Monday, 3 December 2012

Home education: adult perspective.

I feel that this is not talked about often so I am going to provide my personal experience. Please remember that everyone's experience of home education are different, this is just mine.

So lets start; I'm Indigo, I'm 20 and I have never been to school. Every time I hear about home education I hear about children and young teenagers, never adults and none who went from reception to year 11 without attending school.
Let's give you some background: I didn't every really have 'lessons'. My mum gave up on reading with me on a regular basis when I was 7 because I didn't understand and didn't want to do it and maths wasn't her strong point so she couldn't go past K2 with me. I learnt mostly from watching educational programs on TV and learning with friends and their parents. At 16 I went to college, after 4 years and 2 colleges I now have 6 GCSEs, 2 AS Levels and 3 Levels.

I'll address these problems, shall I? I am dyslexic, this was confirmed at 17 when I was at college, had I gone to school I do believe that this would have been picked up and therefore I would have had help reading/writing ect. My mother did not pick up on this so she just thought I would 'get it' at some point. I didn't read a book till I was 12. Now don't get me wrong, I did learn a lot of other things, I learned how to cook and feed myself, I had the responsibility of looking after animals and when my brother and sister were born I learnt that I never want children because I know what it's like to be about babies 24/7! I also picked up a lot from listening to adults and from my mum's husband who was a carpenter.
Obviously my situation will have been different from others, however I have known a lot of parents of home ed' kids, who don't think it's important to follow the national curriculum and keep them up to speed with other kids. Just because you don't have to follow it doesn't mean it's not a good idea to!

College: Because I wasn't up to speed with a lot of people and had never been in a learning environment I did have some problems in my first year or two of college. Maths was a particular struggle for me as I didn't even know the basics that you learn in junior school. I ended up taking it 3 times (once fast track 8 weeks) to get my C (in the end I got maximum marks for the paper I took though *gloat*). When as a child I had been good at maths, when it came down to it I was one of the worst because I didn't know anything. To give you an idea of how bad it was, I didn't know how decimals worked.
Another point I'd like to bring up is that because I was aware of that fact that I would be behind everyone I was limited in what I did. In my first year I wanted to take science GCSE, but didn't pass the pre test they made me do because I had no clue how to work a graft. I wanted to do that particular subject because I wanted to be a paramedic, but I lost all confidence at this point and thought that I was too stupid to do that. I ended up taking an art course, which I took further and I'm now going to university to study photography.
Now although I love photography, I am aware that it's not the most lucrative, useful or stable career choice and I do wish I'd had a chance to do something... better. In school you are not given a choice in most subjects you take for GCSE. At 16 I wanted to do something fun and didn't think about how it would affect my future, now I don't really have all that many choices.
In addition to this I was very shy and didn't really know how to talk to people, this meant that I had few friends, no close friends and was very unhappy for my first 2 years. In the second year when doing AS levels, I stated having panic attacks when I was 'told off' by tutors and became very frightened to talk to anyone.

Success! Or not. I mention that I'm going to uni, but of all 4 of the girls I was friends with when I was a teenager who were HE as well, I am the only one. Three have had 'opps' babies and the other works as a shop assistant. I do not speak to them any more, nor do I consider this an achievement. However I do live in a town which has quite a few teenage pregnancy jokes, so many that has something to do with things :p

The recluse stereotype: the thing I hate the most when I tell people that I've never been to school it that the reaction is always the same; "But you're so talkative and loud, I would never have guessed that you didn't know anyone growing up!!" Yes, I am loud, sociable and talkative, I know I mentioned that I didn't have any friends in college, but I did have friends as a child. There are local communicates of of HEers, who normally meet up and do activities together. Wiltshire, where I primarily grew up is not good for this, however Gloucestershire where I lived as I young child is. I think it does depend on the area you live in, much as it does with good and bad schools. Whatever, my point was that not all home educated children are little hermits who can't/don't speak to 'normal' people. In fact most have friends just like any other child.
I personally had HE friends and also played with other kids who lived near by who went to school. When I got into my teenage years I had older friends who had been home educated and then went to college and I made friends with their friends. Having said all that however, by this point there weren't many people my age who were still in HE groups and I didn't see a lot of my friends because they lived a little while away. I think all this, coupled with the fact that I must have been festering with hormones and rather insecure contributed to the fact that I found it hard to talk to people, and did up until I started working in a bar at 18.
My mum's favourite saying was - and still is - "school is for learning, not for socialising", but I do not agree with this, seeing as she said the same thing about college and all I did was talk!

One last thing, work. It took me two and a half years to get a part time job. I looked constantly for that time and eventually got the job I am in now, that I have been in for 18 months and I hate. I can't get out for this job because I can't find another one, and although there is a crappy job market ect. ect. I believe that I lot of the reason I find it so hard to find a job is because I didn't go to school. Remember that stereotype? Yeah, people think you're 'weird' and don't fit in with the rest of society. That is Ultimately why I think it would have been good for me to go to school, at least secondary school. "But school is an unnatural environment!!"  I hear all you HEers saying. How is it unnatural? We have created something which most people go through, it may not be the nicest of things to go through, but the rest of the world is just as unpleasant, if not more so. You could say that not being in school is unnatural, if you wanted to pick an argument.

Did I ever want to go to school as a kid. Yes, when I got to about 11 I wanted to, but was put off by the idea of not being able to keep up academically and by my mums own school experience. I was made to believe that I wouldn't fit in and every school child was a horrible sheep stupid by the other HE parents around me.

My conclusion? Yes, home education could be a very good thing, if done right. Yes, I am still shocked when I find people who don't have 'life skills', people who can't cook a roast or use a washing mechine and I think that is an advantage to HE.
In my personal opinion, if your child isn't happy in school then you should take them out if you believe that you are capable of teaching them all the things they need to know yourself or if not you can get that information to them somehow.
I do not think that your school experience or your opinion of the schooling system in your country should affect your child's decision. If they like school, good. If they don't there is another option there.
I think that secondary school should be something everybody goes through, but how can I say that when I didn't experience it, I just wish I had. Not only would I have more qualifications, but I may have had more social skills earlier on.
Everyone should have a equal choice in what they want to do in their lives, this should not be restricted by what your parents did for you as a kid so please think about whether or not you think you can give your child an adequate education.

Like I said at the beginning of this post these are just my feelings, experiences and views. I hope they were helpful, maybe there are some different people out there, but my non-schooling experience has had an over all negative impact on my life. I do not mean to offend anyone with this post, I just wish to voice my opinion and my story.

Thanks for reading :)

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