Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Homeschooling - the Future of Education?

Haven't read Scott Adam's (of Dilbert fame) blog recently but had a look tonight and he suggests that homeschooling may be the future of education.

I can imagine a future economy where everyone is home schooled over the Internet, and the average result is an improvement. With the Internet you could leverage the best teaching methods to the entire country. No one gets the bad teacher or the disruptive class. There are no bullies and no cliques.

I haven't read the comments to his blog post yet as I wanted to get my ideas down without further influence.

Personally, I would have loved to have been "homeschooled via the internet" instead of actually going to school. I didn't like school. My memories of school are loneliness and boredom. Homeschooling may actually have helped with the boredom aspect. I did an alternative schooling option for the last two terms of Year 8 and completed 2 years work in this period. This sort of learning would have worked great for me, but I'm not sure it would work for all kids. Some people do learn best through personal interaction rather than via reading (as we are all aware people learn differently). Neither my brother or sister excelled at this school.

Speaking as the mum of two school aged girls I am not sure that I would like this to be the only option that I had available for educating my girls.

My youngest is a very social child who loves the interaction that she got at kindergarten. She will start pre-primary this year and I believe socialisation is still a major focus at this age group as well as building the foundations for learning (especially reading).

My eldest is a quiet, reserved child who, I truely believe, has benefitted greatly from being in the school environment. I think for pure learning she would be happy with a self-paced, "learn on your own" style. But the classroom activities, particularly "news" (or "show and tell" as I knew it) have really helped build her confidence and I am not sure how this could be done outside of the school environment.

Scott Adams' take on the socialisation aspects is:

My guess is that as long as home schooled kids have friends in the neighborhood, and siblings, they socialize just fine. The social skills can be learned on sports teams and at Girl Scouts

But I do not fully agree. My girls have friends in the neighbourhood, they both participate in team sports and the eldest attends Girl Guides. I do believe that while these activities provide some socialisation opportunities they're not the "day in day out" type of opportunity provided by a school.

Prior to having kids I liked the idea of homeschooling, mainly as I didn't want my children to be bored at school like I was. However, having seen their personalities and having found the school that they are at I think that going to school is definitely a better option for them at this time. Maybe when they're older and socialisation and confidence building aren't such major issues then the "homeschooling via the internet" could be an option.

An aspect of this plan that Scott Adams doesn't address is the availability / suitability of parents to provide an appropriate learning environment. The assumption is made that a parent will be around to give better personal attention than a teacher with 20 students..

I see two problems with this, 1) those people with jobs will have to give them up to be home for the children (or we have to return to a traditional family structure where the husband works and the wife stays home with the kids); and

2) there are a lot of parents now who have enough trouble providing a suitable environment out of school hours, let alone assuming that they could do this all day, every day.

He did make an interesting observation regarding schooling all-year round, verses having the summer months off -

It's a legacy of our farming past, with no current utility. Every summer the American kids lose ground to the Japanese kids who school year round. Home schooling would have no long breaks. Another problem solved.

We are currently in the middle of our summer school holidays. School broke up on Dec 15th and goes back on Feb 2nd. I don't see the need for these long holidays (although the teachers may disagree with me), however with temperatures in the high 30s (that's Celsius, folks - tomorrow is forecast to be 98.6F), I am not sure that the kids being in school is a great idea either.

It would free up accommodation if families could take holidays through out the school year and not just at "school holiday" times (we just take the kids out of school when we want to go on holidays and that gets around this issue).

So basically, on the whole, I don't think that I would like to see the future of education go this way.


Ness said...

Julie, I agree. It's all about making sure the school is right for the child and the parents taking an active role in assisting the school to allow a child to be everything they can be. I personally would not have the patience to home school my children. I love them dearly, but if I'm having a bad day, they would be better off at school, the damage would take a lot to undo. But another parent with the patience and dedication would probably do a fantastic job at it.
I think the socialisation is so important too. I didn't have a lot of friends at school, but if I hadn't gone, I probably would have had no friends. I didn't have the other outlets of scouts or sports. My kids are possibly over stimulated, but nobody can claim they aren't socialised!! :-)
Sorry, quite the essay for a blog comment! Ness

Julie said...

don't apologise Ness, it's an interesting topic to discuss. The other thing i was thinking of was expertise. Sure having everything you need to know and access to "the best teachers" is all well and good - but in many situations having a real person explain it to you makes it easier to absorb.