One of the most depressing consequences of a child attending school is the wholly artificial distinction which soon fixes itself in his mind about the difference between work and play, learning and leisure. The pre-school child knows nothing of this; playing and learning for him are indistinguishable and interchangeable. Playing with a puzzle or inset board is fun for the toddler, but at the same time he is learning furiously! Hand/eye co-ordination, fine motor skills, pre-reading skills are all given a good workout when the child plays with a game or puzzle which involves matching shapes and positioning them in certain spot. A parent reading a story book to a small child is pure pleasure for the child, but at the same time she is receiving a valuable lesson in literacy. All this stops abruptly once "education" begins.
"Playtime" and "lessons" soon become diametrically opposed concepts, when once a child is at school. A natural result of this is that if learning is seen as the opposite of play, then activities associated with learning such as reading and writing, are swiftly transformed into tiresome chores rather than things that people do for fun. This is particularly damaging with books and reading. For all too many school children, "reading" is an academic subject that one is forced to do at school. A lot of schoolchildren would no more pick up a book unprompted than they would start reciting multiplication tables for pleasure. The whole reading thing has stopped being an enjoyable pastime and will forevermore be a subject like sums and spelling that teachers compel them to do unwillingly. From an educational perspective, this is little short of a catastrophe. Reading is utterly vital to the whole educational process and if a child is determined to avoid it whenever possible and only do the bare minimum when forced, the prognosis is not very favourable for that child's academic future.
How very different is the situation with a child who is not sent to school. Learning and play remain one and the same thing. Books are picked up because they are a fun thing in themselves. With help and encouragement from parents, writing develops quite naturally from scribbling and drawing. Learning to read is a glorious game which is as enjoyable as any other game played with the parents. Identifying the shapes of words is as much fun for a three year old as identifying the shapes of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Drawing round stencils of letters and numbers is every bit as much fun as drawing round stencils of a cat or a lorry.
Best of all, when a child is at home she can see her parents enjoying the things which they wish her to learn. She will see her parents reading books for pleasure, watch them typing and writing, listen to their conversations and realise that they themselves like to find things out and are interested in the world. She will grow up realising that "History" is not an academic subject, but something that people are interested in, investigate and read about not because it is Monday morning, but because it is actually fascinating. In other words, children raised like this will want to read, write, learn about history and so on, not because a teacher tells them they must, but because they see it as part of adult life that they want to share in. Just as some unfortunate children wish to start smoking because they see their parents doing it and it looks enjoyable, so the home educated child will wish to read and write for the simple reason that her parents do it and it looks exciting. It is impossible to overstate the beneficial effect of this kind of lifestyle on a growing child.