‘How will you know what to teach them?’
When people find out we don’t use school, this is one of the first questions they ask. The idea that school equals education is so ingrained that it is hard to imagine what you do without it. To me, education is much more than a curriculum written by someone who doesn’t know my children. Education is individual. It can be different for everyone, depending on what you want to do in your life. There is no one way to live life, and people are not all interested in the same things.
‘But there are some things everyone has to know. Like reading, writing, and maths!’
People are very concerned that children who are not forced to sit down and practice reading and writing will never learn. But it happens! How can a child who is surrounded by words and sees their importance not be motivated to learn to read? When they are ready and they need to know how, they will learn it easily. Just because a school curriculum says that they should start learning at 5 years old, does not make this fact. The optimal time for a child to learn something is when they are ready for it. No force necessary. The same is true for maths. We are surrounded by numbers and basic maths is used in everyday life. You absolutely can’t not learn it.
‘But what about advanced maths?’
What about it? Do you use advanced maths? And if there is a rare occasion that you do, do you sit down with a pen and paper and work it out by hand because you should be able to do it ‘properly’? Or do you simply grab a calculator? Again, just because someone wrote it into a curriculum, doesn’t mean it’s useful. I bet at one time or another you sat in high school maths and pondered what the point of memorizing things such as the quadratic equation was. I have never again used that knowledge since solving random problems in a text book that did not resemble my life at all. Advanced maths is for people who want a career in maths. For the rest of us it’s something we have to make it through at school and then forget the minute we leave. If my child happens to be very interested in maths then of course we will learn as much as she wants to, but I’m not going to force her to learn things she’s never going to need for the sake of ticking a box.
‘What if you miss something?’
There seems to be this idea that there’s an expiry date on learning. That you have from ages 5-17 to go to school and learn everything you need to know and then you’re set. Not at all! If we find that we’ve missed something that they need to know then they will learn it! It’s not a ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ situation. Learning is a lifelong process. If by ‘miss something’ you mean something on the school curriculum, then I’m totally fine with that. I do not believe that education is defined as the curriculum of school. School provides a surface level education in a large number of topics, assuming that children can’t find what they’re interested in at a young age and this is the best way to prepare them for making that choice as adults. I trust my children to follow their interests now. They don’t need to wait until they’re 17 to do that. So in that case they may end up learning incredible amounts in a few areas instead of a small amount in many areas. That’s ok! As I said, if there’s an area later on that they feel they don’t know enough about, they will simply learn it. When you’re a confident self-directed life learner, you can learn anything.
‘What if they only want to learn about what they’re interested in?’
I only want to learn about what I’m interested in too. In our home there’s no place for forced meaningless learning. They learn because they love to learn and they are curious about the world! Give them experiences and opportunities to ignite an interest and they will find their passions and learn all they need to.
‘What if they need to get into university?’
People wonder if homeschooled children will be able to get into university if they want to, if they haven’t been made to study things they don’t like. To get into uni you often have to show competency in a range of areas. The thing is, if they want to go to uni then that’s going to be their motivation to achieve what they need to do that isn’t it? They will work hard and do what they need to do to make it happen. Just like everyone else does when they are working towards a goal.
Allowing my children to learn what interests them and take charge of their own education does not worry me at all. To me, education is whatever they make it. It is not dictated to them by anyone or anything other than their own passion and life. It depends on their own interests and goals. It is something that they own fully and needn’t be forced upon them. A school curriculum is not a recipe for success, it is a means of ‘covering all bases’ when educating a large number of children at once, all with different interests. There’s no need for that here. I have only a few unique people to cater for, and the freedom to let them tailor their education to suit them.
No one knows what knowledge will be important in the future or for any one person. We all carry a unique skill set. The important thing is protecting their innate love of learning and supporting the confidence they have to be able to do anything they need to do in the future. And if they end up not learning some things on the school curriculum because they never need to, does that matter? Is there any point wasting time studying things that are irrelevant to your life? Or could that time be better spent? I think it could.