For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Creating confusion and pigeon holes

I can't believe it! I thought I'd posted on here not so long ago, but it's been almost two months!!
I really need to keep this up. For myself. Because my memory seems to be less adequate than when I was younger - haarrrumphh - and blogging was supposed to be a substitute for diary writing.

I just wanted to sum up a few short conversations I've been having in the past couple of months, about home education. You know when you're somewhere and people start bragging about how well their children do at school and all that, and then they ask you: "What school do yours go to?"
If the children are with me, this is the point where they disappear. They've heard it all, said it all. Been there, done it, got the T-shirt.

So, I answer: "They don't go to one particular school, we home educate."
One of the often heard responses to that is:
"Ow, I could never teach my own children!"
To which I always reply:
"No, I couldn't either."
And then I take a deep breath and get ready to explain about autonomous learning, the Natural Curriculum, and so forth, and so forth. If people are really interested, that is. There used to be a time when I'd find myself explaining all this to someone who looked more and more bored and confused by the minute. They just wanted to 'socialize', you see. Not get involved into any deep discussions...

Socializing is of course a big issue with people who have their doubts about home ed.
One of my favourite responses when people ask if there's not a problem with socializing, is:
"I don't know, they've been too busy recently to discuss it."

The other big Q is obviously about qualifications.
"But how will she get her GCSE's?"
"Natural Curriculum does not do GCSE's."
"But surely she'll need qualifications to get on in life."
"Then she'll get the ones she needs to do what she wants to do."
I very often end up explaining that, when a home educated (young) person really wants to do something, s/he'll either talk their way into it with a portfolio or some other testimonial of their qualities, or actually goes and does the exams.

At a wedding reception I got talking to this teacher woman, who, when she found out we were home educators, had disapproval written all over her face. After the usual above questions, she asked me if I didn't find it difficult to be a mother and a teacher at the same time.
I smiled and said: "Why? Do you find it difficult, then?"
"Well, I wouldn't like to teach my own children."
"Oh? Why not?"
"Because you need a completely different set of tools to be a teacher, compared to a mother."
"I see. That's interesting! So, what's the difference?"

It would take too long to copy the whole conversation here, but I quite enjoyed myself by just asking questions, really. She was talking about discipline, how you needed that as a teacher more than a mother, and obviously, in the end she couldn't deny that as a teacher you need to exercise more discipline because there are too many children to allow individuals to - for instance - ask questions to which the answers wouldn't fit in the time assigned to that particular lesson... and you need discipline because there just isn't time to try and find out why certain children are restless, upset, anxious, happy, or whatever... you need discipline because you can't have them talking and 'socialising' with each other while you're trying to teach... you need discipline in the school yard because their 'socialising' often gets out of hand, because they have to cramp all that energy and wanting to get to know each other in those fifteen or twenty minutes...

It was fun, because it wasn't really me saying all these things, it was her answering my questions. I don't know if she now hates home edders even more, or maybe maybe realises there might be another angle to home ed, that up to now she hasn't seen.

We are in the process of becoming foster parents and one of the Placement Consultants came the other day, to fill in all kinds of forms and have a first informal chat. Myrna is very keen about fostering and wants to be involved with the whole procedure. So she sat in on the chat. Obviously, the subject of home education was raised. And would we not find it difficult to have a foster child who'd have to go to school. No, we wouldn't. And obviously, the woman wanted to know what Myrna felt about being home educated, did she not feel lonely at times? (Maybe she thought that was the reason Myrna was so keen on having a foster child?)

But never mind, because Myrna set her straight with a very convincing and fiery plea for home education, starting by saying that she felt a lot of children in school were very, very lonely indeed, because quite often nobody had time to listen to them, talk to them. Hurray for Myrna, she brought a smile on the woman's face.