Home education, homeschooling, is a viable alternative to school.
The number of children educated at home has increased considerably. In the US there may be around a million. In New Zeeland, one percent of the school population are home schooled.
There are three major groups: those who are motivated by religious and moral reasons; those who have philosophical or pedagogical reasons; and those who have had problems with their children’s experience in school. Home-educated children are generally found to be ahead of their peers in school.
This article focus on the informal learning of school age children.
The most frequent learning context is that of everyday living. Simply by being around. Informal learning is
obviously crucial for intellectual development in early childhood
and has an important role in adult learning. There is no scientific basis whatsoever for the almost universal assumption that the traditional means of educating children is essential if they are to progress after school age. Probably the best existing source of knowledge about informal learning for children of school age is home education. Informal learning plays a very major part in children’s intellectual growth.
Home educators find themselves pioneering new educational approaches, nearly always less formal ones. It is these parents, the ones who change, who provide the most convincing evidence for the potential of informal learning because they discover it for themselves and are not ideologically committed to it. Children learn through living, from everyday experiences. This kind of learning simply does not feature in school.
Children might acquire informally what the school painstakingly teaches formally.
Reduce the teaching day to a couple of hours in the morning. A timetable is unnecessary. Lessons can be as short or as long as necessary. The lesson can be dropped and picked up later. Conversely, if a child becomes absorbed, the lesson or activity can go on for as long as the interest lasts, for hours, days, or longer. A heavy reliance on exercises and testing as evidence of learning is unnecessary at home
simply because learning is highly interactive. The parents know exactly where they are. Parents seem to become aware that school methods are not sacrosanct but open to change. When children learn informally, they impose their own sequence on what they learn. Curriculum logic and child logic do not equate. Child logic is individual and determined by the complex and dynamic interplay between the child’s existing level of knowledge and incoming information, mediated by interest, motivation, curiosity and desire to take on a challenge.
It’s as if each child has his own or her own theory of learning. It is efficient because new knowledge and understanding are only assimilated when they extend existing knowledge. Informal learning therefore follows a kind of fuzzy and non-linear logic that is particular to each child. Learning in this way is not equated with “work” as it is in school. It is learning without knowing it.
The core of primary and secondary education is no more than common everyday knowledge that is easily accessible, for most children. There is no doubt that it is possible for school-age children who learn informally to acquire the academic knowledge and skills they would otherwise have to learn painstakingly in school. School seems unnatural. With a huge effort and cost you try to get something into the children which would happen anyway.