By now you might know that we have a son that learns at home and is not in main stream education. When this is mentioned to some people they look at us as if we have just spoken another language, landed in from another planet with two heads or as if we have crossed some unknown and unspoken about (to us) religious or moral taboo.
So I thought it might be interesting to give you examples of some of the questions we get asked on a regular basis, along with some answers given or that I would like to be giving instead:
Q: If he doesn’t go to school, how does he learn?
A: He learns in lots of ways.
~ He can’t learn because he doesn’t go to school.
~ Oops! I knew there was something I was forgetting: to enroll him in school so he can learn.
~ He learns in the same way most people do. By looking for answers.
~ We use some workbooks and textbooks similar to what is used in traditional schools. We talk to people, we go for walks, we play games, we read books, we watch movies and documentaries, we go places, we use the internet. We are always learning no matter where we are or what we are doing.
Question for you: How do you learn?
Q: Where does he learn?
A: He learns at home. That’s why it is called home schooling.
~ He doesn’t learn that much so it’s not really that important.
~ As he is schooled at home he doesn’t really learn that much as we are rarely at home.
~ We had to have a separate building built out the back to use as a classroom because you can’t learn anywhere except in a classroom.
~ I’m not really sure where he learns stuff from.
~ He is learning everywhere we go and by everything we are doing. You don’t need to go to school to learn and you don’t need to be in a classroom with your head in a text book to learn.
Question for you: Where do you learn new things from and do you have a classroom to learn in?
Q: If you don’t have a classroom or a set place to school, how does that work?
A: You don’t have to be in a classroom to learn.
~ He doesn’t learn because we don’t have a classroom or a dedicated place for him to learn.
~ We haven’t got around to building a classroom yet so he will just have to wait until we have one I guess.
~ He learns by going out to meet people, travelling to new and familiar places, he may be at home or in another state. He loves his beanbag, hammock, the lounge and being outside cuddling up to the dog while learning. He has been taken to parks, rivers, mountains, hospitals, waiting rooms, clearance sales, garage sales, museums, art galleries, historic places, performances, exhibitions, theme parks, he works, he builds things… the list just goes on. (Also check out “Where We Do Our Learning” for more information.)
~ It is not so important the location, but the experience and the actual ‘what’ that has been learnt that is important.
Q: Does he sit exams and tests?
~ Some people make their children sit exams and tests, but we don’t.
Question for you: Do you sit exams for all the things you have learnt? How much knowledge have you retained from all the tests and exams you sat for?
Q: If he doesn’t sit exams or tests, how do you know if he is learning?
A: We just know he is.
~ We don’t know if he is learning.
~ We just take it for granted something is sinking in and are hoping for the best.
~ He doesn’t need to sit exams or tests because we are there with him all the time as he is learning so we know if he is understanding what is going on. If he understands something really well we will skip over it or not do it at all. If he is struggling with something we will slow down, take our time and find different ways to explain or demonstrate it until it does make sense to him. We have that flexibility that you can’t get in a main stream institution.
~ Exams and tests only exist in main stream institutions for two reasons. Firstly, because you are not there with your child as they are learning, you have no idea what they are up to or how well they understand concepts so the school sets tests as a way of relating this to you. Secondly, exams and tests are an indication of how well, or not so well ,the teacher has taught the students in the class as a whole and in particular your child. If the whole class, or the majority of them scores low, it is not necessarily a reflection of your child or the class, but more importantly a reflection that the material has not been presented in a way the children understand. Even when it is only your child scoring low, not enough attention is being focused on your child in a way that is appropriate for them to learn.
Question for you: Have you ever looked at your child / children’s exam or test papers? Did you understand the questions? Would you have been able to answer the questions? Did you have any idea of what was covered in the subject they were taking / learning about before the exam / test was sat?
Q: So, if you don’t have exams or tests, does that mean you don’t have mid-year and end of year report cards either?
~ That’s correct.
~ Wasting paper, wasting ink and wasting our time when we could be doing more meaningful and fun things instead?
~ He has a big enough head as it is now without praising him any more.
~ Why bother?
~ It’s not justified or warranted.
~ Some parents go to the trouble of printing out reports for their children, but we don’t see the need for it.
~ He doesn’t need a piece of paper to tell him something he already knows.
~ There is no need to send a letter to myself or my partner telling ourselves how well our child is doing at his learning as we see it all the time.
~ He gets told all the time how well we think he is doing and learning, at the time, when it is happening, when it is the most important.
Q: Will he go to high school?
~ He is already smart enough so I don’t think we will waste our time with it.
~ High School? You mean the place up on the hill above us?
~ He will be doing high school work, but he will continue doing it from home.
Question for you: Did you go to high school?
Q: Will he do his HSC? (Higher School Certificate – Final exams at the completion of year 12)
A: Probably not.
