Education…

Most folks reading this will only know me from my presence on the blogs (QuickrBlog, ConnectionsBlog, WCMBlog etc.) and social networking forums (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.) – especially given my non-attendance at LS08 (have I mentioned that before?!). Whilst I try to attend as many events as I can, as you know it isn’t always possible to spend as much time networking as we’d like – the work can sometimes get in the way!

One of my plans for 2008 is to try to give a little of myself on this blog – let out a bit more of the person I am rather than just focusing on my involvement in the Collaboration business. You may not know for instance, that I have four kids (two boys – 10 and 8, and two girls – 9 and 3) or that my wife, Philippa, and I educate them at home?

The McIntyre

Now as we try to say to people that ask, this isn’t some massive comment on the state of schools here in the UK, on the teachers that our kids have had in the past, on our own religious beliefs, on our talent (mainly Philippa’s for teaching) or indeed on the curiculum and exams that children have to take here. Just that for a mixture of reasons, when we moved here to the Cotswolds back in 2006, it felt like absolutely the right thing to do.

At first it felt like a very big step and difficult to know the right way to approach things – some folks stick quite closely to a school-style approach (a detailed plan, regular time-slots, bought-in materials etc.) while others go for a very unstructured “un-schooled” method (aiming to get the children into a more autonomous and independant way of working). Both have their merits, and we are somewhere in the middle – following a curiculum for Maths and going it alone on many other subjects.

As well as the essential book work, our children participate in a local Forest School one day a month, several Home-Ed groups/coops a month, local teams/groups, take music lessons and generally get involved in the activities they really enjoy. In addition, and we feel this is really important, they get lots of time to play together and with friends, have chores around the house and try to generally be a part of the village community in which we live. Whilst we are the only family that home-educates in our village (“I’ve heard about you!” was a quote from someone we met in the lane), generally people have accepted our decision and are very supportive of our efforts.

Home-educating is no walk in the park – this is a hugely responsible undertaking for us as parents, and it has (obviously) a big impact on our children’s lives too. It means that there is no way that Philippa can work (so money is more tight that it would be otherwise), the house is “lived in” 24 hours a day so there is far more clearing up to be done, the children are with Philippa pretty much 24x7x365, and we are overrun with books, paper and “creations”! However, it brings us flexibility, “ownership” of the most important stage of our childrens’ growing up, far more time as a family, and also a huge amount of fun, laughter and friendships. It isn’t for everyone, but has made a collossal and positive difference to our lives.

Perhaps you should consider it as an option for your family? I’m happy to answer any questions you have on the topic. Also, take a look at the Education Otherwise site, this has a large number of resources on home-education.

Even if it isn’t for you (and again, I don’t think it is right for every parent or every child), try to be accepting of others that have taken this dec ision – make yourself aware of why home-educating is as valid an option as state or private schools. In the UK, Education is compulsory (and rightly so) but sending your child to a school is not. For instance, try not to react with questions that would not be fair to ask the children themselves – e.g. don’t ask my 10 year old if he would rather be with his friends at school, and I won’t ask your 10 year old if he’d rather be at home studying as he’d like! Read this article for a number of other similar things to avoid!

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!