Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Underrated Forge of Humanity

In a recent keynote speech, FREE RANGE: A LIFE WITHOUT SCHOOL, I spoke about how, for us home educating parents, breaking free from the expectations of others can be a long and difficult journey. I think one of the things that often holds us back from striking out in a bold new direction is fear, isn’t it? It is a scary thing as parents to take responsibility for our children’s education. We fear that we will fail them. We fear our own inadequacy.

But the truth is, as parents we are always the ones responsible for our children’s education. The 1996 Education Act is quite clear: "the parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise." So the choice is not whether to take responsibility for our children’s education or not; the choice is whether we delegate that responsibility to school or not. I think it is helpful to consider whether we really think those designing the curricula in our schools, or delivering the curriculum in school classrooms, are actually any more qualified than we are in the role of mentoring our child through to adulthood, for that is really what education is about. What do you want your child to learn in the short years they are with you as they grow? Do you think school or elsewhere would be the best place for them to learn these things?

For us, it has always been important that our boys become independent lifelong learners, creative problem-solvers who know that whatever they want to learn, they can learn it. I want them to know what their strengths and gifts are, where their passions lie. I want them to find work doing what they love, so work will always feel like play.

I want them to be men of substance and integrity who are not afraid to stand out from the crowd and do what they know to be right. I want them to know their parents, to understand our values. I want to share with them the special places of my past, to hand to them the stories which have made us who we are. I want them to celebrate diversity and not be afraid of those who are different from themselves. I want them to explore, to be outside a lot and to love the hills, the woods, the birds and flowers, to care about the world around them. I want them to see me pray, and when they see me cry about the mess we are making of the environment, or about the refugee crisis, I want them to remember these were the things that mattered to me, their Mum, that I might be to them a fellow human being, a sojourner with them on life’s journey, also someone learning and growing and making mistakes sometimes. I want them to know that I am fiercely behind them and that they are special and loved. Does this sound like the work of the classroom, the peer group? Or could it be that, in fact, the home and the family is the underrated forge of humanity? That actually parents have a far more valuable role than we have been led to believe? That we are actually far more capable to be our child’s primary educators than we think we are? If you take nothing else from my writing, take this one thought: That you can do this. If you are prepared to take your child’s hand and walk with them on this learning journey of life, to share yourself with them, then, believe me, you can do this, and you will find your own life enriched beyond measure, as you learn far more at your child’s side than you ever learned in school.

© Alice Khimasia 2017


  1. Alice, an inspiring blog. I agree with you that independent learning should continue long after school and further education. It's so easy to lose that wide eyed hunger for learning once the world of work and family become the priority and the norm.

    There are so many positives to Unschooling and yet I think it will be an option for the few only because of the economic pressures parents often face, the convenience of school and, I guess, some parents don't want to be with their kids all day, every day.

    The current state education system is clearly an unhealthy one for both pupils and teachers. Do you see any signs that the Government is showing an interest in the benefits of Unschooling? Are there any stats on how many parents are currently home schooling in the UK?


    1. Thanks for commenting. Yes, giving up an income to unschool can be a challenge. However, there are ways in which families make it work, often working from home, or working part-time whilst sharing the responsibilities of home educating. I know single-parents who home educate. I think, like so many things in life, it is a choice. We all make so many choices - about what we buy, and what we can do without - every day. For us, unschooling has forced us to look at so many things differently, and encouraged a simpler lifestyle, and a questioning of accepted norms.

      It is my conviction that unschooling / self-directed learning has a lot to say to mainstream education and to government about the future of education. No, unfortunately the Government doesn't currently seem to be showing any interests in the benefits. I do think there is a growing movement of parents rejecting the current system, and we can hope that with increased awareness of alternatives, public opinion will become more open to home education / personalised learning. It is difficult to find accurate stats about nos of parents currently home educating as families are not currently required by law to register with their local authority, which is itself a contentious and political issue. (Currently being debated again in the House of Lords)

      I was encouraged by this recent piece in the Times ...