Homeschooling Methods

This article argues that classifying the various methods of homeschooling is a strategy applied by bureaucrats who are keen to select only specific methods for legal approval. Some ways of homeschooling inherently reject such classification. Efforts to frame them into legality may well destroy the very lifestyle, philosophy and mentality that they stand for.



A. Why Homeschooling?

Quintessence has often expressed its preference of homeschooling over school. See for example the case study in What Attitude is taught at School?, the more general article The Horror of School and the mind-provoking School makes Children sick!

THEN, the Third Home Education Network, has distributed many of these articles in its series called The Horror of School. THEN has also issued an interesting series of articles under the title Why Homeschool?, in which a variety of people each express different reasons for homeschooling.

In short, many article have been issued by Quintessence and others to provide evidence that homeschooling is in many respects a superior alternative to school. The question is whether, and if so, how, this should be translated in a legal status for homeschooling, as an alternative to school.

B. The School Curriculum

Quintessence's criticism of the education system extends into post-compulsory education, as described e.g. in Tertiary Education and How Education corrupts Research.

In its criticism of school, Quintessence goes further than many homeschoolers. Quintessence argues that the subject matter taught at school is intrinsically entwined with the way school operates as a system. This has been described in a series of articles, each focusing on a specific subject, as it is commonly taught at school.

Some online examples out this series, called Teachings behind School, are articles discussing history, in History: when Facts lie!, geography, in Goofy Geography, and music in Music that breaks the Rules and in Improvisation in Music. The Three R's were discussed in Standards of Measurement, in The new Fluency, in The Literacy Debate and in The new Insight.

In the series of articles called Optionality by Comparison, specific concepts are compared, such as objectivity in Object against Objectivity! optionality in Why Optionality makes more Sense than Science, and improvisation in Improvisation versus Order. The inevitably heated debate resulted in a number of provocative articles, including The Problem with Science and The Case against Science, and the more detailed Science: Truth or Fraud?

In conclusion, many homeschoolers may wonder what subjects they should focus on. But Quintessence argues that this whole issue of a fixed curriculum with a focus on specific 'key' or 'basic' subjects, is a typical school-approach. True, many homeschoolers do mimic such a school-approach in their homeschooling. But to discuss this issue more deeply, the question arises once more what homeschooling is about.

C. What is Homeschooling?

So, what is homeschooling? Perhaps a look into history may clarify this. When the Government first provided free education, it could not afford to build schools everywhere. Many rural families continued with what had been the most common method of education for many decades, i.e. growing up in the family home, if you like, on the family farm. These families were either living too remotely to have access to schools or they simply did not believe in school. The government-funded School of the Air and its sister solution, Correspondence School, were set up in Queensland as somewhat inferior alternatives to physically attending school, targeting such rural folks. But gradually, more families, in both rural and urban areas, discovered that distance education made more sense than school. Also interesting in this regard is that some 25% of post-graduate education now takes place by correspondence or on-line courses.

Queensland is the only state in Australia where parents are not allowed to teach their own children, unless one parent happens to be a Queensland-registered teacher. The Government insist that a child is 'instructed' by a formal teacher, the Government also defines what should be taught. The article About Educational Methods mentioned some 1.2 million children being educated at home in the US, as opposed to going to school, the 1.2 million representing 3% of the school-aged population of 40 million children. In the U.S., home-schooling has shown growth figures averaging 25% a year since the early 1990s. A recent article on homeschooling in Newsweek gives estimates of 1.5 million youngsters now being educated primarily by their parents in the US. Much of the growth in the 1990s has come from families that want to look after their children themselves without any involvement of formal teachers or schools. They reject school as well as its teachings.

What various research confirms is that the strongest growth in homeschooling is in areas that are not formally recognised as teaching methods. One example is Natural Learning, which was briefly discussed in an appendix to above-mentioned article on The Literacy Debate. In the US, many families also call themselves Unschoolers, indicating they want nothing to do with school. Quintessence has often described how many common activities can be affected by a school-mentality. Examples of articles are Choosing Child Activities and Let's go Beachwalking!. The series Tales to be told to the Children started with the article A Children's Tale, back in 1993. An online example is John Doolan's Wisdom. Unschooling goes well beyond typical school activities, an earlier article by Quintessence was entitled De-education - the Key to Society's Awakening.

