I was asked this a couple of weeks ago, and I have been pondering it ever since. I’ve always maintained that I’m a nothing home schooler, not wanting to box myself in and hand other people expectations on a plate. People have enough expectations as it is. And really we do tend to do our own thing, walk our own path.
The poet, Robert Frost, wrote a poem called The Road Not Taken. I love his poetry, full of melancholy thoughtfulness. This particular one resonates with me deeply. Life seems to present many, many forks in the road. And there are choices to be made. In most cases, the road well trodden is the more appealing to the majority of people. In fact, I believe many folk aren’t even aware of the fork. I have had tonnes of people say to me that they would never have even considered not sending their children to school, it is just what one does.
When I was growing up I attended one of the best schools in the country. Here, the option of taking GCSEs, A levels and going on to do a degree was a given. It was what was expected of us. It was only when I went to university and met other students, usually mature students, who had taken a different pathway to obtain their place at university, that I even realised such choices were available.
My nursing degree was a big let down. I had worked really hard to achieve the grades needed to go (I’m not naturally brainy at all) and was really looking forward to four exciting years of learning. I was disheartened to find original thought was discouraged (maybe I should have taken philosophy?) and I found myself once again on a treadmill of syllabi and exams. By this point I was tired of it all. I wanted to stretch my brain, not my ability to recall fact. Bizarrely, I’ve always maintained that my true education began the moment I left behind all the educational institutions I had so been looking forward to attending.
University taught me that as students we were a statistic, a number and the higher the better. So long as we got a degree, somehow we would be better off, more primed for success in life. And this thinking was prevalent in my nearest and dearest. When I chose to get married to a man with no tertiary education my family and friends were horrified. I went ahead, naturally following my instincts and, anyway, I knew I wanted a man with a big heart more than a big pocket (the perceived result of a degree). And we have the happiest of marriages.
My own education took a huge leap when I embarked on home schooling. I came to realise how superficial my knowledge actually was. I’d had one of the best educations money could buy, and I’d learnt how to pass any exam with ease. However, there was lots I’d learnt verbatim because it would be on an exam paper, often without any understanding of what I was learning (chemistry comes to mind). There wasn’t time to explore the subject deeper; no encouragement to cogitate over all this new knowledge. Homework was handed in and we moved on.
So where am I going with this? Just recently I have found myself at a fork in our educational road and I have been unsettled by what I have found to be my own assumptions and conditioned thoughts towards education and success. And I wonder how I missed them being there before now.
This week I am going to post some of the workings of my mind. It will probably be interminably boring for everyone to read (sorry ’bout that), but I want a record of the turning away from one mode of thinking to another. I’m not sure I have the courage to follow where my over active brain is taking me, because it is taking me into a world previously unknown in its existence to me. Just what kind of home schooler am I? More importantly what kind of home schooler do I actually want to be? And does it even matter?