How many of us really consider the question ‘why do we need school’ before enrolling our children at age 3?
How many of us truly answer Monday morning grumbles of “do I really have to go to school?”
Most people would say that school is essential for both knowledge acquisition and developing social skills…but is it really an essential part of growing up? What would happen if our children didn’t go to school at all?
As an ex-teacher turned home educator…here’s what I think…
Do we need school to learn?
Most children spend thousands and thousands of hours sat in a classroom.
Our education system focuses primarily on one aspect of child development…knowledge acquisition.
During those formative years when our children are developing as individuals with different personalities, skills and opinions our rigid curriculum leaves very little flexibility for young people to truly explore their strengths and beliefs or to find their place in society.
Teachers are forced to teach to exams rather than focus on developing skills, enthusiasm and resilience.
Teachers use words like ‘child-led’, ‘mindfulness’ and ‘play-based learning’ while in reality our classes are too big to do much more that relay information.
We watch our children’s passions slowly wilt and die as they memorize information from textbooks in order to ‘do well’.
The truth is that children do want to learn…until we teach them that learning has to be delivered in a certain way and has to be about what us adults decide is important.
Schools teach children that learning is something you can be bad at.
Learning is a something we have to do if we don’t want to get shouted at.
Learning is something that stops as soon as the bell rings.
But, that’s not learning.
Real learning happens in real life.
It leads to real actions and real consequences that we learn from again and again and again.
Children in school aren’t there to learn.
They are there so that parents can go to work.
Any child who can’t or won’t fit into the system is often labeled as “stupid” or “naughty” and written off.
Schools currently do not have the capacity to nurture and teach children in the way that they deserve and yet as parents we are told to send younger and younger or risk ruining their future prospects.
As an ex- teacher turned home educator I feel that there are many more opportunities available to my children to follow their own learning paths.
Perhaps it’s time to start questioning the norm?
Do we need school to be sociable?
I think my old teacher said this better than I ever could…”you’re not in school to socialize”.
She was right…I learnt very little about socialization at school.
The ‘how do kids socialize without school?’ question is a huge concern for many would-be home educators.
However, for many children, going to school is traumatic. Classes are big, the playground can be brutal and teachers can be intimidating.
School does not represent any social situation I have been in as an adult (except perhaps a cattle market!)
Being sociable means so much more than being able to talk to peers (or keep your head down so the school bully doesn’t single you out!)
School teaches us that we must conform to fit in.
It’s not a safe space for self-discovery.
In order to be sociable, young people need to interact respectfully with people of all ages and they should expect that same respect in return.
Currently, that’s not something we see much of in our culture. With many of our education and parenting practices based on authoritarian methods, it’s perhaps unsurprising.
Children don’t just become sociable because we send them into a big group of people. We need to help them by modeling behaviour and guiding them when they are struggling.
Imagine if we placed as much importance on helping kids sort out their playground issues as we do on maths and spelling.
Imagine if we didn’t just respond to difficult situations in fight or flight mode because we’d been taught better strategies.
Can we be successful without school?
The internet is full of stories of people who “failed” at school that are now hugely successful.
As teenagers we used these examples to make ourselves feel better about poor grades and lack of effort.
But…the truth is that these people were never “failures”.
A system that was ineffective at recognizing the drive and ability of individuals labeled them as failures.
How many people do you know who were given a label at school that stuck with them into adulthood?
“Stupid”, “ugly”, “boring”, “fat”, “weird”.
I know so many people who were made to feel stupid in school so they just gave up.
Imagine if those people had been educated under a system that nurtured their strengths and helped them to develop their individualities.
A system that had faith in them.
As a society we tend to measure success by how much someone is worth, how big their house is and how many cars they have parked in the driveway.
We’re told that the pathway to success must involve school, university and finding a job…but, is that really what we should be pushing our kids into?
With so many employers telling us that young people are leaving school lacking practical skills and graduates are being left with huge debts and no jobs.
Instead of training our children for jobs that won’t even exist in a decade or two we should be teaching them how to learn and to adapt to change.
Unfortunately, most kids in our school system will have to wait until they’ve left formal education to develop these skills.
Should we push our children into a system because everybody else does or should we consider what success truly means to us?
What I want most for my boys is the freedom to discover the things that they are good at and for them to have experiences that will help them to become successful at whoever they choose to become.
There will always be a place for school in our society.
Parents need to work and some wouldn’t want to home educate given the option.
However, the focus of our schools drastically needs to change.
There needs to be much more focus on respect and choice.
Teachers need to be given more freedom to actually educate children.
Young people need to be given opportunities to develop the skills and determination they’ll need to make it in the world to come…
not taught how to pass an exam!
What do you think…why do we need school?