About three years ago we made the decision as a family to take our kids out of the education system. It was one of the biggest decisions we have ever made – and it turned out to be one of the best too!
There are lots of reasons for our choice, although they can all be boiled down to one core truth – the schools were failing our kids.
Our eldest is exceptionally academic; because she showed such amazing potential she was pressured, overworked and had the responsibility for the school’s league table standings put on her shoulders. She was bullied badly, and the school did nothing to protect her.
Our youngest is creative, a thinker and dreamer and problem solver. He was bullied viciously for years, again the school didn’t help. We moved him to a “better” school and they crushed him with SATS pressure.
The schools failed our kids.
And I sometimes feel like we did too; we made them go to school even when they were unhappy and scared, we listened to the teachers instead of our own children, we believed that school was the right thing. Still working on forgiving myself for it all.
Over the years we have tried many different styles and approaches to home education, trying to find a way that works best for both our young people. There are hundreds of options available out there and we tried; printed/published curriculums, online courses, private group schools, forest schooling, structured timetabling, nature based learning and on and on and on…. Until we finally decided on the unschooling method and we’ve never looked back!
At it’s core; unschooling is about freedom, respect and partnership. I do not decide what my kids will learn, they do. They learn about whatever they want to and we facilitate them; sometimes that means we buy resources for them, take them on trips, book them on courses. Sometimes it means sitting and watching a movie together, or having a big conversation over dinner, or even letting them cook dinner while we sit back!
Whatever they are interested in, we fully support them and give them the freedom to learn however and whenever they want to. We don’t have any ‘school’ hours! Some of their best learning happens late at night after we’ve gone to bed!
I know it seems strange – how can they really be learning, what about tests, how do you know what they’ve learnt if there’s no workbooks – but both kids have excelled in their education through this approach!
Currently my eldest is in college part time, studying for her English GCSE and her Level 3 Performing Arts qualification. She is about 2 years ahead of her peers in terms of academic performance, and has managed to hold her own easily in a class made up of students at least 2 years her senior.
My youngest has just been accepted onto a Computer Sciences college course, studying all manner of complicated and technical stuff (can you tell I don’t really get any of it?) as well as his Maths GCSE.
If they hadn’t been learning anything at home, they wouldn’t have had the skills and capacity to study at college level so early! The freedom to learn as they will has given them many skills; research, analysing evidence, being willing to engage with adults, self motivation and team work. Not only that, they know how to actively learn instead of waiting to be spoon fed information to remember.
All that came from being allowed to do what they want, in a supportive environment.
What do you think about alternative education? Maybe you’re a homeschooler yourself, or perhaps you are considering it? I would love to know what you think!