Hi, I'm Radegund, another contributor to this blog. Ailbhe invited me to join ages ago, and I've been meaning to start posting ever since. Champion procrastinator, me. I have a two-year-old son, whom I'd very much like to continue educating at home once he reaches schoolgoing age. (Actually, now that I think of it, "at home" is a pretty reductive phrase to describe where his education will happen. "Not at school" is more accurate.)
I first became interested in non-traditional education in 2000, when a passing mention on an e-mail discussion list pointed me to the website of the Sudbury Valley School, Massachussetts, US. (Wow. That site is quite a bit slicker now than it was then.) From the moment I began to read, I was electrified by the idea of child-led learning.
Later, I read about unschooling (e.g. the Wikipedia entry and Unschooling.info) and found myself to be in visceral accord with it as an educational philosophy. The principles of respecting a child's time, of facilitating learning rather than coercing memorisation, of providing a stimulating, physically safe environment and then getting out of the way unless asked to help - these make so much sense to me that I can (still) barely articulate my opinions on the subject without becoming emotional.
I read John Holt's How Children Fail and How Children Learn (see this post for a list of his books) when my son was a baby, and came to the slightly heartstopping realisation that I was serious about this: I wanted to act on my beliefs and not send him to school. My husband and I have reached a loose agreement that we'll work something out, but the details are still hazy. Soon, I think, I'll try to get in touch with other home educators in our area and see if there's some kind of ready-made community I can join.
I don't ... necessarily ... think that traditional schooling is equally bad for all children. I think there may be some for whom (for whatever temperamental or circumstantial reasons) it provides more benefits than it imposes constraints. But the more I read and experience, the more I'm convinced that an alternative model is essential. I'd love child-led learning to be an option genuinely available to more people. Actual "home education", which fairly inevitably entails parents forgoing household income (as well as professional fulfilment, etc.), is a realistic (not to mention appealing) choice for, I would imagine, comparatively few. One day, when the time is right, I want to start a school on the Sudbury Valley model in Ireland. Until then, I'll work with what I have and try to ensure that my own children (the born and the hoped-for!) have access to whatever educational model is most suited to them.
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