A growing number of families are choosing to educate their children out of school (home educate, unschool, autonomous learning, education otherwise). While the movement towards a less formal learning approach is gathering pace in the UK, parents who choose this path are often asked questions that range from the curious to aggressive – Is it legal? What’s wrong with school? What’s wrong with your child? Will they be lonely? What will you teach them? How will you teach them? Very simply the question most asked, is ‘Why?’
Parents of home-educated children answer such questions very simply: our children are learning in the world rather than in the classroom.
“The respect of parent’s freedom to educate their children according to their vision of what education should be has been part of international human rights standards since their very emergence.” (The Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights 8th April 1999)
Other questions are less simple to address. Opinions about school vary widely among home educating families, some feel strongly that the school system is damaged. Others have no strong feeling about school except that it is not right for their child. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with home educated children at all – some may have different learning styles or challenges, just as many children at school do – but the majority are educated at home by choice, not necessity. Socially, learning in the world is a rich and vibrant community. The many groups and networks available to families mean social isolation is rare.
The ‘What, how and why’ of parents choice to teach their children outside of school is so diverse a simple blog could never do these questions justice.
John Holt, famous home educator and un-schooler, said “Children who are provided with a rich and stimulating learning environment will learn what they are ready to learn, when they are ready to learn it. Children do not need to be coerced into learning, they will do so naturally if given the freedom to follow their own interests and a rich assortment of resources. Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.”
“We home educate because children are individuals and I don’t believe a one size fits all approach can offer all children the very best opportunities to learn and develop. We are able to create our own schedules and spend most of our week outside, learning through play. Someone once asked me ‘how will they learn?’ The answer seems obvious, how could they not?
“Embercombe gives us the opportunity to connect with others following similar pathways, learning in harmony with the land. The children have the opportunity to build friendships and gain and understanding of vital life skills (such as organic and biodynamic gardening, and survival skills) while the parents are able to recharge and gain support from one another. We’ve been part of the group for two years and it’s still the highlight of our week.” Claire Arnold, home educator, Childminder and parent to Finn (6) Evie (4) and Jude (5 months).
Embercombe as an organization supports many approaches to education. Every Tuesday a Natural Learning group is hosted on site, which is a relaxed group for home educators that holds child-led learning at it’s heart. It provides a space for experiential learning to happen as opposed to setting out to ‘teach’ the children. Families feel welcomed and nurtured by both the facilitators and by the beautiful resources of the land itself. It is a space many home educating families appreciate not only for the freedom it allows their children, but also the connections parents can make with each other.
“Unschooling is about facilitating the child’s learning choice. I only unschooled for a few months with Jude but she has retained what she learned. She went through a real desire to learn about wild birds and insect life and she has surprised me on many occasions about her intimate knowledge of these subjects. As a result of this, unschooling underpins every decision I make about my forest school and is central to developing my policies for the kindergarten.” Emma Byrnes, Forest School Leader and parent to Jude (12) and Nuala (3)