Rebirth of Reason


Why I Plan to Homeschool
by Betty Kayton

When I tell people that I intend home-schooling my children, should I have any one day, I am met with shock and horror. Even the most open-minded of my friends and colleagues are stunned that I could even consider such an option.

The uppermost concern they express is about socialisation. "How on earth are your kids going to be able to cope in the real world?" they ask with a steely edge to their voices. Opposition to the idea of home schooling is so emotional, it has caused many a heated-debate in my office. My colleagues and friends get so angry it's as if they think I'm suggesting a crime of such magnitude that I'll irreparably damage my future offspring.

When I present my reasons and quote the statistics and results of home schooling, they do calm down but cannot reconcile with the idea at all. School, in their opinion, is the holiest of holies and while they agree that a great deal about institutionalised schooling leaves much to be desired, it is a for-gone conclusion that all children must go to school.

To them, such a conclusion is not to be questioned.

Yet, if I can, I would love to give my children an alternative. I'd do anything to save them the experiences I had at school. I hated school. I didn't fit in and I ended up developing an unfortunate inferiority complex. Right from word go I seemed to rub teachers up the wrong way. I couldn't sit still and often spent most lessons in the corner, forced to attempt standing on one leg for as long as I could.

The problem began with the fact that before I started school I had already read virtually all the set-works for the first five years. And having the teacher ponderously read them out while we followed the written words was an agony beyond endurance. I hated, and still do, being told what to do.

I'm stubborn and cantankerous and prefer trying things out for myself. The school's academically gifted, or "boffs" as we called them, were often arrogant and aloof, yet I admired them for the ease with which they answered questions in class and solved difficult maths problems. Around them, I often felt stupid and tongue-tied and was too afraid to volunteer anything in class.

Every year or so, we were all forced to do IQ tests. Afterwards I would be called in to the principal's office to determine why my grades didn't match my IQ results and why I wasn't "reaching my potential". I would be placed in the "top stream" or "A" class but was so uncomfortable and unhappy there, that my rebellious antics would soon get me down-graded to where, in my opinion, I belonged.

I did well in the subjects that I liked but failed to apply myself to those subjects I did not. I feel strongly that children should develop at their own pace and should pursue an education style that fits their personality, their natural learning style and more importantly, focuses on their interests. Also, I believe that learning is more about "discovering" than "teaching". Allowing a child to "drive" their own programme, which builds confidence, initiative and independence, is incredibly empowering. This is not to say that the teacher has no role, only that the teacher should be less the source of knowledge than a mentor, who guides children to discover for themselves how to be independent learners.

Another bad thing about school is the bullying that goes on. Although I went to a "good" high school, it still had its share of thugs. A group of girls used to prey on the lone and weak students, demanding and often forcefully taking their "lunch" money. They used to love hijacking me. I only ever had one friend throughout school and the two of us together were no match for the four of them. One day they cornered me in the toilets. I loathe being cornered. I became like a bull in a china shop and charged at the biggest girl, punched her in the stomach, then spent half-an-hour in a cubicle crying and retching. I hate physical violence of any kind and was so upset that such a reaction had been forced from me. They left me alone after that but I always resented their presence.

School wasn't all bad though. I had some amazing, strong-minded teachers who left an indelible mark on me. One lesson I adored was a "mental development" class where we watched videos and slide shows and talked about "current issues", but which was predominantly "feminist" in content. It was here that I realised that I had very definite ideas from which I wasn't prepared to back down and where I grew to love a good debate.

I never excelled in the classroom, but I thrived in sport and extra-curricula activities. My maths teacher for example, who doubled as our swimming coach, only tolerated me in her class because I was her star swimmer. When I dropped swimming in my final year to "concentrate on my studies", she dropped me to "lower grade" maths and dropped me from her class.

All in all, I'd have to say that school was a waste of time for me. I had learnt to read and write before I went to school and I can honestly say that I have learnt more in the past decade than in my entire school and college years combined. I know you can't easily quantify knowledge, but at least the knowledge I have acquired is useful and of interest to me.

In my opinion, school terminates, not germinates, a passion for learning. It is aimed at squashing out individualism, curbing natural exuberance, and churning out little soldiers boldly chanting their times tables and obediently listing dates and events in history like parrots on parade. Schools are like automation factories, taking in raw material that has great potential, and spitting out mediocre carbon copies to required minimum and uniform standards.

No matter what the consensus - home schooling is the route for me.

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