Mainstream belief would have it that without an education our children have no hope for the future. I don’t disagree - education is vitally important. But, the way in which we educate needs a massive overhaul.
Sometime ago I was asked to give my views about education to a friend who was writing a report of some kind in the hope of inspiring some changes in our local system. Here are some of my main points that I gave her:
I don’t believe education should be about what the schools/government want to teach, but about what the students want to learn. To actually thoroughly learn and enjoy a subject, students need to be engaged and interested - most schools fall down greatly here. School becomes something to endure rather than something to appreciate and enjoy. Teachers need to be more like facilitators - sometimes just providing the equipment and the right environment is enough. Let students discover things for themselves - the knowledge means so much more and will be remembered for much longer this way. Homeschooling is the best way I have found to achieve this - it’s the only way I have found to be able to wholly follow the student’s interest.
An important aspect for me is how the children/students are treated by the school/teachers. I believe respect should be given both ways ie. student to teacher but also teacher to student. Treating the student as a real person with their own thoughts and opinions and not just as a child. I think a lot of schools, and indeed society, are guilty of “childism”, in which the children are expected to be naturally subordinate.
Homework - I have no problem with students sometimes needing to finish something at home or even occasionally preparing something for a class, but homework for the sake of training the student to “get used to doing homework” is a waste of everybody’s time and seriously encroaches on family life. It’s as though the school feels our children do nothing at home but sit and watch television, therefore we must give them some work to do.
I feel that a lot of teachers use fear as the main motivation - fear of getting into trouble, fear of getting the answer wrong, fear of falling behind. This results in great anxiety for many if not most students. Both of my boys constantly felt as though they were in trouble or going to be in trouble even though their teachers would always assure me that they were well behaved and never got in trouble - I guess they lived in fear from seeing other people being reprimanded.
I have quite a few friends who are teachers and have been told some interesting things, such as “Never smile before Easter” (or the students will think you’re a pushover) and “If you haven’t made them cry, you haven’t got the message across.” Maybe it’s just because I have raised my children with a “gentle parenting” style that school was really hard for my boys, but I still wholeheartedly believe in being nice.
I have 3 children - all have been homeschooled for at least part of their learning journey. Two are still homeschooled and 1 (my youngest) is attending a small, democratic school where I believe most (but not all) of my ideals are met. He is currently happy there although a search for a high school to suit both his and my requirements continues (we still have 1 more year to decide).
I recognise how difficult it would be for a school to completely fulfill and meet all of my wants and needs, but that’s kind of the point - maybe this archaic system we have in place is not the way to do it.