Home Education; the purpose of education and the method.

There are a few high profile “thinkers” for want of a better label, who are beginning to speak more often on how schools are not educating our children.

Meanwhile we here more stories of Taliban and Al Qaeda dominated countries who are determined to deny woman and girls the opportunity of an education.

Most people, as far as I can tell, do believe that giving a good education to children and adults is a good in itself. Under natural law we know that parents have a right and a great obligation to ensure the education of our children. For us education isn’t simply opening the empty head and pouring in the information. Education, which comes from the words meaning “to lead out” is a way of helping our children develop and people, morally, socially, physically and academically.

There is a great danger, it seems to me, in reducing education down to holding information and methods of pouring information into children. I am also very suspicious of the push to make all education “Machine” based.  Children need more ways of learning than just what a computer can give them. We use the computer in our Home education, but really there’s very little “online” work that the children do. Starfall and more.Starfall is great, but even there I download and print the stories, workbooks and sheets. So a lot of the time the children are looking at paper, not a screen.

I have a number of reasons for this. First I don’t think the high colour, loud sound, and busyness of online lessons is good for the development of concentration.  Low stimulus is better for younger children as they begin to explore the world around them, build their senses and train their senses. It’s interesting how the Montessori early years curriculum is very much about training the senses of the child so that the gross and fine motor skills are built on strong foundations.

One of the most repetitive and annoying questions home educators get asked is what we call “The S word question.” Someone inevitably says  “What about socialisation?”

Children need to be properly socialised. That is they need to learn to be with other people, good manners, kindness, listening skills, sharing, conflict solving, turn taking in conversation, and all manner of other social skills are needed to get a child and adult through life. You simply cannot learn this, sat at a computer all day.

If the video maker in the link above is saying we have the technology in most western homes, libraries and community centres to make schools unnecessary, then I would agree. I would say the school system is a failed experiment and it has failed spectacularly; unless, as some people believe, the school system really was set up to de-educate the masses. Even if you put aside the dreadful academic outcomes, schools are not producing well socialised adults.

I think most of us have seen the inability of too many young adults to behave in a “normal” way at mixed aged gatherings. They sit, plugged into their technology, texting people who aren’t there, or playing games or whatever. Anything other than be with other people who are not their immediate peers of their immediate peer group.  My daughter faced a weird issue because she didn’t have a mobile phone. One friend was horrified that instead of texting ahead and have my dd meet her on the pavement, she would have to ring the doorbell and possibly (oh the horror) speak to an adult or a younger child!

One of the things I am sold on with Montessori is her insistence that children be in mixed aged classes. She saw this work really well at ensuring the younger children were taken care of and helped by older ones and that aggressive competition was diminished. She called this “peaceful education” because it encouraged true social behaviour.

If we reduce the purpose of education down to feeding information at children, that is a very narrow and dangerous view. It is certainly the view of those who want to control the information and make it suit their agenda. If we reduce education down to what a machine can tell us, that is more dangerous still. No parents wants their children sat, hunched over a computer all day.

An education needs to be more catholic than that, rounder, broader, deeper. We want our children to know how to learn, how to discern and think things through. That comes through relationships with real, loving people.

One response to “Home Education; the purpose of education and the method.

  1. I loved your point about children sitting in groups, plugged into their electronic devices but not each other. It’s good to know we’re not the only homeschooling family that has rejected technology-dependent education. Peace be with you. — Kelly

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