I mean (segueing nicely into my next major point), would you really want someone watching your every move every day and night? I could think of nothing worse. Which brings me to a very busy week here in NSW, Australia. You see the government body responsible for regulating home education in this state have amended (I type that with 2 m's every time) the Information Pack which sets out how to register for home schooling.
At first, I didn't think too much of it. In Australia, NSW is probably the most regulated state when it comes to registering as a homeschooler. We are kind of used to having to jump through hoops - to writing out a bit of a plan, having someone from the government come visit your house and say yes, you can homeschool for up to 2 years, then we'll see how you are getting on.
To be perfectly honest, the first time that happened I went "really, two years? I won't see anyone for 2 years????" But I did "over-prepare" and freak out like crazy, because I so very much wanted to be able to be "allowed" to homeschool these two kids of mine.
But now, they have upped the ante a touch. I mean, they have just changed the Information Pack wording enough to ensure you have jump through a few more hoops. You have to understand, these are the same people responsible for setting the state's "syllabus" and for registering independent schools, so they are firmly in the data gathering, hoop jumping, box ticking school system.
I'm conflicted how I feel about this. I mean on one hand, schools have to demonstrate that they are teaching our precious children all the "right things", so we should make sure that homeschooled kids are having the same experience. I mean, they might "miss out" (god forbid - tongue firmly planted in cheek). Government regulation (over-regulation?) is increasing all around us. We can't scratch ourselves without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters (thank you Douglas Adams). Why would we really think homeschooling regulations would be any different, especially because education is so very important to our society.
But really. Most of us (99.99%) homeschool because we have thought about it (a LOT) and have decided, for whatever reason, that we might be able to do a reasonable job of educating our kids at home (and in the park, and in the pool, and by the beach and at a friends house - you get the idea). Perhaps we might even think we could do a BETTER job than some schools (or the ones we have available to us). For those of us who have ever been near the formal school system, we have seen first hand how it works for some kids, but also how it really doesn't for soooooo many of them. It is not a decision we've taken lightly.
Most of us homeschooling parents have given up at least some income to stay at home and educate our kids. We work around them. We spend money on books, courses, paints, microscopes and dance lessons so our kids don't "miss out". We save the state (at last estimate) over $13,000 per year. PER YEAR. And yet receive very little in government assistance either in monetary or educational assistance terms.
The NSW Board of Studies wants me to timetable my kids learning - they want to be sure they are getting "comparable time" to those at school. They want to make sure they are meeting the "learning outcomes" prescribed in their syllabuses. They want to make sure they are working at year level and if they are working above year level (no mention of those behind) we now have to justify why.
I can see the reasoning behind this. We wouldn't want those kids "missing out". I wouldn't want to neglect their education. And goodness knows we don't want 14 year olds finishing school early and wandering the streets.
But you know what, NSW Board of Studies? My kids are doing great. They have better vocabulary than I did at their age. They are working in their areas of passion up to 3 or 4 years ahead of their age peers. They read voraciously. They think and question critically. They enjoy solving problems. They enjoy learning about our local community, their country and the big wide world. They enjoy music and are leading healthy lives. They have good social relationships with their family and their friends. They have life skills (the ones they are going find useful, at least) and they know how to find out stuff if they don't know it. I could put all of this in a plan and if you really want, relate all our activities to "outcomes" in your syllabuses. But if you want it to look like school, if you want us to be sitting down, heads down, bums up, poring over our books from 9 til 3 every day, think again.
I don't really want to jump through hoops. More hoops. To justify to you that my kids aren't "missing out". To have them put in a little Year 8 box. I'll do it if I have to, because the benefits outweigh the costs, to use your vocabulary. But now I have seen how limiting the school system is, how much BIGGER and BETTER and more WONDERFUL our learning can be at home, now I'm thinking outside the box, I really don't want to be squashed into it.
Do you have "hoop-jumping" to do to register as a homeschooler where you live?
Should we have to jump through hoops?
Or should we be allowed to be trusted to educate our children, our way?