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  • Diahann Hughes Hawkins

"Why I finally decided to home educate my children”

I really had no choice other than to home educate both my children this past year, because frankly I learned too much. As a very active parent that helped to transform our local primary school from within the system and setup an outdoor-based preschool, and then went on to become Chair of Governors, I learned a huge amount about the problems facing our current education system. These are local, national and even global problems. Over the past six years, I’ve stumbled upon some enlightened talks* and read many great books** at the forefront of education innovation which all share one core message “we’re not preparing our children for the challenges that lie ahead of them after they finish their formal educational journey”. It brought me to this key insight that led to our final decision to home educate: our children are not only being taught outdated information, but the way they are being taught in overcrowded classrooms by subject-based teaching is actually undermining the very skills they will need to survive & thrive in the 21st century.

And there’s more. I learned about the struggles our local/national schools are having with funding children with special education needs, finding enough school places for a growing population and enduring the constant stress caused by the fear of Ofsted that saps the creativity out of what should be one of the most rewarding professions there is….helping children to learn. And then there were the endless conversations I had with current and former teachers about the disillusion they had about the whole profession once they actually got into teaching, and that it wasn’t what they signed up for in the first place. Instead they found the current system put them into a teaching straightjacket where their own creativity and passion to teach was undermined by a system of ‘teaching to the test’, while force-feeding dry materials by subject as required by the National Curriculum. This whole cocktail has brought schools to a point where innovative ‘out of the box’ thinking has become stifled, even though there are many enlightened educators and theories out there. There is even strong evidence from neuroscientists about the optimum learning environment for children, but why aren’t we rushing to transform our classrooms that have more in common with Victorian schools than 21st century places of learning?

So, it seemed illogical to keep our own precious children on the path to losing their creativity and love of learning, which they fortunately maintained throughout most of their primary school years. I had spent much of my adult life undoing the bad habits and lack of confidence from my own educational experience, and didn’t want my own children to have that same disadvantage when starting out in the real world. They can learn the maths, science, history, etc. through the endless amount of online resource and learning tools that are exploding onto the Internet every week, which I’m able to introduce to them as a facilitator. And I grown convinced that learning happens best through doing, so have started project-based teaching to see if this pedagogy works better. To be fair, there are some great education experiments taking places in pockets around the world, which I’d like to cover in future articles. However, we can’t move our family to those innovative and exclusive schools, so had to think about what we could do on a local level.

So it came down to this: the only reason we had left for keeping them in the full-time system was childcare, which wasn’t needed for our family situation. Working with a handful of parents trying to reform local schools in time for our children to benefit seemed too daunting, as was setting up an experimental school. Fortunately for us families in the UK are permitted to home educate their children and there are no strings attached, which meant no requirement to teach the National Curriculum by subject. Additionally, there are some great teaching resources being rapidly developed globally, and accessing them is easier with so many available for free (or small fee) on the Internet. With the restraints off and the support from close family members, we have begun the journey of rethinking education for our children. It is this new journey that I want to document, and share with any other families out there who are going through the same process too.

02-02-2020


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