Tuesday, 21 April 2015

On Education

school photo
My Year 1 Class Photo
The reality of our decision to home educate hit me during the past few days, as I watched my Facebook feed fill up with posts about school places. We haven't even looked at schools near us, let alone found out when places needed to be applied for, so discovering that all that decision making had bypassed us was a bit of a surprise. If B was going to go to school, she would be starting in September, despite only being a few days over 4 years old. That was something I never wanted for her. Compulsory school starting age is the term after a child turns 5. That would be the following September for B, and yet, we would have had a fight on our hands to get the go ahead for her to start Reception at age 5.

Today I read this article entitled 8 reasons why summer babies face an uphill battle at school and in life.

Statistically, summer born children do worse at school than their autumn born classmates. They're at a higher risk of ending up on SEN registers. They are more likely to lack confidence and be unhappy at school. This isn't because of the time of year that they were born, but due to the huge difference in development and ability between them and their classmates who are almost a year older than they are. A year's difference in age is 25% of a 4 year old's life. That's a big difference.

People argue that there must be a cut off point somewhere, and perhaps they are right, but when the research points to the current cut off age leading to a large percentage of children suffering emotionally, socially and academically, then surely something needs to change.

In a lot of other countries the school starting age is 6 or 7. The development gap lessens as children get older. A year between a new born and a 1 year old is enormous; between a 4 year old and a 5 year old still very obvious; between a 6 year old and a 7 year old, much less - the 7 year old has had only 16% of the 6 year old's life more time to develop. Research points to children doing much better at school when they start later in life. In the UK though, we seem keen to start our children earlier and earlier.

I am summer born, but I missed Reception and started age 5 in Year 1. I missed a year of school, but I have distinct memories of doing a lot of playing in that first year I was there. Nowadays, it seems that Year 1 children have a lot less play, which is another reason we have chosen to educate our daughters at home. Play is so important for children. That is how they learn best; through imitation and experimentation. Being made to sit still and listen is not highly conducive to learning - except for learning how to sit still and listen!

There are a lot of people who are quite vocal about the research on summer born children. I have read much anecdotal "evidence" from parents of summer born children whose children have thrived at school, and from summer born adults who themselves did well. The fact that some summer born people are so vocal about having been fine at school doesn't mean much. Anecdotal "evidence" isn't what we should be basing decisions on. The research says differently. Summer borns are disadvantaged. Perhaps if they'd really thrived, they would understand that statistics don't mean that everyone born in a certain time will have the same experience!

I thrived academically, despite being born in the middle of August. I was able to read when I started school, but that was down to my parents teaching me, and to the fact that I didn't start school until I was 5. I had that time at home to learn in a safe environment. But just because I did well, doesn't mean that B would, so even if we were going to pursue a mainstream education for her, we would certainly fight for her to start Reception aged 5. As much as I think she would be ok in some areas, I know she wouldn't thrive. She would be exhausted, and despite being incredibly social and quite confident, I believe she would struggle with the need to conform at such a young age. She is so young and loves to play. Her imagination is amazing. But being told to sit still is a struggle. She still wakes at least once at night, so I know she would be exhausted. 4 is too young for school.

We have other reasons for choosing home education too. The National Curriculum has become too restrictive. Neither students nor teachers have much room for creativity. There is an enormous amount of teaching to tests. Everything seems to have become about achieving particular levels and grades, rather than fostering a love of learning. As a teacher myself before having babies, I found that I was trying to teach children how to do well in exams. We want our children to want to learn; to find and follow their own interests; to be creative and interested. We don't want them only knowing what every other child in their year knows. When they grow up there will be jobs that we can't even imagine now. They need to be learning how to learn, so that they can have the abilities to learn new skills that don't yet exist. We believe that home education is the way to achieve that.

The Hubby and I were both bullied at school; as were a great number of my friends and family. We don't want our children to experience that. Yes, they will encounter unpleasant people when they are older, but by then we hope they will have the maturity, self-confidence and security to stand up for themselves and be much less harmed by the experience. In the meantime, it is our job to protect and nurture them, to show them how to love themselves and others, and to model acceptable behaviours for them. We believe that will be much better achieved through home education.

Home education is not about cutting children off from society. On the contrary, children who are educated at home have many more opportunities to socialise than their school educated peers. They can mix with other home educated children at specific events; with children from all walks of life at clubs and groups - and, in our case, at church; with all sorts of people in day to day life, shopping, going to museums, taking deliveries at home, etc. Home educated children are often able to interact easily with people of all ages, and with girls and boys both older and younger than themselves, unlike school educated children who spend much of their days with 28-30 other children of around their own age and a small number of adults. Social interaction and behaviours are learnt from those around us. In the classroom, the people around are as immature and emotionally undeveloped as each other - we want our children to learn from those with more experience and brain development!

I know some of our friends and family are concerned about our decision to educate our children in an alternative way, but we are excited about the journey ahead.

What are your thoughts on home education?

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1 comment:

  1. Totally second all of this! I hate the opinion that home-schooled children are going to be anti-social and not know how to deal with people for their life. Some days I don't feel particularly sociable and other days I do, I don't see how children are any different. Being forced into a situation in the hope of making you any different is crazy. Cherry went to pre-school 2 mornings a week last year as it was before we decided to home ed and since dropping out the growth in her confidence has been un-real. We were on holiday at the weekend and she was going off to play with other kids etc, something which she had never done before so it made me very cWe are so excited about it too, looking forward to following your journey :) x