thankfully a lot of learning opportunities do not cost an arm and a leg. Still, a little bit more than $700 a year from the government would be nice, since we’re saving them several thousands of dollars per child per year in funding. A little bit more for us would be nice. How single parents do home ed, I have no idea, but they have my fullest admiration as I can’t even begin to imagine how much harder that would make it.
Does the downside outweigh the positives? For us, nope. For others they may be a deal breaker. Like all things to do with home education… it is entirely personal. Your kids, you and your family. Your situation, your life, your expectations.
It truly is the beauty of home education in a nutshell. Nothing need come out of a box. You can create it from scratch and make it fit to you. If it doesn’t fit, then you don’t need to try and make it. It is simply another educational path to take, nothing more and nothing less.