Home Education and Freeconomy
The education system we put our kids through today is designed with the type of economy that dominates our world in mind. A global, high tech, highly monetised economy requires a certain type of character, with certain types of skills and knowledge, to labour within in. Therefore children have to be conditioned and trained for it's needs. And so our current educational system's aim is to prepare our children for that world, for that way of living. It has become little more than a training ground for the assembly line of industrial civilisation and the Machine-like wage economy.
We teach a very specific curriculum with very specific aims, and we also try to condition our children with very specific characteristics that also have very specific aims. We put them through thirteen or more years or learning yet they come out not even knowing how to grow their own food, forage, create fire from scratch, or make their own anything.
A different vision of economy not only requires a new form of education, it would also naturally give rise to it. In a localised, gift-based economy other methods of teaching and learning will be crucial. I believe that home education will play a huge part in this. So it is with great pleasure that I can introduce to you Ross Mountney, our guest blogger this week. She is the author of Learning without School: Home Education (to read her blog click here). Ross has home educated her own kids and for those of you who have pondered home educating your own, her book comes highly recommended. If you have any questions for her, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
Learning without School: Home Education
by Ross Mountney
It’s great that Mark has given me the opportunity to tell you a little bit about home education. Because it’s such a wonderful experience yet many parents are so sceptical or anxious about having a go themselves.
That’s probably because the schooling system has led us to believe that education is complicated. But it isn’t; education isn’t only about academic curriculum and school exams, it’s really about learning how to live a life and understanding what skills you need to do so, many of which can’t be examined. And sometimes the best place to do that is out of school.
We home educated our two from the age of six and nine and they never did go back to school. It was the most inspirational time we could have possibly had with our kids and there was not one moment we regretted it. What we did perhaps regret is not having the confidence to do it earlier.
We both had reservations about the systematic schooling of children without what we felt was due regard for the individual, but didn’t think we could be right. However, watching our kids’ personalities disappear under the weight of dull days and institutional procedures, that had little to do with nurturing children’s development and much to do with politics, we decided to withdraw them and see if we could make their learning experience different. To see if we could restore the love of learning they had before they went to school.
That’s the drawback to schools; through boring learning experiences they can so easily ruin a child’s natural love of learning (or put another way; fascination with everything). It is experience that makes children educated, not results. So give kids dull experiences and you put them off education for life.
During our children’s time home educating we focussed much of their learning on experiences rather than academic results. We talked with them and took them places. We joined other home educators for social and educational activities. We involved them in daily life; cooking, budgeting, planning, being responsible for ourselves, our health, others, our homes and the earth and kept their learning relevant to their lives. We showed them through first hand experiences how to be caring, confident, responsible, mature. How to think, converse and question. How to grow self esteem, confidence and conscience.
Whatever we did they did from changing a wheel or organising the house, to looking after the dog. From deciding what’s for dinner, where it comes from and how it’s paid for, to IT or caring for grandma. Everything teaches them something.
By living a life, children learn about life. They also begin to naturally learn the need for skills like reading, using language to communicate, being competent with number, understanding science and technology. As well as an understanding of their part in society, the need to work for the things they want and how they might move towards a productive life that fulfils them. For many home educating families working for qualifications falls into place easily - if it’s relevant. Sometimes it’s not. But years of academic exercises are not necessary.
Watching our children, and those of other home schooling families we shared our journey with, we saw this happen. The longer we home educated the more confidence we grew about them becoming successfully equipped – or educated - to lead the lives they wanted. In fact, they already were. They had the opportunity to do so because they weren’t leading school lives; they were leading real lives that were meaningful to them, rather than meaningful to league tables and tests and other political agendas as far removed from kids as I am from life at Buckingham Palace.
And the most beautiful thing of all was seeing their individual personalities grow, rather than personalities that were moulded by an often unhealthy school culture.
If you want to home educate don’t be put off by thinking you wouldn’t know what to do. Most parents don’t, but you can easily find out on the web and connect with others for support. What’s far more important is to understand that successful home education is really just about parenting and a good relationship with your children. And you’re probably practised at that already. Actually, one of the biggest anxieties parents have about home schooling is nothing to do with education really, it’s to do with whether the children ‘fit in’. Well, that depends on your view of fitting in.
