Redefining education


16 Kids and Counting Home Education Sullivan Family



Yesterday I explained why the recent results of national tests had confirmed that our decision to home educate our children was the right one.  Today I want to explain why a good education isn’t just about achieving high grades in the top subjects, and how home educating is a feasible, realistic alternative to providing a better learning opportunity than mainstream schools are able to.

The education system was introduced in order to provide children the opportunity to read and write, to gain at least a basic level of learning and have an overall better standard of life.  Subjects were created and over the years it has been decided what a child should learn and at which age and stage they should learn it at.  Classes were created in which groups of children of the same age were taught the same thing at the same time, for several hours each day, day after day after day.  No thought was ever given to whether these children had the same skills or abilities as that would be too complicated to implement, so the simplest way to group them would be by age.

And so it has continued and as it has continued it has become the norm and widely accepted.

It’s just the way it is, isn’t it?

Yet, here is a thought to consider.

Grouping thirty children and putting them in a room together does not mean that each of those thirty children will have the same abilities or skills as the next.  It does not mean that they can be taught lock-step in the same manner using the same methods.

Education is not a one-size-fits-all system, yet here we have a procedure through which individuals are drilled and conditioned over the course of several years to think, say, do and perform as each of their peers.  The only thing in common that these individuals have is that they were born within a certain time of each other.

Putting a child in an unnatural environment made up of a couple of dozen other children the same age does not guarantee positive results yet this is what we have come to accept as the normal and ‘proper’ way for them to learn.

Schools could be defined as a production line made up of individual little people, grouped in packages of little people, who are passing through on a conveyor of things they need to know now, moving onto another conveyor of things they need to know next.  They continue travelling along on their ‘little people conveyor belt’ until they reach the end of their journey and are delivered to ‘the real world’, having transformed into bigger people during their travels. Their journey through this conveyor is set and does not veer  regardless of the individual competence, intelligence or talent each may have.  Mainstream schools do not have the time, money, resources or inclination to nurture and develop any individual skills or talents and so instead they thwart them. Other things need to be done first – more important things.

Not every child learns the same way using the same methods.  Not every child wants to learn the same thing at the same time as everyone else and not every child can do that either.   Not every child will grow up to be a doctor or a lawyer.  Not every child will go to college or university and more to the point, not every child should.

Every child is different.

In  the real world we need different things at different times from different people who have different skills.  After all, even the best doctor in the world is no good when your pipes have burst.  When your home has a leak flooding through your ceiling, the plumber who stops it is the most important person in the world at that given time.

Back in 2009 we knew we wanted to offer our children the opportunity to do as well as they could.  We wanted them to progress as far as they could without having to hold back and wait for others in the class to catch up.  We wanted them to be able to focus on anything they had difficulty with, without the pressure of needing to catch up to others.  But we wanted them to experience more than the conditioned and accepted opinion of what ‘education’ is. We wanted them to develop skills in things they were interested in, and to be able to imagine and create and decide for themselves what they were keen to know more about.

Education isn’t just about teaching children what we think they should know and asking them to perform back to us like seals in a circus.

It’s about allowing them to learn about things they love or are interested in, in a natural way they feel comfortable with and letting them take the lead.

The enthusiasm they exude through an hour or two of learning about something they enjoy results in an education that hundreds of hours in a classroom could never give, no matter how good the teacher.

Have you ever considered what skills & talents are lost by the time a child reaches 16 because ‘it’s not real education’?

Isn’t it time we stopped trying to fit square pegs into round holes and embraced our children’s skills, talents, abilities and strengths and not try to suppress them because the current curriculum doesn’t focus on them or think them important enough to nurture?

It might not be the kind of education we are conditioned to accepting, but isn’t it time we reconsidered what it means to be educated?


9 thoughts on “Redefining education

  1. I think you are right how about how you describe school education as a conveyor belt. I know I certainly felt held back at school and was constantly waiting for my classmates to catch up (although when I started school I was bottom of the class for my reading but after 6wks 1-2-1 teaching I was top!) I soon became lazy and school became boring and I ended up completing ruining my last year of high school. A major regret of mine!

    Every child does learn differently and at different stages, and kids should learn more about subjects that interest them. I had never considered home schooling until a few months ago as its just not the ‘done’ thing is it? You out your child in nursery at 2 and from then on they’re in the ‘system’ and that’s it until they leave High School at 15/16.

    I’d love to look more in to home ed and see if its right for us. Thank you for writing these pieces on them. Have really enjoyed reading about your journey.

    1. The sad thing is that that by having an education system which is focused on what children *should* learn (as dictated by the government), they and we are missing out on a wealth of skills and talents which are being ignored or aren’t even acknowledged.

      Not every child needs to spends hours learning periodic tables and scientific formulas as not every child will move into working in scientific fields, so insisting they sit in classes for hours learning things they cannot grasp will have their eyes glazing over and losing a love of learning. However, that same child might have an almighty interest in electrical circuits and a talent for taking a radio apart and putting it back together perfectly. How would you know and what potential are we missing by saying, ‘No, your interest isn’t important right now because THIS is what you should be doing instead’?

      1. Completely agree Tania.
        J benefits a lot from very hands on learning. He loves knowing how things work and will enjoy learning more about subjects he is interested in. If it doesn’t interest him or means he has to sit for hours on end writing etc, he loses focus.
        K is our ‘prancer’. She loves performing and role play and crafts. She will sit down and do numbers and writing (she loves to make up stories and I can see her writing them when she’s slightly older and able to write properly).

        Yet most of the time they are sat in a class room with 30 other children all learning the same thing. School seems to be a bit of a chore for them 🙁

  2. Tania, I have really enjoyed reading about your home education. I am a mother of 4, (14, 12, 4, 2) and a qualified (but choosing to stay at home) primary teacher and member of the National College of School Leaders. I have just made the decision to home educate my 4 year old in September.
    My oldest children are in school but we have decided to do things differently this time. We changed primary schools regularly with the first two children as we just could not find a form teacher or school we were happy with. A whole year of education can be written off with a poor teacher in Primary school and so much ofthe day seems to be wasted on moving about, handing out, waiting whilst behaviour is dealt with etc etc
    My daughter is still wanting to be at home although I know it will be a challenge and an expense keeping her amused and stimulated all day. Although qualified, I am nervous about taking on home education and a little worried about keeping an active two year old occupied as we work…..any ideas?
    I follow your website with interest and I take my hat off to you for home educating so many.

    1. Hi Amanda,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. One of the main concerns for parents wanting to home educate is that of nerves and confidence. We had the same worries! I have had several emails regarding this so thought I would address it in a post which I am currently working on which should be live very shortly. In the meantime, I’d suggest reading if you haven’t done so already:

      “Home Education: The main information in one place” –


      “Thinking of home educating? Your main questions answered” –

      Within those posts are several links including home educating older children when you have younger ones also. If you have any other questions do let me know and I’ll be only too happy to try to help.

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