Thursday, 27 January 2011

'De-schooling' and other matters

Meanwhile, over on one of the Internet lists for home educators, some hapless woman about to take her child out of school is already being targeted by cranks who are determined to sabotage the kids education before the mother has even had a chance to begin. The most idiotic advice being offered to her is about what is known as 'de-schooling' The theory behind this is that once a child comes out of school, the toxicity which has accumulated in his system psychologically (!) should be given a chance to leach out. This means attempting no work or anything even approaching an education for some time after being de-registered from school. The urban myth associated with this mad idea suggests that one month of de-schooling should be allowed for every year that the child has spent at school. Any normal person should at once be able to see the disadvantages of this crazy scheme.

Since the majority of de-registrations take place at secondary age, the time wasted in this way can be considerable. Fourteen is an increasingly popular time to de-register children; right in the run-up to taking GCSEs. How sitting around doing nothing at all for nine months at that critical stage in a child's education is meant to help the education is a very interesting point indeed.

Other advice on offer is equally mischievous, although I am sure not intentionally so. One mother recommends a maximum of twelve hours a week once the education actually starts. Her own child is studying for a GCSE in astronomy (just what employers are looking for!) The mother of a twelve year old girl explains what a success home education has been for her family. Her daughter was a little bad tempered when she had to go to school; these days she is pleased as punch. No word though on any educational benefits which might have accrued to her through the change in educational setting.

The general tone of the comments on this particular thread seems to be about the improvement in mood of the children concerned, rather than education per se. This is fairly common when parents take their kids out of school shortly after they move to secondary. Most children change a little after they leave primary school and few parents welcome these changes. The fact that this is often a sign that the child might be wishing to grow up a little does not seem to occur to these people. I would have been sorry indeed if my own daughter had behaved in the same way at thirteen as she did at ten. Children do change around puberty and there is little point in trying to delay, let alone reverse, these changes. This seems essentially what many of those who take their children from school at that age are trying to do. Of course their children become more cheerful in many cases once they have been taken out of school. No getting up early in the morning to study boring subjects, the chance to loll around watching television or browsing facebook rather than having double maths; most kids at that age would be very pleased with such a lifestyle and would probably feel it worth rewarding their mother with some cute smiles and hugs. Whether this is good for them either educationally or developmentally is quite another thing. It strikes me that the immediate result of such a move at the age of twelve would be to infantilise a child and delay the onset of maturity.


  1. Surely it depends on the reason a child is being taken out of school? My 13 yo certainly benefited from some time to do nothing, and recover from a traumatic school experience, and we are by no means autonomous in our educational approach. A couple of months off allowed her to see that education isn't the enemy, that learning can be fun, that it isn't a bad thing to try your best and get good marks. I would imagine that for those taking an autonomous route, taking time out allows children to realise that learning doesn't have to mean lessons or structure. A period of time out allows any new home educating family to develop the best method of education for their family, gather resources and make contacts.

  2. I think a period of time out can be useful even vital especially after trauma like bullying or issues with SEN, but I think there can be danger in simply advising parents to do nothing that is considered formal per se; especially if the child is of secondary school age, and it isn't certain as to whether Home ed will continue; firstly, because once the child has got out of the habit of a routine, it is harder to get them back into one when they suddenly approach 15 etc and need to think about exams or vocational studies. Secondly, because if a change in circumstances suddenly occurs and the child has to go back to school, the possibility exists that the child may struggle with the level of formal work required on top of playing catch up, and thirdly because this approach simply doesn't fit all families - I know some people who have children who seem to actually need some structure. I just think people new to HE should be advised to find methods that work for them and are in keeping with their own goals, and also that it may be hard going at first and not necessarily easy. I think there are too many stories on the web that talk about HE in the blissful sense, so naturally when you do have difficulties you start doubting your approach, or your methods and decision.

  3. Simon wrote,
    "One mother recommends a maximum of twelve hours a week once the education actually starts. Her own child is studying for a GCSE in astronomy (just what employers are looking for!)"

    I thought you had claimed to only spend 2-3 hours per day on structured learning in the mornings when you home educated?

    If I'm reading the same discussion as you, you are giving a very biased view. There were many suggestions besides letting the child vegetate for 12 months. A couple suggested taking it relatively easy for the first 2-3 months, something I've heard LA staff recommend. One person mentioned the 'rule of thumb' de-schooling idea.

    Various alternatives approaches to HE were mentioned ranging from boxed curricula, the National Curriculum and Classical education, right through to unschooling/autonomous styles. Mention was made that some people follow highly structured approaches, others very informal approaches with many falling between these two without the writer making any kind of value judgement about the alternatives.

    That's how a support group works, Simon. Different people offer their views and experiences in answer to questions and the questioner decides which answer strike a chord with them and/or fit with their child/family. It seemed a very balanced series of posts to me. If you want to zero in on those you disagree with to the exclusion of those you might agree with that's fine, but it seems unfair to write about as though they were the only views expressed.

  4. I wonder if ur familiar with John Holt, Alfie Kohn, Jean Liedloff and her continuum concept, Naomi Aldert, Wendy Priesnitz, blogs by Laurette Lynn the unplugged mum ( u can find her writing on ezyne articles as well) or google them on you tube- perhaps Dayna Martin as well oh and I mustn't forget John Taylor Gatto and one of his number of books 'Dumbing Us Down' I don't think it's objector to criticise any philosophy unless ur thoroughy familiar with it

  5. I can't find the relevant post to comment on now but it was about mums on welfare - you will find a different perspective by Reading work by Sharon Presley(Phd) Ayn Rand, Ludwig Von Mises, Stefan Molyneux, Larken Rose and many many others- mainly libertarian writers ( apologies I might have mispelt a few names)
    I forgot to mention ' School Sucks' podcast by Brett Veinotte as well and Laurie A Couture author of the book ' Instead of mediacting and punishing'