Friday, 8 October 2010

Deschooling

It is more or less an article of faith among some home educating parents that children and teenagers are natural learners who are inquisitive and enthusiastic about pursuing their chosen interests. All this is perfectly true. Sometimes. Some, on the other hand, are lazy and incurious, wanting nothing more than to stay in bed until lunchtime before slumping in front of the television for the rest of the day. We know that this is the case because we see various cries for help and advice on the Internet lists from parents who are at their wits end over this sort of behaviour on the part of their teenage sons and daughters. The standard advice given to the parents of such children is to relax and stop worrying. if they wish to get up at two or three in the afternoon, that is simply their biology at work. if they wish to watch television all day, that to is fine. They will probably get fed up with doing this after a while. Try a period of deschooling, just let them slob around for a while. The recommendation is one month of 'deschooling' for every year spent in school. The idea is that the toxicity of school needs time to leach out of the teenagers system! So a fourteen year old who has just been de-registered should spend the next nine months or so doing nothing at all. That will help in the run-up to his GCSEs!

Those of us who work in certain areas will be aware that for many people, getting up at lunchtime and spending the day watching television is quite a popular lifestyle for those wholly reliant upon state benefits. They do not seem to get fed up with it, no matter what the well meaning advice given to home educating parents might suggest. The problem is that the sort of people who dish out this advice are often intelligent people who read a lot and are not very keen on television. They just cannot conceive of anybody choosing this lifestyle and so reassure anxious parents that it is just a phase their kid is going through. By the time that the kid is sixteen or seventeen and it has become clear that this is how he is planning to spend his life, it is often too late to do anything about it. All you can then do is say, 'Well, he can take GCSEs at any age and if he wants to he can always study with the Open University'.

Local authorities have noticed a third spike in de-registration from schools. Traditionally, de-registration took place in the first year or two after the age of five and also at the changeover from primary to secondary school. They are seeing a lot of thirteen and fourteen year olds these days being taken out of school. The worry is that many of these children might end up doing little apart from watching television or surfing the Internet. For some, this is not a problem. They can learn a lot on the Internet! It is these children about whom many are concerned. because if once they get into the habit of staying in bed half the day and doing nothing except staring at a screen, this can easily become their chosen lifestyle. They are liable to become unemployed, indeed unemployable in later life. We have no idea how common this is, because of course official interest ends on the child's sixteenth birthday. This was one of the concerns which prompted local authorities to try and acquire additional powes for the regualtion of home education.

14 comments:

  1. Teenagers, exams and employability are not a single issue. Teenagers who take and pass GCSEs have no guarantee of a job, so employment is one issue. Some of them might have GCSEs and available work but not be employable - attitude and life skills are just as important as literacy and numeracy in many workplaces. Then there's the issue of school. Most 14 year olds are to all intents and purposes adults, but keeping them in a system that gives them little control over their own learning can cause more problems than it solves.

    The concept of 'de-schooling' has arisen, not because of some theory of detoxification, but because parents have found that after a period of a few months slumping in front of the tv, the teenager has started wanting to learn. I've seen no evidence to suggest that people who adopt slumping in front of the tv whilst living on benefits as a lifestyle choice have been home educated. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    ReplyDelete
  2. 'Local authorities have noticed a third spike in de-registration from schools.'

    Reference please? I'd love to see these stats.

    Mrs Anon

    ReplyDelete
  3. 'They are liable to become unemployed, indeed unemployable in later life. We have no idea how common this is, because of course official interest ends on the child's sixteenth birthday.'

    How can you claim that they are liable to become unemployed when you also say no one knows the stats?

    I don't disagree that habits of laziness formed in young adulthood seem to be a bad idea, but that's not the same as claiming a specific outcome.

    Some children are terribly damaged by school. I'm helping one mum now, whose 15 year old is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, who is only attending a special unit within the school 2 days a week anyway, and is likely to fail all her GCSE's despite being a bright kid.

    When she dereg's I will recommend a plan for some sort of structure for her, but her needs are primarily, at this point in her life, to relax and stop feeling the need to self-harm.

    Once her mental health is sorted and she no longer has the suicidal thoughts and panic attacks and cries all the time, then I'll help mum (we are friends) to look at a long-term solution, which will almost definitely include exams, because she is a very capable (but damaged by school) girl.

    I think the problem is that, for kids like my friend's, a time of de-schooling isn't a luxury but an absolute necessity. And from that sort of real eg 'people on lists' tend to extrapolate and claim it's necessary for every kid, when it may not be.

    Of course, the reasons people withdraw 14/15 year olds from school tend to be quite different from the reasons they withdraw at 5 or 11 (1st school choice not being available being one eg). Teens in real distress or crisis would be a common eg of the reasons to withdraw a 15 year old.

    Mrs Anon

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mrs Anon, for evidence about the age of children deregistered for home education see;

    The Prevalence of Home Education
    in England: A Feasibility Study
    Vicky Hopwood, Louise O'Neill,
    Gabriela Castro and Beth Hodgson
    York Consulting Ltd
    Published 2007

    Figure 3.1 is the chart to look at. Also the second report of Session 2009-10 of the CSF select committee; the Review of Elective Home Education, page 63.

