There is always a case for home schooling and parents choose to home educate their children for a broad range of reasons. For every case there are voices of opposition and doubt. This article is one of a series addressing a range of the notions raised by these voices - the concern over parental resourcefulness.
In the Adelaide newspaper, The Advertiser (Australia), there was recently an article entitled 'In a Class of Their Own' which reported on the increase in home schooling numbers in the last year. The article also had the comment made by a teacher, with 35 years experience, who chose to remain unnamed, that it would be impossible for a parent to provide the level of education needed to properly educate a student.
She stated, "Some parents might be able to cope with the lower grades of junior primary subjects, but you would start to need a degree of specialisation to give them the best information for the variety of subjects." Continuing she said, "In secondary school it would be impossible to be an expert at all subjects - from German to English - and I believe these parents are depriving children of essential learning experience."
As a knowledgeable parent, I shake my head in dismay. This teacher's viewpoint assumes that a parent, themselves, has not studied beyond their own secondary school years. It is odd that they neglect that home educating parents have a very broad range of post-secondary qualifications including agriculture and viticulture, engineering and business, medicine and law, and oddly enough - teaching at both primary and secondary levels. How is it that the skills that parents have acquired on both their academic and career paths not acknowledged by this teacher?
A second assumption by this teacher was made in a further comment in which she said, "There is also a lack of exposure to a range of teaching styles and teaching methods. They are just getting the same old boring mum." Now as a mother who is home educating this comment, in an of itself, is downright offensive. It suggests that mothers firstly are boring as well as not being capable of utilising varied approaches when facilitating the learning of their children.
Further to this though, is an answer that can be encapsulate why home schooling is so effective - networking. There is this widely thought belief that home schooling means school at home. When this viewpoint is taken often in conjures thoughts of a mother hovering over her children's shoulders with ruler in hand, with her offspring sitting in front of books and mother correcting every mistake as it is made. For many home educating families this could not be further from the truth! Modern home schooling families, in contrast, often report that they need to reel their children home because they are out and about so much.
This aside, the networking ability of home educators enables them to quickly and easily link them to experts in fields outside their skill sets that are both inside and outside the home schooling community. If you are wondering how this all happens then you need to start finding you local and state home schooling groups. Often these groups operate both with a physical presence as well as an online presence. Often you will be able to find both state based support groups and home education groups that are oriented to the nature of your family or learning approaches by simply doing a search on Yahoo groups.
These groups link members to books, curriculum, courses, and specialists including medical professionals, legal support and educators with specialities which are sometimes easier taught by someone else. This, of course, is in addition to organising activities for members to do together from informal walks in local national parkland through to planned learning activities across all learning domains, that are presented by home educators or professionals that they bring in to speak on the topic. Recently, a home schooling mother arranged for a member of the Department of Primary Industries and Resources to come and explain geological concepts including how to identify minerals and crystals. The educator from the department usually only presented to upper secondary students and university students and was somewhat amazed at the ability of home-based students from the age of five to fifteen also actively taking in all that he explained to them. How wrong was that teacher in her thoughts?
This, of course, coincided this week with a report coming from Flinders University's Science 21 (also known as Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century) that examined the qualifications of science teachers in South Australian schools. The report detailed that they had found that only 84% of general science teachers for Years 8-10 students were qualified and the findings only got worse from there. In senior classes (Year 11 & 12) the results dropped off significantly. In Biology only 75% of teachers were appropriately qualified, in Chemistry only 72% held the standard of qualification expected and in Physics only 57% held the appropriate qualifications. In fact, if your child's teacher in South Australia is aged between 30 and 34 years of age you have approximately a 1 in 5 chance that their teacher is appropriately qualified. Sadly too, geology did not rate a mention as there were only 4 responding teachers who were all qualified but that last year there were only eight geology classes held in the entire state leaving little space for broad comparison.
I find this to be an interesting contrast to the argument put forward by the 35-year experienced teacher and it makes me wonder what the qualification results would be for subjects outside of the sciences. Would we see the same trend for the state to be below the national average as well as below what many fee-paying parents expect from our education departments? It is food for thought, is it not? Perhaps, it was a good thing that this teacher remained anonymous because I, for one, would like to have been able to write a letter asking for clarifications on her thoughts especially in consideration of this recent report.
I could determine that, in many respects, this report puts more weight to the case for home schooling. Home schooling parents are resourceful enough to find those teachers who are qualified who are willing to support students in specific academic studies where parental knowledge falls short. At the same time, too, parents have the opportunity to educate their children in skills, crafts and academia that is not taught in traditional schooling models - left instead for Universities or work places. The quality of education that home schooling parents provide is not just weighted against their ability to meet curriculum outcomes (which is how applications are measured) but when it comes to preparing young adults, it is also the amazing breadth of experiences in both academic learning, social exposure, and interaction with our world that truly make home education a quality choice for many families.