“Who needs schools anyway?”

What’s been said?

UnHerd.com is a new, non-partisan media platform seeking to challenge groupthink – particularly in the media. It aims to appeal to those who instinctively refuse to follow the herd, as well as investigating ‘unheard’ ideas, individuals and communities.

To this end, and to coincide with September’s return to school, various writers were asked to “share some lessons they learned at school – and how it shaped the way they think about education today.”

Amongst this series is an article by Roy Peachey entitled, “Who needs schools anyway?” published on 10 Sept. Its subtitle, “What homeschooling taught me – and my kids” is a apt description of its content, for Peachey the teacher has undergone a major rethink due to his experience of home education..

His wife was the first to recognise that their adopted daughter “needed more individual attention than any school could give.” Peachey details various stages in the couple’s turn-around regarding their educational approach, moving from being “aghast” at the thought of homeschooling to “giving it a go”, through “recreating school at home” to “stop[ping] homeschooling and start[ing] home-educating instead.”

With commendable honesty, he confesses to the dawning realisation that “with several degrees and decades of teaching experience between us”, claiming to be experts was “nonsense. We were just as much amateurs as anyone else.”

Citing prominent American environmentalist David W Orr’s words about “awe, wonder, and a love of nature” being “necessary conditions for scientific enquiry”, Peachey relates how hard it was to lay aside his “schoolteacher instincts” and “give their children – two of them now – the time and freedom to learn”.

As he reflects on students heading back to school, Peachey leaves readers in no doubt as to his conviction that he and his wife struck a rich and fulfilling vein for their whole family when they discovered home-based education. “There really is no place like home.”

Why does it matter?

This article is well worth reading. Some of Peachey’s observations are very significant.

He speaks of the surprise he and his wife felt at finding that as they turned to home education, their own education resumed.

Still teaching in a school part-time, he is of the view that “I teach better now that I am a home educator.”

Many will readily identify with the need he expresses to “make hard decisions about careers, finances and priorities”, but he is unequivocal about the subsequent benefits that have accrued to all the family, notably the ability to spend lots of time with their children.

Having begun by trying to “recreate school at home”, Peachey now confirms Neil Postman’s view that “education is not the same thing as schooling, and that, in fact, not much of our education takes place in school”. He speaks of “living an education at home, homing in on education outside.”

What he and his wife had “dimly known all along” became clearer and clearer – “everything we do with our children is education.” It was all right to “jettison the institutional detritus that was weighing us down.”

No, Peachey reassures his readers, his family’s present education is not “a homely version of Summerhill” – there are still some constraints and requirements, but the main thing he appreciates as a parent is the flexibility of being able to go with the moment and see his children follow up that spark of interest.

What can I do?

Be encouraged that such a positive item about home education has been featured.

Bookmark this article or print off copies so that you have it to hand when postulating that home education can be a positive and beneficial experience for all members of a family.

If you have been on a similar journey of discovery about HE yourself, consider writing up your experiences and submitting them to your local press. Given the high proportion of negative publicity HE has received at the hands of the media in recent years, any opportunity to publicise the benefits of such an ‘unheard’ idea as HE is surely worthwhile.