Home schooling makes them socially adept because they have a wide range of social experiences not those limited and unnatural ones found in schools. It makes them confident, competent, caring, intelligent and mature.
Does that make them ‘fit in’? Not with a school. But certainly with life outside school. It makes them fit into society better, makes for a better society, and I believe better fitted to find a happy and successful life. Which is, after all, what education is for!
You’ll find more stories and tips from our home educating days on my website http://rossmountney.wordpress.com Plus details of my book; ‘Learning Without School Home Education’ published by JKP, which tells you how to start out, what to do, how to cope, and where it ends up. I’m also a member of this Freeconomy website if you need support.
Comment on this Post:
Trish Young comments ...
Brilliant and encouraging - people are often so scared to home educate, this is uplifting and puts joy in the place of fear. :-)
Mim comments ...
Great! Reminded me why we are doing it. Thank you.
Sandie comments ...
Our three sons have never attended school. A line was drawn, ten years ago, when a playgroup leader restrained my screaming, three year old lad and instructed me to leave the building. I grabbed my child and we've never looked back.....
We're often snuggled, up in bed, chatting or reading, as the morning school bell tolls, in our village - it's a wonderfully, emancipating feeling to not be part of a system that moulds, shapes and prepares our children for the workforce.
Am I a teacher? What about their socialisation? What about exams? No school today? - I'm so fed up with explaining to the sceptics, that I just tell them we're visiting from Australia!
Alice Griffin comments ...
Wonderful post Ross/Mark... It's always good to be reminded why we are on our own home-ed journey :-)
Derek Robertson comments ...
Very good. The same ideas are reflected in an excellent work by the ex New York teacher John Taylor Gatto called the Underground History of American Education. You can read it online. Here is an extract from the prologue.
"Ordinary people send their children to school to get smart, but what modern schooling teaches is dumbness. It’s a religious idea gone out of control. You don’t have to accept that, though, to realize this kind of economy would be jeopardized by too many smart people who understand too much.....
Old-fashioned dumbness used to be simple ignorance; now it is transformed from ignorance into permanent mathematical categories of relative stupidity like "gifted and talented," "mainstream," "special ed." Categories in which learning is rationed for the good of a system of order. Dumb people are no longer merely ignorant. Now they are indoctrinated, their minds conditioned with substantial doses of commercially prepared disinformation dispensed for tranquilizing purposes.
Jacques Ellul, whose book Propaganda is a reflection on the phenomenon, warned us that prosperous children are more susceptible than others to the effects of schooling because they are promised more lifelong comfort and security for yielding wholly:
Critical judgment disappears altogether, for in no way can there ever be collective critical judgment....The individual can no longer judge for himself because he inescapably relates his thoughts to the entire complex of values and prejudices established by propaganda. With regard to political situations, he is given ready-made value judgments invested with the power of the truth by...the word of experts.
The new dumbness is particularly deadly to middle- and upper-middle-class kids already made shallow by multiple pressures to conform imposed by the outside world on their usually lightly rooted parents. When they come of age, they are certain they must know something because their degrees and licenses say they do. They remain so convinced until an unexpectedly brutal divorce, a corporate downsizing in midlife, or panic attacks of meaninglessness upset the precarious balance of their incomplete humanity, their stillborn adult lives. Alan Bullock, the English historian, said Evil was a state of incompetence. If true, our school adventure has filled the twentieth century with evil.
Ellul puts it this way:
The individual has no chance to exercise his judgement either on principal questions or on their implication; this leads to the atrophy of a faculty not comfortably exercised under [the best of] conditions...Once personal judgement and critical faculties have disappeared or have atrophied, they will not simply reappear when propaganda is suppressed...years of intellectual and spiritual education would be needed to restore such faculties. The propagandee, if deprived of one propaganda, will immediately adopt another, this will spare him the agony of finding himself vis a vis some event without a ready-made opinion.
