Home education

Learning most of the time!

Back in the early to mid 1990s, when I was about 20 years old, I happened upon Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society while I was familiarising myself with pedagogical theory at the start of my Masters degree in Anthropology. Illich’s ideas blew me away. At that stage I hadn’t really given much thought to having children (indeed, it was another 17 years before Lily came along) but when I read Illich I decided that if I ever had kids of my own I would educate them at home. Since then I’ve discovered the inspirational work of John Holt and his ideas about ‘uneducation’ and ‘learning all the time’. Holt’s philosophy is simple – everything and anything can be an opportunity for learning, and children (indeed, all of us) should be given the time and encouragement to pursue their interests and to immerse themselves in learning what they want to learn. Illich is more radical. His is a political argument about institutionalisation, about the role of formal education in nation building and in the maintenance of the status quo.

So this heady mix of philosophical and pedagogical idealism inspired me and when my kids eventually did come along I didn’t think twice about home education. Lily and Katie are now 5 and 4 years old and they are indeed ‘learning all the time’. I want to share what works for us, what doesn’t, and how we get on with our own individual approach to education.

10 thoughts on “Home education

    • Hi carmel. That’s a good question. Most home schooled kids i know have lots of friends – other home schooled kids! Lots of groups where people can get together to do activities they like, join clubs, etc. It works. But I’m not a fundamentalist. If the girls tell me they’d like to try out school then that’s cool too. They’ll be fine. Don’t you worry!

  1. Do you mean to home school the girls just when they are young or ’till they are eighteen and if so how will yourself and Julian pursue your own careers ? I am sure children learn much more when not confined to a desk and a rigid timetable and all the pettiness that can be involved in attending school and who better to impart knowledge than their loving parents. Personally I was a bit of a fruit ‘n nut case as a mother when my two were small and sending the kids to school was a huge relief for me, and for them too i’m sure, once they got the hang of it !! Overall school is a bit of a pain but invaluable in other ways. The best of luck and i ‘m sure both you and Julian are wonderful teachers but you will need space from the little ‘ terrors ‘ from time to time and you might decide that sending them to school is an option !!! I do think that children are sent to school at too young an age and that they would be better off and happier if the age for starting school was raised to say seven ! Anyway , your two beautiful little girls are lovely and lucky to have two parents like you and Julian so the best of luck with the home schooling . xx

    • Janey Liz, I hardly know what I’m doing next week, never mind in 15 years time!! If the girls want to go to school at some point, then I’m happy for them to do it. Lots of home schooled kids decide at some point to go to school. It works for some, but others try it out and decide after a few weeks or months that it isn’t for them. So if my two want to try it out then I’ll support that. As for our careers, this is something we’ve given some consideration to, and the way we’ve done it for the past three years seems to be working for us. I was full-time at home until last summer and now Julian is at home full time. So long as one of us can be a full time parent then that works. Or maybe we’ll both have part-time jobs in the future. Who knows. Neither of us is particularly career driven (though don’t tell that to my boss!). xx

  2. I am still in awe of your … well, your attitude, your practicality in doing what was and is needed to make this work, and your courage in actually doing it! I have no fears whatsoever that your girls will be marvellously open-minded and perfectly well-adjusted humans at the end of it. I do fear, however, that they’ll be so much more sane than most others that they’ll find the rest of the world a difficult place after all…

    Joking aside, I also think you do have an advantage from having had such a broad experience of teaching and learning (and I’m speaking of you Martina, ’cause I really don’t know that side of Julian well enough, although I’m sure you’ll get him into shape if he wasn’t already, too) – both in the sense of having taught formally before, and of yourself having followed a rather practical-minded learning process (yes I know, all are, really, but some students are more aware of the process than others…) as well.

    I, too, think your girls are lucky to have been born to you!

  3. I’d recommend checking out the Reggio Emilia pedagogical approach. It’s based on craft projects centred on the individual child’s interests. Children seem to know instinctively what they need to learn or what skills they need to develop. Your girls will lead the way. Have fun!!!!

  4. Pingback: Education | Carina Of Devon

  5. I’ve always admired people who homeschool!! I too read Ivan Illich’s book, only many years before you! Then I entered the education system (as a teacher, as you know) and saw all it’s flaws and difficulties (of course it’s not all bad though!)… I’m sure your kids will do well whatever transpires – encouraging their natural curiousity and teaching them skills to help them understand and use the information they gather – good luck with it all 🙂

    PS re your December post: That’s interesting about the freedom homeschoolers have in Britain – I think it’s considerably more structured here in Canada, but maybe it varies from province to province… as almost everything does!

    • Hi Rennie, Sorry for the slow reply! Julian did indeed get the lovely package you left outside the Riverside. I’m delighted because I love Annie Proulx but had never heard of this one! Looking forward to curling up with it soon. Hope to meet you some day on the Guadiana or the Danube xx

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