It seems only natural that more parents are interested in the pros and cons of homeschooling after the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools across the world. But how does the domestic classroom compare to a more traditional school environment?

Homeschooling is gaining traction

A recent study found one in four British parents want to continue homeschooling their kids post-pandemic. Reasons cited included more control over learning, bullying concerns and the opportunity for more parent-child quality time.

Additionally, reports carried out before the pandemic brought school education to a standstill showed home-schooling was already on the rise with figures increasing by 40 per cent in the last two years.

Unfortunately for me, a shy awkward child growing up in the 90s, home-schooling was practically unheard of. I can understand the convenience, and perhaps even the appeal, of packing your kids off for a few hours. But just how nurturing is the school environment really?

Traditional schooling and the 21st century

An officer from alternative education charity Red Balloon told the BBC during an interview she thought that having 30 kids under the supervision of one adult, all expected to do the same thing, at the same pace, was no longer ‘useful’ in the 21st century.

During my own schooldays experience, I remember drifting from one daydream to another while simultaneously copying down notes from the blackboard.

It’s safe to say multitasking was among the few long-lasting skills I retained from my schooling years. That, and the ability to grow a bean in a jar and ask where the swimming pool is in French. Other, perhaps more useful, abilities, like map reading, long division, algebra and sewing have long gone, if indeed they were ever there in the first place.

It was during these dreary lessons that the draconian proverb ‘children should be seen and not heard’ was the Trunchbullian law of the land If you didn’t speak under a whisper and fold your arms tightly to your chest on command, you were considered some kind of uncouth, inky-handed reprobate.

Clip from the movie “Matilda”, via YouTube

OK perhaps it wasn’t that bad, but I remember being shouted at several times for whispering to my neighbour, doodling or being too eager to move after the bell. In high school even going to the bathroom automatically put you under suspicion of smuggling contraband or being a toilet bowl clogger.

The pros and cons of homeschooling

I have a home-schooling parent friend who often indulges my curiosity around the alternative approach. As she puts it, the family home and its surrounding community is a more gentle and natural setting than a classroom full of 30 children or young people.

The homeschooling environment, my friend says, better allows adults, children, teenagers, and elderly to work and play, both independently and together, and be free to express themselves and their natural instincts.

On a recent visit, she and I chatted contentedly while her two young kids did their own thing, playing with their mud kitchen, studying animal cards, or learning to balance on skates – peppered with the odd interaction or encouraging comment from mum, and Prince Charming impressions from myself.

I witnessed a simple conversation between my friend and her seven-year-old, about a plate, transform into a mind-blowing, philosophical exchange about where was the plate when it wasn’t a plate. What is nothing? How can nothing exist without something?

Photo by chuttersnap on …

While home-schooling is still quite the leap from a traditional curricular system, many European countries have embraced a more compassionate and contemporary approach to learning – one which focuses more on the child and less on the interests of the school. This includes older starting ages, significantly less testing, smaller group learning, later start times for teens, and the use of electronic devices.

Reaching students on their own terms

Of course there’s no one-size-fits-all, perfect approach. But in this domestic classroom there were no comparisons, no scores out of ten, no commanding, no shushing up.

Like all children, my friend’s girls had their wobbly moments – those expressions of feelings that traditional schooling, rightly or wrongly, has taught us to suppress.

Perhaps if home-schooling had been an option for me in the 90s, I wouldn’t have grown up worrying what others think or feeling nervous about expressing an opinion. Perhaps I’d have pursued a creative career earlier on or just spent less time daydreaming to escape class.

If, in future, I should find myself qualified to teach some children of my own, I’ve already learned a valuable lesson from my friend’s homeschool classroom – that its pupils were not as they should be or as they will be, but just as they are right now. 

Related Topics