Once the best children are broken to such a system, they disintegrate morally, becoming dependent on group approval. A National Merit Scholar in my own family once wrote that her dream was to be "a small part in a great machine." It broke my heart. What kids dumbed down by schooling can’t do is to think for themselves or ever be at rest for very long without feeling crazy; stupefied boys and girls reveal dependence in many ways easily exploitable by their knowledgeable elders.
According to all official analysis, dumbness isn’t taught (as I claim), but is innate in a great percentage of what has come to be called "the workforce." Workforce itself is a term that should tell you much about the mind that governs modern society. According to official reports, only a small fraction of the population is capable of what you and I call mental life: creative thought, analytical thought, judgemental thought, a trio occupying the three highest positions on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Just how small a fraction would shock you. According to experts, the bulk of the mob is hopelessly dumb, even dangerously so. Perhaps you’re a willing accomplice to this social coup which revived the English class system. Certainly you are if your own child has been rewarded with a "gifted and talented" label by your local school. This is what Dewey means by "proper" social order.
If you believe nothing can be done for the dumb except kindness, because it’s biology (the bell-curve model); if you believe capitalist oppressors have ruined the dumb because they are bad people (the neo-Marxist model); if you believe dumbness reflects depraved moral fibre (the Calvinist model); or that it’s nature’s way of disqualifying boobies from the reproduction sweepstakes (the Darwinian model); or nature’s way of providing someone to clean your toilet (the pragmatic elitist model); or that it’s evidence of bad karma (the Buddhist model); if you believe any of the various explanations given for the position of the dumb in the social order we have, then you will be forced to concur that a vast bureaucracy is indeed necessary to address the dumb. Otherwise they would murder us in our beds.
The shocking possibility that dumb people don’t exist in sufficient numbers to warrant the careers devoted to tending to them will seem incredible to you. Yet that is my proposition: Mass dumbness first had to be imagined; it isn’t real.
Once the dumb are wished into existence, they serve valuable functions: as a danger to themselves and others they have to be watched, classified, disciplined, trained, medicated, sterilized, ghettoized, cajoled, coerced, jailed. To idealists they represent a challenge, reprobates to be made socially useful. Either way you want it, hundreds of millions of perpetual children require paid attention from millions of adult custodians. An ignorant horde to be schooled one way or another.
one of a couple comments ...
my beautiful kids went to school. I'd have preffered them to have been home educated, but both parents have to agree.
they enjoyed school, got a lot from it.
but the main aspect taking into account many of the truths you and those in the comments have said.(bit of a question mark about the dumb bit though.)
was I never ever put school down and was never ever said any negative about it only ever positive and genuinely interested in what things they found interesting at school.
and do you know, it was as if they were blind to any of the negative aspects of school. wherass their friends and family used to assume, presume school was a thing to be avoided of possible they never did and they really enjoyed it.they loved it.
personally although I agree with most of what has been said,
if a person reading this is in the same position as I was, then I would advise always be positive. always to observe what they love to do, and don't put much importance on what you'd love them to do.
I think 90% of a child's influence comes from home life whether they went to school or not..possibly they may learn the most from home even if they went to school!
if they're homelife is good, then they can observe the contrast between school and home. learn what is important and what is not.
I'd take my daughters to.school when they were in primary school, and we would kick a football all the way to school along a lane, and usually all the way back unless I went for them on my bike, in which case it was 3 of us riding home. before school sometimes we'd go swimming and have a fresh bread roll and fruit from the shop afterwards for breakfast. If it was summer and at the weekends they'd join me to raid the skips compound and get lots of good things.as well as play hide and seek in the silver birch forest by the compound.
the only things they were ever taught that were negative, were actual negative things.
a good home life is the most important thing.
here's a little story education I learned from our cat. he'd come home, get lots and lots of loving, and that seemed to charge his batteries up to go back out and be in the world, face the world, and he'd keep doing that.
love and hugs and fun and a good homelife is important.
Buckminster Fuller 1895- 1983 says it. :-) comments ...