Quintessence has also discussed Integrated Learning, which argues that learning does hardly take place at command, at set times and places, in classrooms with the use of textbooks. Instead, Integrated Learning promotes learning that is integrated in daily-life activities, such as shopping, eating, playing, etc. Integrated Learning and natural learning were compared with school methods in the article Integrated Learning. For more details on Integrated Learning, see also Learning by Choice and Integrated Learning - the forbidden Alternative. And also discussed was DonParagon's Improvisation. DonParagon recommends children to develop creativity by improvising. Improvisation was further discussed in Improving your Improvisation and in Teachings behind School. For some Improvision is a lifestyle that doesn't need any formal educational approach or specified method.

Another approach is Sophism, as discussed in the article Panta Rei. Yet another approach that should be mentioned is the belief that the parent can simply do a better job than school. For more discussion of methods, see WHEN, the World Home Education Network.

D. Homeschoolers - why some families reject this term

Some homeschoolers happily regard themselves as homeschoolers, in the sense that they imitate the school at home. They insist the children do maths and spelling exercises, they enforce an even more rigid disciplinary regime at home than what is common at school.

But, as discussed above, there are many different approaches, the diversity is much wider than what all schools combined can offer. To describe each of these approaches in-depth is beyond the capacity of this article, but many links are given above. The point is, as was discussed in the article Break the Chain, does it make sense to try and capture all these approaches under one single term, i.e. homeschooling? As the article argued, classifying families as homeschoolers is often the simple result of a bureaucratic approach that takes the perspective that school is compulsory for all, perhaps with some exceptions for those that are subsequently referred to as homeschoolers.

It is the Government that groups all those families and all these approaches together and gives them a label such as homeschoolers, to define the legal conditions under which such homeschoolers are to be exempt from compulsory school. Such classification and approval procedures are part of government-enforced compulsory education.

Some families may be happy with this situation. But other families reject not only school, but this entire education system that is so universally enforced by the Government; they reject the very authority of the Government to teach. By implication, they reject being classified as homeschoolers, registered, monitored, etc.

E. The Pitfalls of seeking Legal Recognition

Neither Integrated Learning nor Improvisation like to be regarded as official educational methods. By contrast, some people argue that natural learning should be 'elevated in status' in Queensland as a legally accepted alternative to school. This is clearly a matter that calls for further discussion. The half-hearted efforts by bureaucrats to accommodate homeschooling within the law, as a legitimate alternative to school, fit into this discussion. For examples, see Quintessence's recent comments on Proposals to regulate homeschooling in NSW and the earlier article Homeschooling in Queensland.

In Queensland, it has long been an irritation that homeschoolers had only one legal alternative to government-run education, i.e. the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) method. Sadly, most Christian homeschoolers in Queensland have happily collaborated with the Government to exclude other methods. More generally, any collaboration with the Government risks splitting homeschoolers up into approved and not-approved homeschoolers.

Many homeschoolers do not even follow a specific method, or at least not knowingly. But most homeschoolers do join a support group in which they feel comfortable. For Christian homeschoolers, such support groups are relatively easy to find in Queensland. But for other homeschoolers, it is hard to even find like-minded families. One contentious issue is whether families should register with the Government as homeschoolers. WHEN, the World Home Education Network, resolutely rejects such collaboration. However, even WHEN (or rather its former incarnation THEN) felt tempted enough to lodge a case with the United Nations on behalf of homeschoolers. For more on WHEN, see WHEN and the articles What is WHEN? and WHEN, the World Education Network. For Quintessence, theoretically it is a simple choice between dictatorship and optionality. But, in practice, optionality will manifest itself in various pathways. As was discussed in Funding of Schools, there may be new alternatives on the horizon. To select any one, single pathway as the 'best' is simply in conflict with the spirit of optionality.


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