~ I’m sorry, I don’t have my crystal ball on me at the moment to tell me what the future will bring.
~ He is just not that interest in it and would rather be out doing more constructive things so I dare say he won’t go on to complete year 12 and will leave to get a job / apprenticeship before then. I just don’t know what he will do and we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
Question for you: Did you complete your HSC? How did it help you to get to where you are today?
Q: What if he wants to go to Uni?
A: He goes to Uni.
~ Uni? What’s that?
~ He doesn’t want to go o Uni.
~ Aw well. Looks like he can’t go because he didn’t go to ‘school’.
~ Same as anyone else: he can apply to go; he can get in as a mature age student; he can sit an entrance exam. As a home schooler, if he did want to go to Uni, he would probably get in easier and above your child because they tend to be preferred over institutionalised children. Home schoolers tend to be more focused, self-driven and have a real want to be doing the course in the first place so they are often given first preference. Home schoolers tend to be able to plan better, think for themselves, are more self-reliant and better able to work out problems themselves or know where to go to for the answers they are seeking.
Question for you: Did you go to Uni? Did you finish Uni? Are you in the same profession as what you studied for in Uni?
Q: Does he have friends?
~ Because he doesn’t go to school he doesn’t know what friends are.
~ He hasn’t asked for one yet.
~ Is he meant to have friends?
~ What would he do with a friend when he has me instead?
~ Why would he need a friend when he has family?
~ We are afraid of germs / religion / bullying / conflicting ideas (whatever takes our fancy at the time, or all of them just for the fun of it) so we don’t allow him to have friends.
~ Of course he has friends. He has lots of them.
Question for you: Do you have any friends?
Q: Where does he meet friends / people?
A: Lots of places.
~ When we let him out he runs and runs. I guess he must meet people when he is running.
~ He doesn’t have any friends yet.
~ He doesn’t know any people yet.
~ The same way anyone makes friends and meets new people, by talking to other people.
~ He has friends that go to school and friends that don’t go to school. He meets people when out socialising with his friends, when we go places, when shopping, when visiting family and as part of groups we belong to. Everywhere we go and with most things we do is an opportunity for him and us to meet new people and friends.
Question for you: Where do you meet friends / people?
Q: Does he have friends his own age?
~ He is way too mature to be with kids his own age.
~ He is way too immature to hang with kids his own age.
~ Kids his age just aren’t good enough for his personal growth and development for him to be around them.
~ Of course he does. He also has friends younger than him and older than him. In fact, he has more friends now than when he was at school with children his own age. He is happy to be with and socialise with people of all ages. It’s not really important what ages his friends are.
Question for you: Do you have any friends you own age?
Q: Does he play any sport or do any physical activity?
~ No he is too lazy for that.
~ Of course he does. He wouldn’t be that tall and skinny by genetics and metabolism alone.
~ Yeah right. Does it look like he plays sport?
~ You have to have friends to play sport and as he doesn’t have any friends he can’t play sport.
~ Sport? What’s that?
~ He rides his push bike, rides his scooter and chases the dog, but no he doesn’t play sport or have any form of physical activity.
Question for you: Do you play any sport or have regular physical activity?
Q: What happens when he asks you something you don’t know or can’t teach?
A: We work it out.
~ I tell him it’s not important to know the answer.
~ I tell him it’s nothing to worry about and to forget about it.
~ That doesn’t happen for 2 reasons: 1. Because I am female, and 2. Because I am a mum.
~ I don’t know if you have heard about this thing, or if they have it where you come from, but it’s called the internet. It is like having a heap of the most intelligent mums of the world right in front of you. You type a question into your computer and whalah! Up comes the answer. It even has colour and pictures, but best of all….. moving pictures called videos!
~ We know lots of people so if there is something else we need to know we can ask them.
~ There are many places and people you can go to and find answers you are looking for. You just need to look for them in the right places and ask the right people.
Question for you: What happens if you need to know something you don’t know about yet?
Q: You must be so smart (ok, more of a statement than a question)
~ Not really. Anyone can do it. Even you could.
~ You don’t have to be that smart.
~ Not all teachers are that smart you know. It’s pretty easy.
~ The internet and tv are my best friends. Without them to entertain and educate my child, I just don’t know how he would get by.
~ It really isn’t that difficult to do. But it does take patience, tolerance, understanding, time, patience, tolerance, understanding and time! (The reason I say that twice is because it is true.)
So there you have it, some of the questions that are most commonly asked about homeschooling.
I had thought about calling this post “Stupid Questions We Get Asked About Home Schooling”, but usually the questions have been from people with a genuine interest in what we are doing but with little to no idea how it is managed. It has been written in what is meant to be a fun manner, but at the same time informative as well, so I hope you enjoyed reading it and learnt something as well. Gosh! You may have even learnt something without being at school, in a classroom, with friends your own age!!