"We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors & people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school & think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along & told them they had to earn a living..."
Ana comments ...
My own conclusions after reading the posts is generally speaking home educacion and be part of a community such freeconomy contradict each other because you want to be part a community and how staying at home makes you part of any community? wouldn't be better to challange and change the aspect you don't like from the system from within attending your local school and being part of your own community? Have you ever question how a small community like the moneyless' one is going to restrict your individual privacy, freedom and independence with many rules?. If communes had been so successfully wouldn't have spread in our communities by now?
Ross Mountney comments ...
I think Ana maybe under the misconception about home education that many people fall into...it's to do with the word 'home'! It's completely misleading. Most home educating families spend very little time at home - they are out in their community learning, with lots of others and at a variety of venues the community provides. So maybe 'community education' would describe it better than 'home education', as it is quite different to the institutional learning in some schools, (although I agree not all as one of the comments above illustrates) where the focus can be on the survival of the institution rather than the needs of the child.
Mark Boyle comments ...
@ Ross - thank you for that response, you said what I was about to say but just much more articulate.
What I meant it was; how can you teach them apart from the community and at the same time teach them they're part of a community? If they are not confine to the material space of a home neither school is the only space of influence for children in the mainstream education. What school provide is for children to be expose to a social diversity that you only are going to find in the school, day by day. School is the best reflexion of our wider society, for a child learn by him/herself. You leave then to develop their own social skill with their peers far away from the parental overprotection, and observe and learn different views than the parents'. The benefits are inmesurables. Most of the children already benefit from the best of both worlds; school and home education because one does not exclude the other. Of course some parent for personal circunstancies haven't got the option from one or the other.
Great article, glad I came across it :)
Ana, I don't really understand your point - how can being cooped up in a classroom all day with the same 30 other people the same age, with one adult in overall control, never venturing out into the community, help children to learn to contribute to their community?
Whereas home educated children are out and about all day long, meeting with people of all ages, learning lessons from real life, not filtered through a teacher. In our local home ed group there are regularly 50 -60 children attend each session of all ethnicities and varying in age between 0-18, and regularly at least 5-6 sessions each week, from skating to languages, art group to survival skills classes, so I can't see how they are in any way not developing social diversity or social skills.
I am so glad we discovered home education, and with my eldest now working as a post doctoral research associate at a university hospital, as well as playing guitar in a band and doing parkour for a hobby, and the youngest just about to join college to do 4 A levels, having already done part of an Open University degree, with a burgeoning modelling career and both with a huge network of friends, I don't think they have suffered from it :)
Ana comments ...
To the last comment I don't deny that children home educated can success in life and so the majority of school educated. Everytime I hear parent talk in favour about home schooling is because they are not satisfied with the system and/or the quality of school education, so I suggess considering the many benefit to be educated in school, why not to try to change it, in a democracy we should be able to do that. But they are missing out in obvious things children want to spent time with other children not to spend their whole childhoods with their parents, school offer gradually the first step to independence and much more. The fact is that there are a few parents who can really spend their whole day with their children. Where I live I walk my community everyday and the only kids I came across are the one's bunking school.
I'm afraid that my kids have already been excluded to go to university for the exhorbitants fees, but that it's another issue.
Pamela comments ...
Ana, if we lived in a truly democratic society, then yes, we could change the education system. Sadly, our governments, (regardless of the party) want education to perpetually serve the status quo, i.e the monetary system. If, for the reasons you stated, that school is imperative for the child's social development, then there are better school systems that break away from the conventional state/public schools. Most notably, Steiner. Unfortunately, as most of them (bar two in the UK) are privately operated, although considerably cheaper than your average public school. The system at Steiner, incorporates teaching invaluable skills, like wood work, needles, baking etc, with (from the age of 7) literacy, numeracy, science etc. The style of teaching is considerably less regimented, as the child is the focus of learning and not stats.
either way, education is an important part of a child's growth, if an average school doesn't work for them, then they should be taken out, same goes for Steiner, and home ed, as each child's different and requires different modes of teaching.
maytree comments ...