    ReplyDelete
  5. 'Teens in real distress or crisis would be a common eg of the reasons to withdraw a 15 year old.'

    Another common reason would be that a child of thirteen or fourteen will not get out of bed in the morning or is simply fed up with school and no longer wishes to go. There are various reasons for children of this age to be de-regsitered and I do not know which is in practice the most common. If you are on the EO list, an interesting discussion of this topic is currently taking place.

    ReplyDelete
  6. ' I've seen no evidence to suggest that people who adopt slumping in front of the tv whilst living on benefits as a lifestyle choice have been home educated. Quite the opposite, in fact.'

    Most of those I know have been to school. However, it is a poor habit for a teenager to get into and I have an idea that in many cases the prognosis is not very promising.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think that it is a mistake to recommend any kind of 'formula' to people - be it a quantity of months de-schooling or a list of GCSEs. One of the things I have come to realise about home education is that some new home educators are looking for someone to "tell them how it's done". Fortunately for many of us (but perhaps unsettling for others) there is no-one to do this. We have to work it out for ourselves. Of course, there is nothing wrong with offering advice when people ask for it but I think that it is wise not to be too dogmatic about anything. As Mrs Anon reminds us above, people can be dealing with very complex and painful situations.

    ReplyDelete
  8. ' Fortunately for many of us (but perhaps unsettling for others) there is no-one to do this.'

    Well I think that you have put your finger on a very good point here, Allie. There can be something very alarming about being completely in charge of your child's education. Nobody to blame if you screw it up! I can imagine that this does make some people feel a little nervous, although I found it pretty exhilarating personally.

    ReplyDelete
  9. 'Another common reason would be that a child of thirteen or fourteen will not get out of bed in the morning or is simply fed up with school and no longer wishes to go.'

    Is that information in the York Consulting publication also?

    I find it very hard to believe that is a COMMON reason for withdrawl from school. Your blog is the only place I've ever heard this claim.

    The most common reason for withdrawl of 14-16 year olds in the groups of which I've been a part has been unmet SEN's, severe bullying by pupils or staff or complex mental health needs which are incompatible with school.

    Not on the EO list so am not following this thread.

    Mrs Anon

    ReplyDelete
  10. 'I think that it is a mistake to recommend any kind of 'formula' to people - be it a quantity of months de-schooling or a list of GCSEs.'

    Not sure who this was in response to, Allie? Simon? Or me saying what I would be recommending to my friend.

    This is an interesting issue. 'People on lists' tend to be very free with their advice, I've found. Despite knowing NOTHING about a family's circumstances, HE is always promoted to be the answer to every school problem. AE is always promoted to be the answer to every HE problem. Deschooling is always promoted as the answer to every motivation problem.

    Yet, these solutions are recommended with no knowledge of the child or parents individual circumstances.

    In this case, I am very good friends with the family and am advising them on the basis of a good knowledge of their needs, abilities and most importantly, desires. I know what my friend's daughter wants to achieve in the next few years and I have enough experience to be able to offer advice on how she can get there.

    This is the opposite of what usually happens on lists, where advice is thrown out there into cyberspace with no interest in the long-term consequences of following that advice. I'll be standing alongside my friend and her daughter for the next few years, giving information, support and ideas and helping them through the consequences of my recommendations, if they choose to accpet them. If they don't, I'll love them and help them anyway.

    This is advice within the context of relationship.

    Mrs Anon

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anon-say-The most common reason for withdrawl of 14-16 year olds in the groups of which I've been a part has been unmet SEN's, severe bullying by pupils or staff or complex mental health needs which are incompatible with school.

    I agree with you anon.Why dont you do something about this Webb? millions need to be spent helping all these children.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "' I've seen no evidence to suggest that people who adopt slumping in front of the tv whilst living on benefits as a lifestyle choice have been home educated. Quite the opposite, in fact.'

    Most of those I know have been to school. However, it is a poor habit for a teenager to get into and I have an idea that in many cases the prognosis is not very promising. "

    The idea of de-schooling comes from the observation, made by many parents, that the slumping in front of the tv or equivalent is *temporary*. If it wasn't, it would be called *slumping in front of the tv*. This suggests that it isn't a habit at all.

    It would be very interesting to look into the backgrounds of people for whom it has become a habit. My guess is that home education would feature in few of their histories.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Oh, Mrs Anon, wasn't aiming my comment at you. You were clearly talking about someone you know well.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "'Local authorities have noticed a third spike in de-registration from schools.'

    Reference please? I'd love to see these stats."

    The last research (as opposed to anecdotal evidence) into this that I've found is the York study, http://www.education.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/RR827%20r.pdf. Table 3.3 shows the largest increases between years R and 1 (28), 6 and 7 (32), and years 7 and 8 (29). In contrast, the increase between 12 and 13 year olds was only 5 (unless I'm mixing my years groups up, which is entirely possible). This study was published in early 2007, so if this third spike is happening it's a very recent development.

    The only evidence of a spike at 13 that Simon cites is the anecdotal evidence of a few LA inspectors.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmchilsch/39/39i.pdf

    ReplyDelete