By Lyn Saint
If you have found your way to this article, chances are you are having an unhappy time at school. Maybe you are being bullied, or are bored out of your mind or are just plain angry that your life is being wasted in the schoolyard. You may think you are a failure because teachers have said so and you may be failing exams at an impressive rate!
Chances are you are so angry and tired that you may drink more alcohol that you should or have tried drugs more than once. There are probably even times when you begin to wonder if life is worth living…many of us do at some time.
First of all – you are NOT a failure – it is the school system that is failing you. You are an incredibly unique person and schools as they are today simply cannot cater for individuality. They have a set curriculum and set standards because this is the only way they can teach large groups of kids at once. This forces the kids to act the same and think the same and it also forces them into competition with each other both in an academic sense and a personal one. No room is left for individual thoughts and talents to be expressed or encouraged to a high degree. This is just the ways schools are and the only way they can ever be. If you wish to find out who that person inside you really is and if you wish to give him/her a shot at a real life for a change, maybe it is time to take off in another direction.
Unknowingly, you have already tried homeschooling for five years.
Firstly, the term homeschooling is actually misleading. School is what happens at school and only at school – education is what you can give yourself at home and out in the real world. The correct term therefore is ‘home education’ or ‘life education’ because it is from living life that you will find the education that is right for you.
Most of you have been in schools for so long now that you have forgotten what it is like to teach yourself about the wonders of the world and about the things that you are passionate about. In the first five years of your lives before you started school, you did nothing else but learn and wonder through the natural built-in curiosity that nature has endowed upon us all. This curiosity about life is our kick-start to learning how to survive in this world – how to walk, talk, eat, drink, run, write, read, operate the video remote and use a computer. For all of these things you didn’t need or have a curriculum or a qualified teacher in each subject. You just had the confidence and ability to teach yourselves what you needed to know. So you see, home education is not something that only hippies and whackos do, it is the way we were all meant to learn. Schools have only been around for 150 years (or three generations) but in that time we seem to have entirely forgotten this!
If you had not been trotted off to the schoolyard at five years of age, you would have kept on learning in this way. You would have taught yourselves (with your parents guidance of course) to read and write, and to add and multiply and a million other interesting things just from day to day living because all these things are a part of our world. They are easy to learn when you are ready and don’t take up much time at all. At five you may not have been ready for these things, preferring instead to build Lego cities, or castles in the sand or painting works of art but at 10 suddenly a great interest in Egyptian mummies, or Harry Potter or war machines or algebra would have you scuttling down to the library to haul out great tomes on your favourite subjects and who knows where you would have ended up! This freedom to learn what you want, when you want is home education. This type of learning will happen all your life – apart from the 12 years that you are in school! For these years, most of what you learn will be controlled by others.
By the time many of you reach secondary schools, and particularly by mid-way, you are often tired, angry and resentful. Resentful of the control others have over you, of pretending to be someone your not, of pressure to conform and pressure to succeed, of bad teachers, bullying, senseless homework about things that bore you to death. You have been in the schoolyard for so long now that you have not had the chance to observe the adult world and how life works in it and therefore you have not really had the chance to decide what you would like to do with your life – you have not had the opportunity for sampling.
In our society today, the school system is very powerful. It is drilled into us that we MUST attain the right pieces of paper if we are to make anything of ourselves – if we are to succeed and make pots of money (most people see this as success unfortunately), or if we are to realise the careers of our dreams. (Don’t forget as well, that the types of careers pushed by schools and society as the ultimate proof of success are often not really the ones we truly want for ourselves but are seen as the cool way to go. Its perfectly OK as well to join Greenpeace and help the natural world in its fight for survival, or to become a parent, or a truck driver or a friend lending a helping hand to neighbours or less fortunate communities around the world.)
Unfortunately, even after years of blood, sweat and tears when, if you have the magical piece of paper in your hand, there is no guarantee that you will find what you want. You may still have years of study ahead of you if you are lucky enough to get into the course of your dreams – if not – what then – extra study or a dead end job just to make ends meet.
