Many parents have become completely disillusioned with the standard method of schooling, whether public or private. They’ve become disappointed in the huge cost and the harm done by unmotivated and underpaid teachers. There have always been alternatives to the standard education path, such as home schooling, or, since the 1960’s, alternative schooling options such as Montessori schools. As a home-schooled kid myself, and now as an undergrad studying teaching, you could say that I have lot of my personality invested in this battle! In this article, I examine the pros and cons of these alternatives to mainstream schooling.
Any schooling is a school of hard knocks. And being thrown into the jungle is the best way to understand how things work. Being home schooled, and now as an adult, I have come to realize that you cannot expect someone or something to do your job for you. You have to do it yourself. If you have a problem, you have to find a solution. You have to be motivated to learn and to explore. And you have to be willing to take risks.
I have always been interested in how things work, and during my home-schooling, I was encouraged to explore to find the answer for myself. And I found that I could take things apart and put them back together again. It wasn’t until the age of 15 that I met a mechanic, one of my dad’s friends. He showed me how to take apart and rebuild a motor one afternoon, while they sipped suds and talked. I went home and taught myself to do it again, on the lawnmower engine. When I was 17, I had the opportunity to do the same with a car’s transmission. I taught myself how to change the fluid etc. This was my first real experience with learning a technical skill. And it was the beginning of a lifelong quest. It’s not very feminine but hey, it’s awful handy when you’re in a remote little town!
After that, I went to university to study teaching, and I have come to realize that education is a skill in itself. And it is not the kind of skill that you can learn in a classroom. It is something that you have to learn in the real world and through practice. And as a home schooled kid, I learned this skill very early. It is the reason why I am so passionate about teaching today.
Everyone has this concerned notion about the myth that home-schooled kids turn out weird. Well, if you look at the statistics, it’s just not true. But you also have to look at it from another angle. If you have a kid who does not want to learn, no matter what kind of schooling you give them, it’s not going to work. And no one would want to home school a kid who is a real pain in the butt. At least mainstream schooling has a system in place to deal with and socialize the problem kids. And the home schooled kids do not have such issues. So it really depends on the kid. If you have a weird kid, maybe they’re not going to fit into mainstream schooling. On the other hand, being thrown into the big jungle of school is probably going to socialize them and they will very rapidly learn to not be such a weirdo. So it swings both ways. Most of all, you want to do what is right for your own kid, and make sure there’s a balance of learning at a rate that is fast enough for the individual person, while at the same time not just becoming an academic at age 10, and, you know, learning to talk to other humans too.
I think that alternative schooling is a good option for people who don’t want to home school their kids. I think that alternative schools are also a great idea for children who cannot cope with mainstream schooling. The Montessori Schools are a good example of this. As a home-schooled kid, I occasionally went to a Montessori school through my primary school years, and it was a good alternative. The school had a lot of freedom for the kids. They were able to explore and learn at their own rate. I had already learnt to read, write and do simple math at an early age, on account of my home schooling, and if I had just been thrown into a mainstream school, I would have been bored, disinterested and unchallenged by the content that the other kids were on. However, the Montessori schools were able to cater to my individual learning level and pace, so it was perfect. More and more alternative schools are cropping up, with “crazy” ideas like allowing the kids to learn at their own pace, and not forcing them to learn the same content as their age-peers at school.
In summary, despite the demons of mainstream public schooling, it has a lot of benefits. Despite the unstructured nature of the Montessori Method, it has a lot of flexibility and freedom. And despite the slight weirdness of life experience that comes from home-schooling, it teaches you the most of any of them. The important thing is to do what any parent wants: to do what is best for the child.
I will continue studying education and hope to bring this knowledge and great change to the world and my community.
You can find out more about alternative schools from the official Montessori website here.