As many of my friends prepare to send their kids to school for the first time, we will be joining a growing number of UK families who opt out of the school system, and my 4 year old son will not be starting school.
When we first made a decision to home educate, only a handful of our friends were supportive. For the most part, we were met with either mild bafflement at us suddenly turning hippie-like, or rather rude comments labelling us irresponsible parents who will surely ruin our child's future, because school is the best thing ever since sliced bread, and isn't school compulsory anyway?
It seems that a lot of people still think that school in England is compulsory, when in fact it is not. Parents do have to ensure their child receives suitable education, but how that education is achieved is up to each individual family (Section 7 of the Education Act 1996). Further more, there is no obligation to "officially educate" until your child turns 5, no matter what local councils and schools would like you to think.
Our own decision to home educate started with us realising that four or even five is way too young to be thrust into the school system. I read everything I could get my hands onto regarding childhood education, and found plenty of research supporting this view. In the nutshell, the child's brain is not really wired for any sort of formal learning until they turn seven, which has historically been called the "Age of Reason". Until then, free play (that's not adult directed in any way) is what's most important and how kids learn best.
In addition, my husband and I have had first hand experience of the changing world of work. Looking into our son's future, we know what it's not the number of GCSEs or A-Levels, or even a University degree that will help him in succeed in life. What will help him thrive is the love of learning, digging deep into subjects that interest him, understanding of the world and different cultures, and also something called grit (more on grit in this TED Talk).
School system as it is now just doesn't provide for developing any of it adequately. More and more, children are required to cram all sorts of information into their brains, only to forget it all a year later. They are denied the ability to do something independently, and follow their own interests. They are denied time to play, being rushed from one activity to another by an adult so concerned about getting them ready for the adulthood and keeping up with the Joneses, they forget to give them a chance at childhood.
We don't want our child to be in the rat race since age 4. We want him to develop at his own pace, know his own mind, and be independent. We want him to have friends of all ages and all walks of life, not just kids that randomly happened to be in his class at school, and that's why we decided home educate.
Can we effectively do so without a teaching degree? Of course we can. We have the the most powerful knowledge tool ever invented by the mankind at our fingertips. We can access any information with a few keyboard strokes. There are courses and curriculums and information packs in any imaginable subject, taught by experts, available on demand, 24/7. There are bookshops and libraries and other such useful things designed with a sole purpose of helping one gain knowledge by the way of reading things, too.
While I do have fancy degrees to boast about, I really don't think you need any in order to home educate your child.
The way I see it, my job as a parent is to teach my child to love to learn, and facilitate that learning in any way I can, with the help books, courses, clubs, field trips, meeting people, the Internet and anything else.
And for that, I am well equipped.
This post has originally appeared on Antonina's blog at mamzenko.com