By Ruby Wednesday
Don’t tell the kids but the purpose of school is to prepare young minds for a life of regular employment. Despite ‘business leaders’ regularly lamenting falling standards, twenty five years of a National Curriculum means at least we can all add-up enough to complete our tax returns.
There is a DIY alternative though. Official statistics aren’t recorded but it’s believed that around 50,000 children in England and Wales are home schooled, usually by their parents. The reasons for this are varied but many claim it’s because they dislike the rigidity of the school system and a culture that values tests, targets and league tables. Some parents prefer the term “autonomous education” and would rather see learning for learning’s sake, allowing a child to pursue their own interests. The law states that parents have an obligation to ensure their children are educated to a standard appropriate to their age and abilities, but doesn’t stipulate that this needs to be in school. In other words, education is compulsory, but school is not.
The home-schooled kids I know spend way too much time in adult company, and as a consequence don’t seem to have much in common with kids their own age, but there’s no doubt that a lot of home-schoolers do very well in life. The journalist Caitlin Moran, feminist du Jour, and everyone’s favorite Twitteratti, has talked extensively about her experience of being home schooled (although in her case it sounds more like benign neglect).
I have a huge amount of admiration for these teacher-parents, but I know its takes a better person than me to dedicate themselves to their children’s education. There’s a real risk that any home-schooled child of mine would receive the bulk of their learning via Wikipedia. The other issue (and perhaps the most crucial) is that home-schooling is opting to spend all day, every day, with the kids and eschew all that state-provided free childcare. When my baby is old enough I fully intend to hand her over to the professionals, for her education and my sanity. Everyday parenting challenges such as ensuring a child is fed, watered and free of parasites is tough enough without having to recall the elements of the Periodic Table or how to measure the circumference of a circle.