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Friday, 5 July 2013

A Very Special Friday with a Homeschooling Mom

This is a very special post because it was written by one of my readers. She doesn't want her identity disclosed so I am not going to do that, but she offers some interesting thoughts about homeschooling options. In the US, homeschooling is becoming more and more popular. In Europe, however, options are very limited, and in some countries, such as Germany, even prohibited by law.
 In the Netherlands, the situation is difficult, making homeschooling legal but only if you can't find a school fitting your philosophy or beliefs. There is a lack of a support system to make homeschooling a high quality option, leaving parents who want to homeschool on their own. We have given the topic of  education a lot of thoughts and made a decision based on available options, our children's languages and quality of school. We have found one we liked and Klara will start in September. 
While we're not homeschooling ourselves, I think that this mom is right in one thing: all bilingual parents homeschool in some way, whether they notice it or not, because if we speak our language with our children and talk about school, we need to provide the vocabulary used at  school- even if when helping with homework. I would like to invite a discussion on this topic- please put your thoughts in the comments! I want this blog to be a place for kind and respectful discussion about different topics- this is why I asked her to write this post even though we have never considered homeschooling ourselves.
It is very difficult for me to say why exactly I want to home educate. I was one of those people who knew I would home educate ever since I first became pregnant. Before thinking about visiting a doctor or birth or cribs and strollers, I thought about schooling options and home education always seemed interesting to me. I suppose the truth is that on some level I see education as extremely important.
What goes into my child's head and how it goes into her head is important to me and to give up complete control over something so important is just difficult. I want to be sure that they are understanding the concepts being taught. I want to be sure that they are actually interested in what is being taught, that they are engaged and actually learning. And the truth is that although I learnt a lot about being social during my schooling experience a lot of my time at school was also wasted.
For me I learnt best when I was not at school. I learnt when I was interested in topics, when I actually started to understand math and science and became fascinated by these things and I feel that I can not offer my child that opportunity if they are at school everyday. I do not think the weekends and after school are enough time, and I do not like the idea of stressing out my child when she is supposed to be enjoying free time. I also learnt a lot at after school lessons and I think that was because I was able to go when I felt to and only to the classes I was interested in..
I grew up in Trinidad in a time when my parents could not send me to school if I didn't want to go and I loved that. Here it is different; I can not enroll my child in school, allow her to socialize and gain the benefits of public school, yet keep her at home when she wants to stay home and learn. I wish I could but it's not that easy in the Netherlands. I do recognize that their are significant advantages to real school though, like trained teachers and facilities and interaction with out students, but I think there are also some advantages to being at home and we all make choices in life.
And if my children are interested in going to school, I would definitely send them. In fact I hope that one day they are interested  and I hope, like all other parents, that everything they have learnt at home before going to school is enough to help them maturely deal with the things they face in school. My ideal version of public schooling though is one in which attendance is not regulated as much as it is, but rather how much the child is actually learning is regulated. I guess something more like university with parental guidance.
The Home education laws in the Netherlands make it very difficult to create anything remotely close to this though. Home educating co-ops are almost non-existent here because the government makes it so difficult to legally home educate, and in fact they only allow it under the one condition that you can not find a school which supports your religious beliefs within a reasonable distance to your home. Two years ago the government even considered taking away the right to home educate entirely. You can read this article to find out more about that.
My question to the Netherlands is how can this be the case in a country so based on tolerances of different schools of thinking? In possibly the only country where prostitution is legal, same-sex relationships are given the same rights as heterosexual relationships, abortion is legal, women's rights are well respected and even marijuana is legal. A country whose name has almost become synonymous with tolerance  I would of thought that the Dutch way was to be tolerant of difference while regulating that things do not become extreme; so why aren't they doing that with respect to home education?
What is the government so afraid of with respect to home education? I can only see that they are afraid of children being socialized in a way that they did not control. If they are afraid of children not being educated well enough; why not just regulate it more, test the children from time to time, check up on them? They must be afraid that the children will not be socialized "properly'', and what they do not realize is that by making it so difficult to home school they in fact ENSURE that the children are not socialized as well as they could be.
The truth is that home educating families often have to lie to get the right to home educate, and because of this many of them are afraid of socializing with other home learners as much as they would like to. They are afraid to advertise themselves as who they really are: regular folk who want to be a bigger part of their child's education and who also would not mind being a part of a home educating community so that their kids can make friends while learning in the the environment they believe is best for their child's education (their home).
This means that in fact Dutch home learning families are not as fully exposed to each other as they could be, and as a result the kids are not as well socialized as they could be. They are still just as well socialized as many kids who go to public schools, but the options available to them could still be so much more. So I am really asking the Dutch government to reconsider their position on home education. If a parent has the time and energy and will to home educate their child how can that be a bad thing?
What the government should do is try to regulate the quality of education the child is receiving  Ah well it could still be so much worse, at least there is an option for Dutch families, unlike in so many other European countries. What do you all think? Have you ever considered home education? And do you think it should be legalized?



