Schools are a very recent phenomenon in modern societies and researchers are still studying how children learn there and the problems they encounter in the school system…but studying children in schools, is like learning about whales in an aquarium…
A journalist asked me this question and my answer follows:
“Parents often rely on teachers to enforce discipline and to teach sensitive subjects such as sexual education. Do you agree that this weakens the intimate relationship between children and parents and can homeschooling be a remedy for this?”
Yes, I believe that attending school, in general, weakens the relationship between parents and children, simply because families are not together for many hours of the day, but there are also many other ways in which home education promotes family bonding and improves learning outcomes.
Parents have the responsibility to choose the form of education that is in the best interests of the child. Since each child is unique and each child has different talents, abilities and emotional needs at different ages and stages, it seems to me that any form of education that is designed for the masses cannot be in a particular child’s best interests.
However, many parents don’t even know that they have options and the majority of parents commit their children into the care of the state, without thinking much about it.
When parents send their children to school they are delegating their educational responsibility to teachers and bureaucrats, who have absolutely no intimate knowledge of their child.
Since every child is one-of-a-kind, you need to know all about their history, their physical, emotional and mental health, their developmental milestones, their talents, interests and potential as well as other intimate family information. This personal information should be used to tailor-make the child’s education (including instruction, training and discipline) to suit him or her. The school system can never provide this kind of customised education. Home education does!
The public school system fails many learners for a multitude of reasons – with its focus is on policies, procedures, administrators, teachers and controlling large groups of children, the needs of the individual child are overridden by the needs of the System.
The kind of discipline that is ‘enforced’ at school is not the same as the teaching and training (discipline) that children receive at home. At school, teachers are paid to deliver curriculum materials to a class and to enforce the discipline required to accomplish this task. There is no love relationship between teachers and the learners in their class. Its a professional relationship.
At home, children know that the teaching, training and instruction that they receive from their parents is born out of a love relationship and any mistakes or wrong-doing by either party, will affect that relationship and it will therefore need to be dealt with, forgiven and remedied. The same does not necessarily happen at school and the emotional pain inflicted on learners by uncaring or thoughtless teachers, often has devastating, life-long consequences.
For me, one of the goals of home education is to raise people who will become self-disciplined and take responsibility for their own education and their own lives. I have seen this happen with my three teenagers. I no longer have to nag or try to motivate them to learn. They have taken ownership of their education and they do what they need to do for their own reasons, not to conform to the requirements of a teacher or a school system.
What government schooling does in terms of discipline is to foster unquestioning acceptance of rules and authority and conformity on various levels. It is a system designed to produce compliant workers, rather than rule-breakers and creative innovators. Those who don’t conform are usually punished, literally or figuratively, in one way or another, by the system.
In terms of values, the school system and the national curriculum have been purposefully crafted to serve an ideological agenda as reflected in the following comments, which were reported by the Pestalozzi Trust [i], the homeschool legal defence assocation:
- On 20 May 2004, Ms Mmule Madonsela, a senior official responsible for home education in Gauteng, told a meeting of homeschoolers in Johannesburg: ‘Education is a political game’.
- Her boss, Ms Tidimalo Nkotoe, stated in a Carte Blanche television programme on 10 April 2004 that home education must be controlled, because uniformity is the goal: ‘We are gunning for the same critical outcomes. We are gunning for the same South African citizen.’
- On 20 October 2005, Mr Siphosezwe Masango, MEC for education in Mpumalanga, addressed a meeting of what he termed ‘fellow combatants’. It was in fact a congress of the teachers’ union, SADTU. Masango encouraged teachers to indoctrinate children to ‘be properly formed and moulded to our revolutionary ideas’.
No education is value-neutral.
While pretending to promote tolerance and diversity, the national curriculum teaches school children the value and belief system of the state, which may be in conflict with the values and beliefs of a family.
In the school system, the national curriculum is compulsory and neither parents nor children have any say in what they are taught and required to learn. Home educators are (currently) free – parents and their children can choose which learning materials they wish to use. They can study topics that interest them and use materials that are not in conflict with their values and beliefs. This allows for greater freedom and diversity in our society, than the state’s one-size-fits-all ideology.
