Thursday, 6 September 2012


What would I consider success for my children?

I can think of a neverending list of hypothetical possibilities, all of which are almost certainly way off the mark because, well, who knows?
Sprout could choose to take no exams, join a company at entry level and work his way up.
Squidge could become a self trained programmer and start his own app design business.
Moppet could study at university at eighteen. Or at 68.
Sprout could work behind a bar.
Squidge could work his way around the world.
Moppet could take some exams for fun and then become a self sufficient gardener.
And infinite permutations of job, situation and circumstance.
What have all these little imaginings got in common? Happiness. That's the single and only important factor I will consider when I look back and think whether home education has been a success. Whether I have enabled them to follow their own, unique path to learn what they (each with their own personality, strengths, aptitudes, passions, interests, learning styles, needs, and wants) need to know to be happy.

It makes me rather nervous when home ed is called into question, and often the first thing that home educators will say (and I know I have too), is that they can still take exams. Still do well in them. Still go to uni.

And I completely understand why: because it's a measure that people understand. Something that allays grandparents' fears a bit. Something that makes the cashier's eyebrows a little less raised.

But it's missing a trick, a huge bonus of home education. And it might seem obvious, but this is it: it isn't school. Well yes, I did say it was obvious. It's not school. It has the potential for so much more of a personalised path, an individually suited way of learning. It doesn't need the same measures that school needs. Schools need exams, so that they know by their own measures whether or not they're doing a good job at certain points and especially by the time a child leaves. It's how they rank themselves in league tables. But not only does home ed not need that, but trying to use those measures regardless actually sells it short. Way short.

If a child chooses a path on which they want or need exams, great, they can do them. If their path needs something else, also great, we have the freedom to facilitate that too. What's more, if they do choose exams, it doesn't have to be at sixteen and eighteen. It can be at twelve, or twenty four. Or forty seven. Once we take away the strictures of school, and let learning happen naturally, there are no limits. No invisible line between childhood where you're taught things and adulthood where you just work. Nothing to say you need to know what career you want for your entire life by the age of fourteen because you need to pick your subjects. Nothing to compel you to get specific qualifications by the arbitrary age of sixteen.

But it also, annoyingly for those who would like to force themselves into our lives and measure, assess and pass or fail our children, means that my children's success can't be measured by an outsider looking in. It means that they can't take a snapshot of all home ed children at the age of sixteen and plot them all onto a graph of successes, and (necessarily in the realm of school-think) failures. Because so many home ed successes are not measurable on any kind of school-minded scale. Only my children themselves will know whether they are happy and fulfilled, and I hope that by doing things the way we do that I am one of the people they will share that with.


  1. Excellently put, why is this so hard for some to understand.

    1. I think that some people have just never really deschooled. Some others, I think, genuinely believe that by showing that HE kids can and do achieve by these measures we will be left alone; I think, however, it will just make it more likely that they will seek to assess them by these measures :/