@Ana and Pamela
I enjoyed and agree with both your posts.
I agree home schooling is not the answer for everyone, neither is any one type of school right for each child. When my children were young, I thought about home schooling and was very much inclined to it. However, I / we decided on the ordinary local school, and the deciding factor was the social one. Meeting other children from different homes is a good thing in general. True, schools have problems - sadly, bullying may be one, or a child not being happy in the system of a particular school.
The thing is, though, that meeting, playing, getting along with others is an important part of our development - after all, when we grow into adults this is what we have to do. We may not agree with everything a person does/says, but we get along and learn from each other.
A school in, say, a commune, will have its own outlook and may be just as definite and unyielding in this as state schools are perceived by many to be. That outlook may be an excellent one, the system may be well run and the moral code one that would be embraced by all or most. But again, not suitable for everyone and I've known some people whose experience was far from ideal.
I've also known some families who home-schooled and were very happy with it. Without exception their opinion was that some kids were excellent academically, some had less interest, some were sporty, some enjoyed more sedentary interests. In other words, pretty much the results one might expect from a cross-section of children in school.
As for me, I've never regretted choosing the school option for my children and I think they've all turned out to be good citizens.
Anyway, Ana and Pamela, Thanks for your posts, I enjoy reading them.
tommacg comments ...
Thanks for this blog. I love the idea of home schooling, and have recently met some home schooled kids/young adults who blew me away - more talented and multi-skilled than most people twice their age. I don't think I could put my kids through the collective child abuse that is our education system.
However, I worry about how it can be done in certain respects. For example, there's the home-schooled fundamentalist Christian I know of, whose been kept out of society and indoctrinated by her parents. I wonder how we prevent home schooling being used for ideological purposes??
Rachael Stapley comments ...
Absolutely! It amazes me how energy works. Just this morning I had a realization that solidified my decision to not put my son in traditional kindergarten this year and just teach him myself at home. This was exactly what I needed to read today. I personally feel uncomfortable putting my son in an institution where I have no say in what he is being taught and under someone else influence for 6-7 hours a day. It goes against everything that feel is right for me and him. As a single mom raising a little boy alone, I feel a tremendous responsibility to teach him all the skills he needs to become a happy and honest man. I feel I am really getting on the right path now... I have just been introduced to freeconomy and off grid living. For the first time in my life I am beginning to feel like Im working with the current, instead of against it. Thank you Mark!!! And thank you Ross! :)
Betsy Catt comments ...
very very simplistic tosh with absolutely massive assumptions and breathtaking generalities. You're way over your head mate. The only reason you're moneyless is people pay for your stuff. Time to grow up, big adolescent attention seeker!
Lena Rosa comments ...
Those are great points. Here is a link to great and funny expose about education
and I recommend readings of Ivan Illich -
this funny RSA link:
a lesson from a culture where the kids don't play.
the dullest culture on earth.
Weststar comments ...
Thank you for this Mark and Ross, always heartening to feel a part of a growing community of change, we've been home educating for a year, I talk a lot about our experiences with this unschooling year, making the transition from school to home in my blog http://homeednewbies.blogspot.co.uk/
David Korten on education comments ...
Divided, separated, by competition. That's the story education teaches us. It's not that its untrue, its just that it subjugates the other story. The story of togetherness, cooperation.
Here I what David Korten says about it:
We humans live by stories that
frame our understanding of
ourselves, our world, and our
human possibilies. Our
shared stories create a culture
of shared values,
expectations that is an
essential foundation of
coherent community life. (See
Tom Atlee's discussion of story
fields .) Because we literally
see the world through the lens
of our cultural stories, we are
strongly inclined to conform
to the cultural norms of our
tribe or community. For this
reason, those who control the
prevailing cultural stories,
control the society.
Herein lays the key to
understanding how the
dominator hierarchy of Empire
has maintained its hold on
human societies for 5,000
years and why most people in
contemporary societies have
been inclined to accept and
conform to the stories of
economic values and
relationships that legitimate
rule by the institutions of Wall
Ruled by Stories
Throughout history, imperial
institutions have disrupted the
relationships of community
and the processes of cultural
regeneration by which
continuously renew and affirm
their shared values and
propagandists of Empire then
replace cultural stories that
affirmed values of mutual
caring and accountability with
stories that celebrate the
special merit of those in
power and the duty of each
citizen to comply with the
dictates of imperial authority.
