Everything you ever wanted to know about why we home educate but were afraid to ask.
One big thing is that the smalls don't divide life up into subject areas e.g maths, art, geography. These are very school based distinctions, they have no idea about timetabling and I can see that they are very cross circular in their approach. On one LEA visit for example I was asked if we had covered ranking. What is ranking? I asked. "It is when objects are placed in size order" came the reply. "Oh, S has been doing that with toys since she could sit up."
My impression of teaching and schools in the UK is that you are signing up for a lottery based roller coaster in which you might have a fabulous form tutor one year and, at best, a personality clash the next year with very little opportunity to change anything. What I love about home ed is that we are in control and in charge. We haven't handed over the reigns. If we hire a tutor and they are not right for us we can replace them with no difficulties.
And I have seen from friends with children at Private School that handing over north of £10k per annum does not insulate you. One friend delayed her son starting school until the very last opportunity as she felt he was not ready. She found a school with small class size of around 8 children and a very gentle ethos where yoga was on the curriculum for example but one term in a new head comes and, bam, the school is as competitive as a formula one racetrack and opting into all the SATS it had previously sidelined in favour of a more holistic approach.
There is much choice at pre-school level. Even a rural village might have a Montessori or a playschool in addition to a preschool and then there are several primaries but as you head up the egg timer choice narrows considerably with the bottle neck of secondary where outside the private sector there is no real choice at all. Especially in rural areas secondary schools are far too big, often north of 1000 pupils. Grouping together large numbers of people of the same birthday is not natural in my opinion and there are some hotbeds for bullying. In our own area there has even been the horror of two bullying related suicides at the same school.
At the next age band college and Uni offer more choice again but what seems crazy to me is that at a hormonal whirlpool vulnerable stage of your life you should be in the weakest part of the educational framework.
Many people say to me "Well of course you will send them at secondary level." and there is no doubt that sitting GCSEs (should they want to) privately is costly but the more I see the more the secondary offering seems worse than primary. The bus for our local secondary stops right outside our house everyday and if those children are the ambassadors for the school the picture is not good. At best they look tired, fed-up and miserable at worst they are dangerous, their language is shocking and their behaviour inconsiderate. I am often a champion for teenagers and can see why many struggle so much add the early sexualisation and peer pressure into the mix and the recipe does not look wholesome. The definitive book on this is "Hold onto your kids, why parents need to matter more than peers."
Fundamentally politically I guess also I disagree with the idea of meritocracy and as I have blogged before it is simply, in my opinion, not true that if you work hard at school you will get a good job. The majority of top jobs in politics and finance for example are dominated by white, middle class, privately educated, men and whilst of course there are odd exceptions they are just that. Odd.
The questions end with "Different journeys, similar end states" which I think is a restatement of the "they all get there in the end" type summing up I hear all the time but there are two major points this draws out. Firstly: Where is there or the end state? Is it the Times 100 rich list or is is it prison? Or, as in the case of Jeffery Archer and Richard Branson, both? and the second really crucial point that shouts louder to me everyday is that life is the journey as I thunder towards forty I realise the destination is death and if you can't enjoy the journey then you are in trouble. For a child always factor in that days are weeks and weeks are months. If you are unhappy at school you can't see a way out unlike an adult who is unhappy at work who can, in theory, leave and look for a new job. I see childhood as too precious to squander as a process of delaying gratification into adulthood. I am aware that since 2004 and through a journey of home births and, the currently very unpopular, choice of breastfeeding we have a arrived in a place where not many others reside. We decide for example when to go on holiday and when you have those choices the idea that others have handed them over in exchange for very little in return seems rather odd. But then I am not in the business of persuading anyone, in fact some of our best advantages would evaporate if home ed became too popular!