It is rewarding, exciting, scary and frustrating. It also forces us to confront the question, “what is education?”by Philip Ball / August 13, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
This September my eldest daughter starts secondary school, a prospect that, like many parents, I regard with a mixture of excitement, pride and trepidation. But when she heads off, it will be a bigger change for my partner and I than for many others—because for the past two years we have been schooling her and her sister ourselves.
When I tell people that we have been home-educating my children, a common response is: “I could never do that!” It’s pitched somewhere between an awestruck, “I could never imagine being able to do that!” and a horrified, “I would never do that!” Homeschooling is generally perceived to be both hard and risky.
I won’t pretend it’s easy. My partner and I were constantly juggling schedules so that one of us was free, if not to be “teaching” then to be ferrying the children between activities. And practicalities aside, there’s a constant inner voice: “Do you really know what you’re doing?” (Answer: of course not.) But having had previous experience of several schools, both state and independent, I know that many of the worries about children’s education—Are the kids happy? Do they have friends? Are they keeping up?—are the same, whether they are taught at home or in a school. The difference is that we have more chance of doing something about it.
Anxieties about children’s education and well-being have become pathological for many parents, and the school system is a big part of the cause. The fixation on choice and constant assessment has created a mad scramble to get to the top of the pile, without, to my mind, any overall improvement in education—possibly quite the reverse. Instead, the results are insecurit…