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dialogue with concerned mother

My son turned 7 last month. We relocated to the UAE four tears ago, 
and initially took a while to settle down. He has spent a total of 2 
complete years in school so far, and I find that he has learnt 
nothing new those two years. Most of what he knows/knew came from our 
sessions together which were, for him, the greatest fun, reading & 
doing stuff with mom. The two years he did spent in school weren't 
consecutive, and what he was learning in school was a rehash of stuff 
he'd already mastered with me. Bored I guess, he started with "bad" 
behaviour in school. 

Another very disturbing thing I noticed is that now satisfying his 
curiosity was no longer was an end in itself. He picked up this 
attitude of learning being "work", to be avoided, and gotten over 
with as soon as possible. For example, his teacher writes in his diary one 
day "no homework because you have been good and well behaved today". 
I was upset with that!!! This insidious message that studying is 
something you can avoid by exhibiting the required behaviours, 
because it is something to be avoided. Not to mention the message for 
their self image - getting homework daily means that they are ill 
mannered and bad most of the time?? Kids become what they are told 
they are - self fulfilling prophecy. I know that its one day, one 
incident, but it kind of highlights all that's wrong with the 
schooling philosophy (speaking for myself of course) and he was 
starting to buy into this philosophy a bit too much for my liking. 

SO feeling the time he spent in school is 
1. a waste of years that so much can be don't with
2. teaching him an attitude I just don't agree with
3. spent getting into mischief out of boredom (I presume)

reached the conclusion that home educating is the right way to go for 
us.

Personally I have always thought schools were there to turn out 
obedient little workers, who know how to please authority and do as 
they are told. I may be exaggerating the effect to make a point, but 
its a subtle version on this attitude. Yes, the knowledge they impart 
is highly desired, but the style they do it in, is self defeating. 
They churn out literates, not educated thinking people by and large. 
Yes, some manage to escape that in spite of being in school, but I don't 
want to play Russian roulette with my son on that issue!!!

Am I concerned that I might not have the skills to adequate to the 
job? No, not at all. If there one thing about home educating (love 
that!! so apt!!) I have absolute confidence in is my ability to open 
his eyes to the joy of learning as a way of life. 

That he might fall behind others academically? I don't think so. 
Anyways, academic standards in terms of marks don't really mean much. 
I would look more at how able he is to satisfy his own curiosity, 
answer his questions, once I have shown him how and where. (he asks a 
lot of questions!!!!) since he learnt to talk). and even if I didn't know 
the answers, we found them together) I'd look at how intelligently he 
can speak to people about their interests and his own, and not just 
own peers, but all ages. I definitely don't measure success in 
learning by marks. 

If I do have a fear, its that one day he will grow up and say "ma, I 
want to be a XYZ, and I cant get the training/knowledge/qualification 
I need coz you never sent me to school." 

I have no doubt that this is absolutely the right thing to do, home 
educating. But I'm also concerned it doesn't close doors for him. If 
he wants to start his own enterprise, great, there's no stopping him. 
But what if he wants to build buildings and bridges? what if he wants 
to be a doctor? what if he wants to study the brain? all of these 
cannot be done at home in a small setup. you do need the 
qualifications or no one is going to let you near a 
patient/bridge/neurosurgery without the requisite credentials, and I 
agree completely with that!!! You have to be given the chance to 
prove you know about something, or to learn something, before you can 
expect to make contributions, in quite a few fields. 

It not that I don't appreciate what you are saying Clive, but perhaps 
I'm not getting across my reasons for keeping an eye on the future.

Yes, things could change 10 years from now, when it actually comes to 
his wanting to go to college, and I'm really hoping it does in favour 
of moving away from the old school system, but I'd like to do as much 
as I can in the here and now. 

A response 

 Hello Nalini
 
 
 Wonderful letter. What I especially appreciate is that your actions, your
 taking your son out of school, was based on observation of what was actually
 happening, rather than some conviction, some ideal

 

 You are quite right to question me about my previous comment, Nalini. I was
 not suggesting we should pay no heed to the future of our children, rather
 that we should not sacrifice their immediate needs (as revealed by
 observation of them) to our images and fears of what might happen in the
 future. As a matter of fact I would say we do not give enough heed to the
 future. But that future means the total future of mankind, not merely the
 academic qualifications of our own children. Are we educating for a good
 human being; are we bringing about a quality of intelligence (not mere IQ)
 so that the child will be able to meet all the challenges of life when he is
 grown up?
 
 Yes, I have often thought how odd it is that schools give out the work they
 have created for the learning of the students as a punishment as well!
 ("stay after school and so these exercises"). Does this reflect the system's
 real attitude to what they are doing?
 
 This business of being qualified to do what one loves to do, when one has
 discovered what it is. Is it really a problem? What is to stop a young
 person taking those qualifications, when the need is there? He/she will be
 truly motivated to do that; they will give their heart to their studies.
 
 ~ Clive

A subsequent letter


Hello Clive,

Yes, home educating my son is based on dissatisfaction with what I
observed in him. That's not to say all schools are bad, there are
probably a small percentage which actually would be good for kids, but
those are few and far between.

The principal of my son's school wanted to meet with me to discuss my
decision. One of the reasons I mentioned was that he was developing a
strong dislike for anything remotely resembling school work, including
reading, for which till a year back I used to have to say "enough".
Her reply was "its a phase" and right after that "some kids have that
attitude right till they leave school". I guess she was implying its
normal, and that he will grow out of it, or he won't, but that's no
reason to take him out of school. I really didn't think I would be
heard and understood, so I didn't mention the bit about the no homework
because you were good bit. I did mention that to his teacher tho' and
she said she was glad I pointed that out, since she just didn't think
of it implying homework is punishment for being bad, only that she was
trying to encourage good behaviour. Point being, there maybe many
teachers genuinely interested in the well being of the kids in their
charge, just misguided or too close to the system to see it clearly??

I am quite happy with the small changes I see in my son in just days.
He picks up books to read now, on his own initiative, without any
prompting. Tho' he still calls it work, he is happy to work with me. I
am still trying out new ways, to see what works best. I started right
away, tho in a different format from school, the former to not give
him the idea that home educating is a permanent holiday, the latter to
dim the effect of the attitude regarding learning.

It feels right, but I am apprehensive about the future even as I do
enjoy the present. Clive, you mentioned there is no reason for him to
not get the qualifications in whatever he wants to do, but see that's
just it. There is. There are pretty strict entrance requirements, and
so many years of formal schooling, and this exam and that test, to
enrol into a serious program. The British Council here in the UAE,
when I checked with them, requires a private candidate to be enrolled
in a school and a no objection letter from the school, even tho' the
certificate gained thru a private taking of the exams isn't attested by
the UAE ministry of education and so the person cannot study any
further in the UAE....!!! That makes no sense. Especially in light of
the fact that the pdf labelled "information for private candidates"
from the britishcouncil.org website defines one, among other
definitions, as privately or self tutored. I am in an email
correspondence with the concerned person, and I'm sure I will be
making a personal visit to clarify this soon. Will update as and when
I get to know more. (If anyone else knows the specifics for any other
country, esp India, I would really appreciate a note from them.) So,
apprehension (not so much fear) is that he does have to live, earn and
thrive in a world where all these things do matter. How do we get
around that? I am just hoping things change and home education becomes
as accepted as traditional schooling within the next 10 years.

Regards,
Nalini


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