During this time, many of you will fall by the school wayside. Deep unhappiness with your lives and feelings of utter despair and failure in the eyes of school people can end up in alcohol and drug abuse, behavioural problems, depression and sadly suicidal thoughts and actions. Your life is very precious, you only have one chance to live it and you must realise that you are quite capable educating yourself in the way that makes you happy and content with your life. You should be the master of all your learning. You should be the one in control because only you know you.
Home education and the desire to teach yourself everything about life, is still where you left it when you were five. It is probably still alive and well. Think about the passions you have now. It might be competitive horse riding, computer programming, animal breeding, web design, fashion design, dirt bikes – whatever it is – you can bet that all the knowledge you have acquired about your interest has come from your desire to learn about it and not from school. You are still educating yourself and you can keep on doing this in whatever field you choose. Many of you though may have lost sight of this ability to self-teach after years of controlled learning but it will come again with time. You have to trust that it will happen and give yourself all the time you need. Once you have found your focus and your goals in life, there are many options to choose from.
The one major downside you will find is that your parents and most other well-schooled adults in your lives will be mortified with the thought of you leaving school at this stage. They will tell you that you will end up jobless, unqualified for anything useful in life. It is not their fault – they have been taught to believe this and for them no other option is possible. Maybe you could ask them about all the things they have learned since they left school, all the life changes they have made, the computer skills they have taught themselves, the business they have started up, the house they have decorated, the old car they have remodelled, the law degree they have just started at 45 – all without a curriculum and schoolyard. Maybe they will get the idea!
Another thing you could do here is to write down all your thoughts about your aims and goals in life and your reasons for wanting to leave school and try something else. This may give your parents the chance to quietly absorb what you are trying to communicate to them. Most parents sincerely want only your happiness, and in the end may become your greatest supporter. You just need to give them a chance to get used to the idea.
You can home educate at any age; your parents don’t need to oversee your learning in any way although many of them are very happy to help you out in any way they can.
By the way – millions of teenagers through-out the world are teaching themselves at home and they have had no trouble in getting into a university of their choice and taking up the career of their choice. We have published results from a world-wide study about the effectiveness of home education on this website. You might like to take a look at this one Home Schooling Works and invite your parents to as well.
You can do your VCE from home if you wish to have that piece of paper. Many careers do not even require this, so once you have decided to pursue something, have a look through a VTAC guide and see what requirements you need. If you need Year 11 English or Math, you can do this through CAE or AYCE or TAFE or teach yourself through books and ask for a special entry exam. Don’t assume that VCE is a necessity to get into university at all – see our Older Students section for details.
There are many doors open to you if you know where to look – it is up to you to start beating paths to them and opening them up for yourself and for others to follow. School is but one option – if it doesn’t suit you, for your life’s’ sake – try something else. I can assure you that you won’t regret it.
And, always keep in mind that you can quit school and still get a good education!
Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Lewellyn. This book is a worthwhile read if you can get hold of it. Grace explains how it feels to leave school, how to explain yourself to your friends, maybe even indeed take them with you. She explains the lack of freedom you have in schools and what to do when you are finally out. She also looks at many different subjects and gives you ideas of how to get started in many different careers.
Issue 128 of Otherways contained details of many alternative pathways to university and further education.
See also the Older Students section of our website for VCE options, non-VCE pathways and university entrance.
Talk to Home Educated Teenagers
A lot of home educated teens have left schools at some point to take control of their own lives, others have tried school after homeschooling for most of their lives and still others have never been. Contact our network to be put in touch with home ed teens.
Talk to Home Educating Parents
If you wish to call and talk to someone about your choices or Home Education in general, you can phone 9517 7107 and someone will call you back. If your parents wish to talk about it also please get them to ring.
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We really feel for all the teens suffering in school and desperate for help but please keep in mind that the maintainers of this website are volunteers, home educating our own families in between trying to help others find useful information. It would make our jobs easier if you could check these articles and also look through the comments to see if your question has already been answered.