Homeschooling Harry: We can’t always do what we want…

SAM_9246I was reading through the many comments on the home ed post I wrote for Parentdish – Why I am homeschooling my child –  and a couple of them jumped out at me because I’ve heard this kind of thing before:

Home-schooling removes children from the real world. Being able to do whatever, whenever we like, is a poor preparation for a world of work in which (like it or not) we have tasks to complete and can’t just go to the beach, much as we would like to, but must persevere until a responsibility is fulfilled.

Ignoring the fact that school really isn’t “the real world” (how could school be more real than home?!), this comment makes me a bit sad. Being able to do whatever, whenever we like may be a poor preparation for a job you hate, but why base children’s education on the idea that their future is going to be miserable? I spent 15+ years “fulfilling responsibilities” and “completing tasks” in a traditional work environment and I hated it a hell of a lot of the time. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to work for myself and I’m much happier. I can go to the beach if I want to, but I can also persevere until a “responsibility is fulfilled” if that responsibility is mine and it’s fulfilling to me. Does that make sense?

Even some positive comments addressed this:

This lady sounds as though she will do a good job,my only concern is that no matter how rounded and well balanced her son `turns out` he will still need the paper qualifacations [sic] to open the `doors` for a fullfilling career in later life !!

Do people have such narrow ideas of what a fulfilling career is? I have paper qualifications and they were basically cock-all use. The thing that’s brought me the most fulfilment has nothing to do with qualifications. Plus, of course, just because a child is home educated doesn’t mean s/he can’t still get paper qualifications if s/he wants to.

I’m currently reading How Children Succeed by Paul Tough and he suggests that academic achievement isn’t a true indicator of success later in life, but rather character is more important. I’m still mid-way through, but so far, what’s important seems to be grit and determination and, yes, following through on tasks you find hard. But why should those tasks not also be something you enjoy? I find writing hard. I have been known to have epic flail spirals. I sometimes think about how much easier my life would be if I didn’t feel compelled to write bloody stories all the time. (Seriously – what do people do when they’re not thinking of writing, writing, worrying about writing, worrying that they’re not writing? It must be so relaxing…), but I keep doing it anyway. Because it brings me fulfilment. Why wouldn’t I want the same for my children?

One of the main things I hope will come out of home educating the boys is that they will find jobs they love and that inspire them. Not work that – “like it or not” – they just have to get on and plod through.

(Plus, some experts have suggested that 65% of kids starting school this year will end up in jobs that don’t exist yet so how do we ‘train’ them for work we don’t yet understand?)

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16 thoughts on “Homeschooling Harry: We can’t always do what we want…

  1. You are so right keris. I could never understand the narrow and negative mentality of raising kids from the fact that life’s going to be miserable you may as well get used to it!! Life is whatever positive approach you take really. Home educating certainly makes you think very hard about what you want for your kids other than a treadmill existence which is what a grade led school education tends to be about! I agree; we should be educating our kids to reach their potential and be happy!

    • I agree solidly with you, Keris, and with you, Ross! I think the structured educational system is failing a lot of kids. Unless you happen to be fortunate enough to “fit” that system, and have a clear academic goal for uni, it’s a road of misery.

      I feel very fortunate that I went straight into psychology, with the aim of becoming a psychologist (which I have done), although I’ve always looked at this as a Trade, much like Medicine/Engineering.

      I think every person has gifts and talents, and if a parent can help a child identify and grow these into fulfilling and profitable work options for their future, they’ve done a damn good job! I think my parents did that with me, and I’m very happy with the work I’ve pursued, and will continue to pursue into the future! (Even though I’m angling more, now, to writing and running seminars on elements of psychology that interest me.)

  2. Just wanted to echo everyone’s support really Keris. It’s taken me a while (far too long actually) to join the dots on this one, but you’re right on so many levels. I’ve spent my whole working life in an industry that pretty much didn’t exist when I was at school (and was certainly so new that it wasn’t represented by any part of the curriculum), so I’m living proof of someone who grew up to work in a “non-existent” job.

    I’ve also spent a fair bit of thinking time pondering (and being jealous of) those people who appear so confident and grounded that they can succeed at anything. In the end I’ve concluded it’s because their parents gave (could afford to give) them the kind of education that allowed them to think for themselves, to know themselves, and to choose their own path. They are not confident and grounded because they’re successful – they’re successful because they’re confident and grounded, and THAT is the greatest gift a parent can give a child. The environment in which they can attain that level of confidence and self-knowledge. Which is exactly what you’re doing.

    Heard a representative of the Apprentice’s representative body on R4 this morning saying they could take 100,000 young people right now onto vocational training but only get around 8,000 a year because parents, schools and society in general have been brainwashed into thinking it’s a second-class route to fulfilment; that Uni is the only way. The girl who won this year’s apprentice of the year award had her first application for a place shredded by her HEADMASTER!

    I’m sure that a few years down the road more and more people will come to realise you’ve got the right idea.

    • Thanks so much, John. “They are not confident and grounded because they’re successful – they’re successful because they’re confident and grounded” – this is just what How Children Succeed is about and it’s so interesting because it just doesn’t seem to work in the way we’ve always thought it did.

