When Bella was 18 months old, a friend of mine asked if we’d applied yet for nursery (playschool). I was shocked, to say the least, and stammered something about not planning to put her in school at the age of three. Internally, I was shouting something more like, ‘are you seriously asking about school, she’s only a baby!’
In subsequent years J and I had many conversations about how best to educate our children, and I began to seriously look into the local schools and the national curriculum. We wanted to be informed so we could weigh all the options.
At the end of a few months, I was pretty appalled at the state of the school system. It seemed that the curriculum was changed about every second or third year (just as everyone was adjusting to it) and then there would be a new approach. Lists upon lists of learning outcomes seemed to make everything about ticking a box and nothing just about experiencing or playing. The phrase ‘learning through play’ sort of got lost in pages of observations and assessments of 3-7 year olds.
I looked to reports of the children finishing school and was more worried still. With such an emphasis on positive reinforcement, tolerance and feeling good about oneself, the children finishing their years of basic education had an entirely mixed-up sense of self, not to mention a sub-standard education. There was no way we could turn our kids over to such a system. So, I turned to home education.
Initially regarded as an only alternative to contemporary main-stream education, I soon began to appreciate the advantages of educating children at home in their own right. In this everything-goes culture, I fear for our children. Their unformed, open little minds absorb everything we present them as true, unalterable fact. A couple of decades ago, when schooling was still mostly about language, numeracy, history and such, there was less scope for a well-meaning, but badly informed adult (or child, for that matter) to impose their view on an innocent child. Today where the classroom and the playground have taken over the character training and moral formation of our children, parents need to be aware, and step in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to schools; what I have a problem with is that so many parents have handed over the forming of their kids, and done so without even thinking. Schools have picked this up because we’re simply not doing it within our families anymore.
We need to teach our children how to think. Not simply what, but how. And to closely examine and scrutinize the credibility of the sources of their information before deciding whether to let their thinking be affected by it. So much research is done online now, you can find sources to back up virtually any opinion you like. What I
want to need to teach my children is how to find the grain in so much chaff.
Since that time we’ve emigrated, and now I need to look into local schools again. I think though, that the opportunity to explore with my girls, to help them make sense of their world, to train them in character and virtue, to wonder with them at the way things are made and how it all works, to guide them to self-discipline, confidence, wisdom, to know and love truth – how could we pass that up? I know it will be a lot of work, and that I will yearn for quiet days to do what I like from time to time. And yet, these little souls have been entrusted to J and I to tend and look after, and that is our task. Today, I think to raise my children well and equip them for life I need to step up and commit to the hard task of being a parent.