Empire maintain's its control
in part through the coercive
power of sword and gun, but
its ultimate instrument of
control is cultural power, the
ability to control the defining
stories of the public culture.
The result is a cultural trance,
rather like a hypnotic state, in
which Empire conditions us to
accept submission as
Dwaine comments ...
I agree with home schooling as a solution to a sick educational system that is hell bent on just cramming kids through grade after grade, ready for the assembly line that is the corporate world. But what I think your post doesn't address is that the problem lies with our modern school system and not with schooling or institutional education per se. There are many schools that give children a formidable education while teaching a lot of the "unorthodox" subjects you mention (which generally fall into that important, yet virtually eliminated, realm of Home Economics). These schools exist, they are just uncommon. And since they are usually private, they are generally expensive.
I do not agree that home schooling is a solution to this largely societal problem, because it is based on individual action. And while it does make a difference to society in the long term is does not address the problem as a societal/communal issue- which must be solved as a societal/communal challenge. I would believe that if a group of parents discouraged with the present school system got together to create a community alternative where many children could benefit, this would be a true answer to a dilemma that is so incredibly real. There is no reason why children cannot be held to the ideal of truly academic subjects (mathematics, literature, languages, art, etc.) while also learning the more fulfilling arts of food production, home economics (I use the term loosely to define all that concerns making a home, family and community, because I'm unfortunately not strong on semantics) and anything else that makes them see how Earth is, most directly, our Maker.
True that home schooling saves our children from the mayhem that modern education has become, but it does not do enough to save a community. That said, hats off to all of you for doing it, as we have to start somewhere.
Thanks for reading!
Maytree comments ...
Excellent post, clearly expressed. I can vouch that not all schools ignore the lifeskills side of education; and not just private schools, I speak as someone whose children went to the nearest public school.
You make some good points, yet holding to ideals (which, to my mind, is the objective of this site) is a brave and worthwhile venture. We do well to aspire while keeping our feet on the ground and acknowledging the reality too.
Sneaky comments ...
giving up my income and material possesions too at the end of this year
havent got a clue what i am going to do but ill read this blog and see if i come up with some good ideas
you are very brave to do this mr Boyle i hope i can match it :)
Sandie comments ...
This law was quietly passed when some/most of the UK population were watching the Olympics.
I do now have an answer, when asked 'Are you a teacher, then?', when someone asks why my children aren't at school today?
Sandie comments ...
Oh crikey - I've just re-read my post..... It sounds as if all we do is sit in bed all day, reading!
As a home educating family we, too, are hardly ever at home. We meet with other home educating and non-home educating families. Our sons visit museums, libraries and places of interest. They participate in community events, swimming lessons and karate practice and we do heaps of art and reading at home.
My original post was intended to illustrate the freedoms of home education. However, in hindsight it sounded as if we didn't set foot outside of the house!
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Edilberto Sastre comments ...
Obrigado pelo post. Desde o Brasil, enviamos um saludo especial. Sim, o homeshooling e o unschooling terão num futuro muito próximo um papel importante nas mudanças de paradigma que o mundo demanda.
Nosso blog: http://desescolariza.blogspot.com
Mark Lowe comments ...
As a former teacher in Canada I agree very much with this post. Children today have very few real skills. They can do very little for themselves. Grow their own food??!! They can barely buy anything to make their own meals. A sad reality.
Mike John comments ...
This is very good post to encourage people for home based study. Home education has some other benefits like time saving. Home based students save the time of traveling to school and find more time to spend on learning. Furthermore, it is totally our will what hours we assign for studying. So it is somewhat like fascination to study on our own. We can study while in our beds or so.
I have also just applied to UK Open College (ukopecollege.co.uk) for some home based courses and now I can enjoy the fascinating education system.