  3. It’s seemed to me for a long time that our education system has become just that – a system. Not a diverse, inclusive, joyful opportunity for children to become intelligent, well-read, well-rounded people who will shape the future of our society, but a system by which we churn out well-indoctrinated drones who have been trained to conform so that they can be plugged straight into a soulless job and allow big business to continue to shape the future of our society.

    Anyone who thinks that schools prepare children in any way for The Real World (as opposed to the fantasy world where some of us live, perhaps? Does this mean fairies will clean my bathroom if I just wish hard enough?) is sadly mistaken. Schools prepare kids to put up with institutionalised boredom and unfairness without making waves, and to pass tests with the minimal level of crammed knowledge. That’s *it*. ‘Prepared for the real world’ is a euphemism for ‘taught to lower their expectations’.

    As for the idea that kids aren’t adequately socialised unless they’re flung into the dog-eat-dog cesspool of typical school interactions: just what kind of socialisation are we aiming for? Socialisation for psychos and victims? Our schools allow children to be violently bullied and psychologically tormented with no effective response except that elegant classic: to blame the victims. After being spat on and pushed down the stairs (for the sin of getting 100% on an English test and being praised by the teacher) I was picked up, taken to the head teacher’s office, and sternly questioned for an hour by teachers on what I did to provoke the other children, then told to stop ‘being so different’ and to not react to further incidences of bullying – because that would appease the kids who had assaulted me. Then the bullies were brought in and we all had to apologise to each other and shake hands. Brilliant! I’m sure we all want our kids to learn that being different is just asking for violence and that if someone attacks you, you should apologise to them for the sin of existing. Schools are just wonderful at inculcating that message. Creating decent humans beings? Not so much.

    If I had a child, I would homeschool them. I know it’s a huge commitment and that there are ups and downs, but I have so much admiration for home schooling parents, I can’t even express it. I would rather remain childless than send a child to a school like the one I attended.

    • Thanks, Zoe. I totally agree with you (have you read Seth Godin’s Stop Stealing Dreams? Total eye-opener for me). And I hate that you had such a terrible school experience. It’s so shocking to me that a school would deal with – or rather, not deal with – bullying in that way.

      Noticing how Harry was changing his personality – only in small ways, but still – to fit in at school was one of the first red flags for me. I spent so many years hiding who I really was – and it took me so long to get over it and learn to be myself – that I really didn’t want the same for my kids.

      • I haven’t, but I will look it up now!

        Bless you for making that decision, Keris, honestly. The reason I have a Northern accent is not that I picked it up naturally from parents/family. I deliberately taught myself to speak this way as a teen because the constant bullying over having a ‘posh’ accent made me suicidal. Now it’s permanent, and it feels like a scar of my school experiences that I can never leave behind. Of course, once I talked like the other kids they just switched to tormenting me over being a ‘boff’ (that is, too clever). You just can’t win.

        Harry will never have to feel that way, Keris. And that makes you an amazing mother :)

  4. It’s not even just jobs that don’t exist yet, school prepares you for a very, very small proportion of the jobs out there.

    When I’m working for Sky Sports I’m constantly reminded of how little any schooling could prepare you that type of work. Even when you study Media Studies, etc, the practical and technical skills required in the TV industry can only be learned on the job.

    And that’s just one example, I imagine most things are the same.

    • Yes, I think school mostly prepares you for exactly the kind of boring, desk-bound job the Parentdish commenter is thinking of.

  5. Although I know the whole point of what you wrote was not about qualifications – just to tell you though (for future defence of your position) that a neighbour of mine withdrew her v sensitive child from school, was criticised v much (child needed toughening up etc etc), & child is now at university studying, extremely happy socially & getting Firsts. It was v hard for her mum to withdraw her but she knew her child better than anyone. I used to help tutor her in English.

    My four children are all happy at v good, creative schools, & I don’t think home schooling would have been right for us, but I wish you the best – I think it is wonderful you and the boys are so happy and thriving.

    • Thanks, Anne. Apparently, home educated children actually do better in higher education (and work) than traditionally educated children.

  6. I feel it’s really sad that you have to defend your decision to do what is best for your children. You and David are the ones who know them best and know what will suit them best. If only more parents were as concerned and caring as you two, the world would be a much better place, I’m sure. There are far too many ‘school-schooled’ children who end up being drug dealers, thugs, and worse. And far too many parents who look upon schools as free babysitting agencies. A recent survey I read indicated that many people think that it’s up to our schools to teach children not to be violent! Surely that’s a task for parents? We all need to know how to look after ourselves in later life, something that I certainly wasn’t taught at school. Nobody taught my cohort about mortgages, financial budgeting, anything useful. It’s time for those who knock homeschooling to open their minds and stop being so regimented. Looking at that picture of Harry and Joe – well, how could you ruin that by sending them to organised school? I really know exactly how you feel because now I’m retired, I do actually feel free for the very first time – and also, happy. But I had to wait 55 years for that – and you and your boys have it now. Life’s too short. Don’t justify – enjoy!! :) xxx

    • Thanks, Maz. But I don’t *have* to defend it, I’m choosing to because I think many people misunderstand home ed (I used to too) and I want to share our “journey” (barf).

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