Ask the man in the street “What is the purpose of school?” and you’ll get a pretty straightforward answer. It’s to educate children, right? Without school they’d all be illiterate, numerically inept, wouldn’t know all that important stuff that only school can teach them.
Or would they?
I Knew The Purpose of School When I was a Child
I was there to work hard, do well and pass exams so that I could get a good job.
My Mum, along with every well meaning adult I met, made sure I knew that. If I did well in school, I was guaranteed a happy, financially rewarding and socially acceptable life. So I did, I passed my exams, went to university, got my degree. There was another driving force behind my academic success, to impress my parents, prove myself, show that I was clever enough, worthy of being their child. It was a lot of stress.
I wasn’t in the workforce for long before I realised that my socially acceptable career path was doing nothing whatsoever to make me happy. I was jumping through the hoops, moving up the ranks, becoming more and more highly qualified, but I was bored and miserable. I actually used to think of work as being like school, something I had to do, tolerate and put up with.
I tend to wonder if it was all worth it, all those exams with narrower and narrower focus, driving me towards academic specialisation ready to take my place in the world.
It’s a long time since I quit my career, I’m much happier for it. Obviously it’s not like that for everyone, but I don’t want my children to experience the pressure of testing and being seen to succeed or fail relative to their peers. We are outside the school system, it just doesn’t apply to us.
What is so Magical About a School Education?
Is it really so unthinkable that a child will grow, develop and mature, picking up as much education as he needs from the people and things around him without a school education?
We know that children can, and do, learn to read by themselves with minimal instruction. We know that they will pick up the basics of maths through play.
So what is the purpose of school? Why are we expected to hand over our very young children to the education machine at such a tender age. What will happen if we don’t?
Education Without School
In my experience academic progression happens more quickly in children NOT placed in a school environment. It happens through having time to explore the world their way, more time to play, to look at and eventually read, books that interest them. There have been no graded readers in our home, no spelling lists to memorise, no sight words. I can’t think of a better way to turn a child off reading than to force set readers on them in school and at home, in their so-called free time.
They have flourished mathematically as a result of real life situations and games, from Monopoly to computer games. Their drive to master the game gives them the drive to master the numbers. All they need is a little extra help and encouragement, not lecturing and teaching.
What of the other subjects on the curriculum, history, science, arts? We know what is on the curriculum, I’ve read it, studied it dissected it and cannibalised it for my own use. I know that my children are learning far more than is on my state curriculum, in terms of broadness of study and depth of knowledge. School dumbs kids down.
In theory all children come out of junior school knowing the same stuff, although no teacher can guarantee that. But who chooses what that stuff should be and why can’t a different set of stuff be substituted? Your government’s particular one-size-fits-all curriculum may not be the best or most appropriate learning course for your child and the teaching methods employed may be the exact opposite of what that child needs.
As homeschoolers we are able to follow our children’s interests, help them find out and learn about, things that interest them. These early interests may be the start of their dream career. My eldest dreams of computer game design, so he’s learning to code. It makes sense to me to do it this way. Would you agree?
If, at some point down the line, he decides that he needs to go to university, we’ll address that. Alternate entry criteria exist for homeschoolers, qualifications can be gained quickly without wasting years and years in the education system.
Something that was said to me recently, “Some people can’t homeschool, their IQs are too low, they’re not teachers”.
I tend to disagree, so long as that parent is proactive and wants the best for their children. Most parents do.
This commentator was imagining a home teaching scenario, where the parent imparts knowledge to the child, that’s just not what happens. Children these days can learn anything they like from books, TV or the internet. Even if Mum can’t spell to save her life, through reading they soon pick up the correct spellings. Studies have shown this to be true, all that’s required is a literate household.
I have seen this in my own dreadful speller. He has gone from being bottom of the school class to having amazing reading, comprehension, grammar and spelling skills, purely through reading for pleasure. If Mum doesn’t know much about any subject, it’s very easy to find out and learn together.
School Has No Purpose For Us
We don’t need it, we don’t want it. It is something totally outside our world. If you choose to, or have to, outsource your child’s education to the school system, then that’s fine, I don’t blame you, criticise you, or condemn you for that. It’s your choice and I’m sure you believe it is the best choice for your child just as I believe I’ve made the best choice for my children.
What is the purpose of school? To provide an education for some children, but not for all.