19 October 2010

why home education?

I had someone ask this in a comment the other day.  I guess the answer is different for each family when you get down to the nitty gritty of it, although the common thread would be that we all feel the system is inadequate in some way.

For me personally I liked the idea of home education before my kids even hit school age.  They had already learnt from the minute they were born to express themselves and convey their needs.  The following couple of years saw them learn to crawl, walk, climb, run, talk, eat, scream, laugh, toilet themselves and a multitude of other things.  All this without any real prompting! 

I was still quite nervous that I wouldn't be able to 'teach' but so many families I knew had gone with the home education option I figured I had plenty of advise givers if the need arose.

My kids dad and I were divorced but both agreed on the home ed option and we started to encourage Beren (then 5) to open his mind to learning and following interests. 

This was great for a year but then Beren decided he would like to check out 'real' school.  The school I chose was very small with lower than usual class numbers.  I liked the prep teacher and was ok with sending him there as I respected his wishes and needs.  He did fine for the year and enjoyed himself.

The following year we moved to Tasmania from Melbourne and Beren did grade one in the local school and Nienna started kindergarten.  In Tasmania we were restricted to school zoning which meant that there was no choice of schools unless I took the private school option. This wasn't going to happen for financial reasons so we were stuck.  I hated the school from the start but stuck with it for the year.  This year we started again in term one and Beren just wasn't coping.  He had terrible anxiety, massive melt downs and his behaviour changed rapidly.  I made the decision to pull him out at the end of term one and offered this option to Nienna too.  She decided to stay for the second term and didn't join us at home until third term (Tassie has a three term year).

I have always suspected something was not 'right' with Beren right back when he was a toddler and this suspicion has never left me, however I have been hesitant to 'label' anything and figured if 'it' wasn't affecting him overly then I would let it lie.  Having him home full-time I was able to see just how affected he was.  His social skills are nil, his communication is erratic, repetitive behaviour, meltdowns, obsessive behaviour, movement, gross motor skills and more all indicate ASD.  The fact that he is aware that some of his behaviour is unusual and/or unacceptable means he is affected.  We are all affected by this at times.  I worry that the way I respond to him aggravates the behaviours and situations, thus I have decided to go down the road of having him diagnosed.  This way we can learn how to deal with the ASD and manage it better.  A big step for us but hopefully a positive one. This is scheduled for mid November and I must admit it has been an emotional roller-coaster for me.

So, one of the reasons I believe home ed is right for us is that Beren is more relaxed, less anxious and I can help him with his social skills etc gently.  Small things such as prompting him to speak to people or to ask for help at home ed group, sounds like nothing, but for him to do this, it is huge.  Encouraging him to play with someone other than his sister or simply go out and play along side someone else and not sit clinging to me.

This isn't the only reason though.  Having spent time in the classrooms here as a parent help and as a casual teacher aide I got to see what goes on in the class.  Seeing Nienna come home and play schools and hear how she mimics her teacher, what is said, body language and tone of voice simply horrified me.  I want my children to not only be taught to respect others but also to feel respected, to be given the attention they need, to develop at their own pace whether it be fast or slow and to have a right to express themselves as the individuals they are.  This was not happening in school! 

A classic example of this was in Nienna's kinder class.  I went to parent/teacher interview and was told that the kids (age 4/5) were being taught to draw properly!  I nearly fell off the chair, and the teacher saw my obvious reaction and quickly added "if they want to".  I now understood why ALL the pictures on display were identical and you couldn't identify who had done what if the names weren't on them.  I asked the teacher if she thought Picasso had been taught to draw properly LOL.
Another time I was teacher aide in a prep class and some of the children had to complete a painting of a house. One little fellow who was just beautiful and I could see quite a free spirit had drawn an amazing house that was floating in the sky among the clouds.  The teacher walked in, looked at his work and said "oh typical of course you couldn't do a house properly the way you are meant to!!"  his smile just vanished and he went limp and dark.  She said to me "get him to do a proper one like the others!".  I said to him that I loved his house and we would keep that picture for him to take home and put on his wall and we would do another one of a boring land house for school.  He really was broken by this. Unfortunately this wasn't the only time I saw a gorgeous, happy and spirited child get knocked down.  It reminds me of that song
"Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same."

I think this is what they are trying to do.  Get the kids to all do the same, say the same and almost become zombies so as to make the school more peaceful and easier.
I don't want this for my children.  
I want them to question things
ask to learn something
say no if they really feel it
sing out loud
paint floating houses and underground boats
build cubbies
paint on cement
spend the day at the park. 

I want them to feel loved
listened to

I believe that through the freedom to not do anything they will learn everything.


Spiralmumma said...