Home education also allows parents the opportunity to judge when and how to teach sensitive subject matter, such as sex education, in an age-appropriate way and in conformity with their values and morals. Building openness, honesty and trust about these issues is beneficial to the parent-child relationship. Home educated children are generally much less peer-dependent than school-going children and are less prone to be negatively influenced by their peer groups.
There is very little opportunity for children to get emotional support while at school. With the national teacher-pupil ratio in South Africa at 1:30[ii] there is very little opportunity for teachers to get to know their pupils and give them individual attention according to their needs. In contrast, home education allows children to receive plenty of one-on-one attention in an intimate family setting. As a result, home educated children are generally not as vulnerable to their peer group and to social vices as the children in schools.
At school, the relationship between learners and any given teacher is short-term, impersonal and formal. A teacher will probably only teach a child for one year and then that child will move on to the next grade and the next teacher. At home, the relationship is long-term – parents have their children’s long-term best interests at heart – so they do whatever it takes to help their children to succeed and the relationship is personal and intimate.
At school, children are confined to desks in the classroom for most of the day. At home, they are free to move around and learn in any position. Some lessons can be enjoyed cuddled up on a couch or even lying in bed, reading books together. Physical and emotional intimacy is possible. At school, this would be inappropriate.
The time constraints of school days and school hours are very restrictive on family life. Outings and vacations are limited to week-ends and school holidays. Home educators, in contrast, are free to enjoy outings and vacations on week-days or out of season, when rates are often lower and when venues are less crowded.
The school system forces children into age-segregated classrooms in order to facilitate mass-delivery of the learning material. It limits classroom interactions to mainly one age group, which is a false environment in which to learn social skills. As adults, we live in a multi-age community. At home, siblings of varying ages can enjoy building relationships and sharing their learning experiences and homeschooled children learn to interact with other adults as mature friends. At school, befriending a teacher or other authority figure would be frowned upon. “Teacher’s pet!” would be the outcry.
With regards to socialisation, research shows that children learn social skills best from adults, NOT from their peer group. As blogger, Matt Walsh has said: “Expecting your kid to develop ‘social skills’ at public school is like sending him to the zoo to learn proper table manners” [iii]
John Taylor Gatto, famous author and former New York State Teacher of the Year, in his book Why School’s Don’t Educate believes that the crisis in the school system is a reflection of the greater social crisis in society. He says that the aged and children are locked away from the rest of society and that this segregation has a negative impact on our communities and the way people interact with each other. Home education ensures that there is no such age segregation and parents and children are free to develop healthy relationships with each other as well as with others in the wider community.
The state also pretends to offer equal opportunities for the poor and yet in reality, government schools fail the poor the most dramatically, if one looks at illiteracy levels, drop-out rates, matric failure rates, gangster activity in schools, absenteeism of teachers, lack of facilities and resources, low expectations and the list could go on. Restoring family life and family relationships in these communities would probably help to solve not just the schooling crisis, but many of the social problems that trouble them too.
In the grand scheme of human life, schools are a very recent phenomenon and researchers are still studying how children learn there and the problems they encounter in the school system…but studying children in schools, is like learning about whales in an aquarium.
Schools are cold, loveless, artificial environments, in which most children fail to thrive.
The family is the natural environment in which children have been raised and learned to function in their communities for centuries. In the care of the family, they have had opportunities to ‘play with the tools’ of their society and equipped themselves to become self-supporting adults. Homeschooling success stories show that process is still as effective today as in centuries past!
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[i] http://www.pestalozzi.org/index.php/general/item/10-application-brochure, accessed 30/01/2015
[ii] Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, Parliament 12 September 2012, http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page71651?oid=325969&sn=Detail&pid=71651.\, accessed 08/12/2014
[iii] Matt Walsh. http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/04/25/behold-the-two-absolutely-worst-arguments-against-homeschooling/, accessed 05/12/2014