Friday, 18 October 2013


A short, rambling and personal post today. As some readers may be aware, my daughter is in her final year at Oxford, studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics; known generally as PPE.  People sometimes ask whether there is any prejudice on the part of universities against admitting home educated children. I can only say that if there is, I've never seen it. My daughter, after all, did not spend a single day at school. The Oxford system fits in so perfectly with her home education, that it almost seems like an extension of the methods which I used when she was a small child. Let me explain.

Although  many home educators regard me as the arch-apostle of 'school at home', the educational technique that I followed was  largely based upon conversation; we talked about the subjects in an informal way. In most universities, the method of teaching is quite different from this. The students sit in what is essentially  a big classroom. A teacher stands at the front and lectures them. The idle ones can text their friends or let their minds wander during this process, just as they were able to at school.  This is the system even in first class universities such as Durham or York. Oxford is very different. There, much of the teaching takes place by the tutorial method. This means that the student has a one-to-one meeting with somebody who is very possibly the world's greatest expert on the subject under discussion. Even the larger tutorials only have a group of two or three; four at the most.  This means that the student has no choice but to take part and express opinions. Needless to say, this can be a daunting prospect if the man or woman in front of you knows more about this topic than anybody in the world! This method does not suit every young person, but for home educated children it is absolutely ideal.

Another way that Oxford differs from most other universities in this country is in the amount of written work expected.  Most universities require only one or two essays a term. At Oxford, it is two or three  a week. These cannot just be dashed off in a hurry either, not unless you seek to be humiliated on a regular basis. Just think, you might be writing about the German philosopher Nietzsche and the man who will be criticizing your essay will have written the textbooks that you have been studying!   Sustained essay writing of this sort is not taught much in maintained schools these days and so that too can prove a trial for some students. My daughter though was set increasingly long and complex essays from the age of five. Another triumph for home education! 

I think that home education is the perfect preparation for studying at Oxford and I am surprised that we do not hear of more home educated young people going there. It is my impression that their upbringing provides them with a definite advantage in that setting.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. It's really good to know University's going so well for your daughter and that HE was such a good preparation for it. The educational psychologist who does our annual assessments prior to our SEN reviews once described my 2's education as like student life but without a bar, so I'd agree totally with you.

    (Don't worry, I'm sure normal service will be resumed next week!)