Saturday, February 04, 2012

Do homeschooled kids end up homeschooling their kids?

by Beverley Paine

Yesterday I was asked that, if my children ‘had their way’ would they homeschool their children. I’ve touched on this subject previously, late last year because I noticed that it is a question that is occurring more frequently for me. That if my “children’s experience of homeschooling is a good one, won’t they wish to pass these extraordinary benefits onto their children”.  And wouldn’t it be interesting to see statistics on how many home educated young people go on to educate their own children.

I responded by saying that, while I would love my children to home educate their children, it's something they will work out for themselves. In our situation the partners have not been home educated, so home education is new to them. Their lives will follow paths determined by their needs, not what has happened in the past.

"If they could have their way" assumes that there is a chance they can't - which I don't believe will happen. Home education tends to develop individuals who have considerable self-understanding and awareness, people who know can identify what they need and how to meet those needs, and have a good idea about what they want and how realistic and achievable that is. They use whatever resources are at hand and think laterally about possible resources and tend to actively problem solve - all this helps them achieve what they need and want. They create pathways to "have their way" so to speak. 

Secondly I don't think my children's experiences of home education was either 'good' or 'bad' - it was simply an experience that they benefited from in many ways. The educational side of their childhood - how we home educated, what we did, etc - is nowhere near as important to determining the type of adults they have become as their genetic inheritance (personality traits, inherited medical conditions, etc) and the quality of their parenting experiences. Offering them an education free of the confines and restrictions of school simply allowed my children to grow up to the be the people they are, not who someone else (including me) wants them to be or thinks they should be.

As parents and home educators we responded to our children's needs as they arose. I think most of us eventually end up doing that because it makes sense and it works and it is what makes home education more responsive with better results than school based education. How we measure those results is an individual thing: my perception of success and benefit will be different from my child's perception, both during childhood and then looking back on it as an adult.

For many years people would ask my youngest if he thought home education was better than school and he could only honestly reply that he didn't know: he had not experienced school and was not prepared to make a judgment about it. He was happy learning at home in the way he was - that's all he could say. Would he home educate his children? He says, 'that depends' - he is aware that there will be many factors to take into account when the time comes around to make that decision and that his personal experiences as a home educator are important but only one of those factors.

As a movement home education is are seeing second generation home educated children but it is also seeing home education children becoming school teachers and many children of home educated children going to school too. I don't see this as saying anything about the effectiveness or benefit of home education, simply that people are people and have access to a wide selection of choices to suit their needs.  

At the end of home education most of us define success and benefit differently than how we did at the beginning: we're grateful for the friendships we've created with our children, we're grateful they know their own minds and can problem solve their way through life, that they are autonomous and responsible, we're happy that our choices helped them get there, but we're also aware that what we did is what we did and that they need to carve their own paths through life. And isn't this the whole point of parenting and educating our kids, to get them to this point? I love that my children make their own choices and don't feel the need to emulate my example.

I think it would be helpful to gather all kinds of statistics on home education, how it happens and its outcomes, but mainly so that we can provide appropriately targeted support and build home education community more effectively. As a general tool to assist planning or evaluate past happenings statistics are useful but I am cautious and tend to be skeptical of them.   

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