When most people think of education, an image of rows of children sitting in desks, listening to the teacher is conjured. For this reason, many are thrown off when a parent says he is home educating. This is reflected in the requirements many states have for those who are home educating. For example, a state may require standardised testing or submission of a portfolio. Such requirements, though, presuppose that the home school will follow the same model as the average public school, with a set curriculum, set hours, and set lessons.
In my opinion, such requirements reflect a narrow view of what constitutes education. I follow the unschooling model, for example, which clearly isn’t what is in mind with the state requirements. Instead of having a set curriculum or set lessons, I seek to make the most of the educational opportunities that present themselves and to expose my children to various things. This is the approach we took with the Monarch butterflies, where we learned what we could about them by observing and by seeking out resources to learn more. And yet there was never a formal lesson, just our life. Or there’s the fact that, without formal instruction but with constant exposure, Kieran can read some – considering he’s not yet 5, I find that to be of significance.
If people ask if he’s in school, though, I’m hesitant to answer in the affirmative, because I know the usual image people have is of formal schooling, be that in a school or at home. At the same time, I could very easily answer in the affirmative, because my children are constantly learning through our everyday activities. If they help me cook, they learn math and science; whenever we read, which is multiple times a day, they learn more about language, as well as the subject matter; when we go to the zoo, they learn science; when they build with Lego or Brio, they learn engineering and develop their imaginations. Those are just some examples of how my children are learning, and of why education shouldn’t be confined to formal lessons. Perhaps one day the state will not cling to just that one narrow definition of education, and will recognise that education can and does take many forms.