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9 comments:

  1. Homeschooling will be outlawed in America soon. Our government wants all children indoctrinated to their way as soon as possible.

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  2. Hi Opus, thanks for commenting. I do however, don't see school as indoctrination, but rather as a way to educate children. But it has to be a good school. And let's not forget that for children of poorer families school is a great way to achieven education...And I also think that homeschooling should be regulated to maintain a certain level. But both options should be available to parents.

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  3. Homeschooling can be an option for special situations in countries like the Netherlands. We have a wide range of schools in the Netherlands (and generally in Europe!) and homeschooling is something that is really new to these countries. I think it's very important that children get in touch with other children (social intelligence...). In european countries this happens mainly in schools and if your kid didn't make this experience, he will feel left out. – You're right: bilingual or multilingual parents usually homeschool their kids anyway - so do I about 3 hours per week - but we also do teach our kids other things related with the school curriculum (like maths, science, literacy etc.) in our daily life, therefore the learning is actually a continuum between school and real life. Homeschooling a child is a very serious and time consuming commitment we would only take if there are not valid alternatives.

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    1. Ute, yes I agree! As you say, homeschooling is something relatively new in Europe and only done when the child is sick or can't attend school for some reason (other than when the parents think that schools are evil). As you say, I also mentioned that bilingual parents homeschool in their languages to teach their children the school vocabulary in the minority languages. As for social life, if homeschooling was more widespread in Europe, there would be supportive networks, and the children had contact with other children. I also believe that we have wonderful schooling opportunities here- hence why we chose to send our child to school. While I hated school myself I think that children nowadays have better schools!

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  5. As you say, homeschooling is something relatively new in Europe and only done when the child is sick or can't attend school for some reason (other than when the parents think that schools are evil).

    I have met quite a few homeschoolers in NL and none think that school is evil, their children can attend school and are also not sick.

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    1. The "school is evil" approach was probably my impression when reading homeschooling articles and it almost makes me feel as if I had to justify sending my children to school. I also often feel the same way when reading about homebirths. But I think homeschooling should be legal because it is a great options for some families.

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  6. Hi!
    I come from Slovenia, where homeschooling is also something very new. We do homeschool and for us it is an amazing experience. The reasons for homeschooling are numerous and very individual in their nature. Homeschooling offers to the parents and especially their children many, many benefits that scghool does not. But I'm not going into that, because the topic is too big. And you can read all about homeschooling- about pros and cons- on the internet.
    What I want to say is, that if we really want to talk about homeschooling we have to be familiar with some of the topics that are in close connection with education on general. First of all is here the famous socialization. Do we really know what socialization is? Does it really happen in schools? What kind of psychological process does it involve? etc. etc.
    kind of psychological process does it involve? etc. etc. Secondly, the question of how do children learn? What are the necessary prerequisites for learning? What are the psychological needs of children for the optimal learning? etc.etc. Thirdly, the quality of modern schools? No, I do not think that schools are evil, but I do think that the modern school system is outdated and that it urgently needs thorough changes.
    These are just some of the topics that we have to look into if we want to talk about homeschooling without being judgmental or talking nonsense (sorry for the harsh word).
    Please, do dive into the topic of homeschooling! It is very interesting topic from which everybody can learn something.

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    1. Hi Slom, thanks for your comment (also glad that your comment went trough).Good to know that homeschooling works for you. Yes, I believe there is lots of judgment on both sides of the debate (as it is in the case of breastfeeding vs formula, homrbirth vs hospital, working vs staying at home).You're also asking a lot of important questions, and they have to be answered in a way that leaves both schooling and homeschooling parents happy with their decision, and not feeling judged in any way.

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