Wow. Just wow. Firstly I totally understand and applaud your decision to home school. I really enjoyed this post, and completely agree with your thoughts on 'little boxes'. I am fairly lucky that my kids' school seems to be a good one as far as mainstream public schools go- it's small and creativity and individuality seem to be encouraged. I have had my issues with the arbitrary stages kids are 'supposed' to be at by X age etc- but on the whole it's a positive experience for us. I'd definitely consider hone schooling if it wasn't. Those stories about the prep teacher and her' proper drawings and the kinder teacher and her teaching to 'draw properly' are do sad and fill me with despair. As someone working in early childhood, it's an attitude I'm fighting all the tine-if not from co workers, then from parents! It's so important to allow kids the freedom to be who they are, to express their creativity ( in whichever form that manifests- Liam had a kinder teacher who told me he 'wasn't very creative' despite the fact he made wonderful creations out of Lego or toilet rolls lol) and to be valued and feel like they belong. Sad so many schools don't provide that for children :(

Rimkogeren said...

It sounds like it's the BLACK school that long side has died here in Denmark.
Your son's problems, I know, actually I have had a part on the type of students. And actually it's gone well.
To teach small children to draw properly is to kill's creativity.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
PS My English may not always be correct.

Francisca said...

You've made some difficult and loving choices for your children. I'd be concerned too if a teacher wanted to see all the kids draw the "right way"! I have a family member with Aspergers Syndrome and that is not easy either.

Toria said...

Had to giggle - yes, Picasso did formal art lessons & was classically trained. His father was a professor of fine arts. But I don't think having formal training is the same thing as restricting imagination.

Being Me said...

You are the kind of mummy I truly deeply envy! I WISH I had the inner strength to home school. But I am not quite cut out for it. In my heart, I know it would not work out but oh how I dearly wish I had the tenacity to see it through.

What a brilliant gift for your son. And so GOOD to see that his special needs are being worked with! Lucky boy.

Lori @ RRSAHM said...

That was a very interesting post Kebeni! I applaud your decision to home school. I don't think it'll be for us. My mum is a teacher, and I can guarantee there not all like the ones you mentioned- but I know a lot are :(

Thanks so much for participating in FYBF :) Hope to see you again next week! :)

Megan Blandford said...

I'm here from the AMB carnival...

Well done on being able to make that decision, it sounds like the right one for your family. Wishing you all the best with it.

Veronica said...

It sounds like you've definitely made the right decision for your children.

Also, ASD is hard, I'm going to be interested to see how my (aspie) daughter does in Kinder next year and if need be, we can pull her out.

A Cajun Down Under said...

I'm here for the first time from the AMB blog carnival, but not the last. :) I applaud your decision to do the best for your child and home schooling. I have been flirting with the idea for my 2 girls (not yet school age), but I'm just not sure how to go about it. I'd appreciate any guidance you have.

Naomi said...

oh my! I have thought about this option myself and have been totally scared stiff about going down that path. I so wish I was brave enough to home school but just don't think I have it in me. I am super impressed with your efforts. Standing and clapping :)

MMBB said...

I'm not smart enough to home school my kids lol.

How stupid is the zone thing for public schooling, luckily for me we moved house and are now near the school I wanted.

There's a 'Home Schoolers' group in my area where the parents who home school their children get together and support each other, the kids get to play together, and share some lessons. I actually didn't know there was any home schoolers around here but they had something in the paper a few months ago about one family who do.

Good on you for making the choice, main stream schooling isn't for everyone :)

EmmaK said...

What an informational post. Certainly there are many things wrong with mainstream schools but they suit my kids and I am happy with their progress and wouldn't change a thing. Of course if you are not happy with mainstream schooling or your kids do not suit it then you need to look at alternatives and clearly you are happy with your choices to home school.

Anonymous said...

Well I'm an ex-highschool teacher who turned my back on the system and has homeschooled my kids for the past 6 years. My youngest is about to graduate *sniff* so I am really going to miss what has been one of the most wonderful seasons for our family.

I NEVER thought that we would venture down this path, and let me tell you, it is the most exhausting but exhilarating thing you can ever do for your kids.
All the best :-)

Kelly said...

Good for you for doing the right thing for you family! I may have to home school in the future and it's nice to know I'm not the only one to worry about my teaching ability.

Anonymous said...

A really interesting post, I've never considered homeschooling but it's good to know that it's working for others. My little man ha Aspergers and will start Prep in Jan and so far we're both filled with anxieties but it's good to know there are other options out there that do work.
Good on you, sounds like you've made the right choice for your children, hope all works out and good luck :)

toushka said...

I would love to be able to homeschool part time and send them to robot school the rest of the time. I want my kids to have the socialisation of "normal" school (and without family here they wouldn't get that anywhere else). But I'm not happy with what they are taught at those schools. Like teaching them to draw properly!!!!
I just wish there was a better happy medium.
I know I'll be doing a lot of filling in the gaps and erasing the bad stuff after school and I'm ok with that I think that's my job as a parent.
I guess I want the best of both worlds.

Ash said...

The little bit about the boy's house just broke my heart. That's just awful, and I bet it happens all the time. That is so special that you'll have these years together, discovering and learning. x