I was home-schooled once, sort of…

So today, I came across this article in our local media about parents lobbying to get home-schooling accepted in Malta as a valid educational choice.

While I am not personally against home schooling and am sure that it has many benefits too, painting it as a ‘saving grace’, as the article seems to point out these parents are doing, is taking matters too far, surely.

It may be a valid option, but is there the need to vilify other educative methods?

Making home-schooling out to be the holy grail of education that will somehow snuff out all the ‘problems’ that these parents see in the current system of education is short-sighted, at best. It also smacks of a lack of understanding and information of what is actually happening in the educative sphere because while it may be true that certain schools still practise old-fashioned methodologies, this is NOT true for all schools.

Non-formal education is being practised at schools nowadays.

The one my three year-old attends, for example, makes the most of its location in the middle of the Maltese countryside. Children are regularly taken outdoors for their lessons and, more importantly, the outdoors is actually worked into the curriculum. A recent example was of students (way older than my son!) who were studying area in their maths class and who were taken outdoors, asked to pick up leaves, trace them, and calculate the area of said leaves. My little one has already had nature lessons outdoors which also included observing tadpoles turning into frogs. Surely, a world away from “children were made to sit in rows and not allowed to speak to each other.”

If I think of all the things I learnt at school, INCLUDING the fact that some kids just simply didn’t like me; that I had to take turns; that even if I did have all the answers, sometimes, someone else’s answer may be more interesting; that someone else could have a radically different opinion to mine, one that wouldn’t have even been entertained in my household; that likes and dislikes were very much based on the cultural reality one grew up in; that hey, my bohemian artist parents and the home life I had was NOT the norm; that being the teacher’s pet wasn’t always a plus; that sometimes life was simply not fair, such as when a particular teacher gave grades depending on who submitted the work and not on the quality of work (for the record I used to get the good grades but I still found it unfair); that a subject could be more or less interesting depending on who was doing the teaching.

Learning through play and discovery is also being encouraged.

This was a wealth of teaching and learning that I simply would NOT have got had I been home-schooled. And actually, for a time, we were home-schooled! This was because the political situation in Malta’s 80s had led to the closure of church schools (of which I was an attendee) for a time. So parents in the locality I lived in banded together and decided that they would run a school of sorts until the schools themselves opened up again. So History lessons were given by my mum, I walked 20m down the road for English lessons (from a neighbour who was actually an English teacher at one of the main church schools) and another 20m to the house of friends whose parents taught us Chemistry and Biology. Others taught Maltese, Maths, Drama, Music and so forth. Was it fun? You bet it was! At least for us kids, as our parents were worried sick. But it wasn’t home-schooling in the strict sense of the word because we were still mixing with loads of other kids on a daily basis and getting information from a multitude of sources. And that, I believe, is the crux of the matter.

The crucial importance of having our preconceived notions challenged can never be undermined. And no matter how open minded a parent may be, they will always subscribe to a particular world view and will impart that world view to their children. Which is all well and good as long as these children are being exposed to other world views, other realities. And school is a place where this can happen, in a safe way. And this, I believe, is too important an element to be sidelined – that is, if we want to try to raise a generation of critical thinkers.

Let’s not isolate ourselves further but go out to explore this amazing world.

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