The Home School Court Report
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MAY / JUNE 1998
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Cover Story
Religious Liberty Protection Act: Does the End Justify the Means

Special Features
Home Schoolers Turn the Tide in Key Senate Vote

Goodling and Ashcroft Receive Home School Freedom Award

Truant: When Shopping was a Bad Idea

Home School Students Excel

Honoring a North Dakota Leader and Friend

Regular Features
Around the Globe

President’s Page

I N T E R N A T I O N A L   N E W S
a contrario sensu
British Families Find Freedom at Home

     Home schooling in the press is nothing new. However, Home School Legal Defense Association recently received a very positive newspaper article about home schooling which is worthy of note. The following is excerpted from “Teaching at Home Brings its Rewards” by Denise O’Leary, published in the March 9, 1998, edition of The Western Morning News, an award-winning regional newspaper in England.
     In at least 10,000 households throughout [England] there is no frantic frenzy to get to school, because education happens at home. . . . The Richardson family live in a secluded idyll on the edge of Dartmoor at Holne, near Ashburton, where the only sound in their tranquil garden is the trout stream tinkling by. They have converted part of their beautifully restored 16th-century miner’s cottage into a schoolroom, although for their daughters, education is a constant ongoing process.
     A trip to the supermarket offers all sorts of learning possibilities for absorbing information on geography and maths, for instance, and their participation in music, art and drama has also helped their understanding of basic subjects like English and science.
     “Away from school bells and timetables, it is far more difficult to learn to structure your own time and space,” said Sarah Richardson. “But the rewards of this freedom are great. If, for instance, we are immersed in the dubious glories of the Restoration, we can follow it for hours. No 40-minute bells. If on the other hand their concentration is awry, we can switch to something else, and come back to the subject when they are more receptive.”
     “It is amazing how well information sticks using this method. We want to instill in them a love of learning. We see our job as awakening in them the thrill of learning and showing them how to find out for themselves.”
     And it works. Thirteen-year-old Natasha and 10-year-old Jessica will make their own way into the school room—which with tongue in cheek they have named “L’Ecole de Ville”—and happily spend hours doing their own research on the computer or in books. . . .
     Most of the children I have encountered researching this article are polite, friendly and speak with an assurance and maturity beyond their years, and Natasha is no exception, but after starting school she was beginning to become withdrawn. Her father Robbie had been partly educated at home himself, so the prospect was probably not as daunting as it was for his wife, who had a normal convent education.
     “But I have not regretted one day of it, and I wonder at how much other parents miss out by sending their children to school,” she said. “I undertake most of the teaching myself, although I bow to my limitations and call in the cavalry for the sciences.”
     “For me every day is like opening a box with a surprise in it. I am learning more now than I ever did at school, despite my poor mother’s laments of ‘all that expensive education’.” . . .
     Some families . . . share the expense of tutors in subjects they feel unable to teach themselves, and there are also support groups such as Education Otherwise, which advise on the legal requirements and offer practical help and information.
     Cornish co-ordinator is Anna Wheeler, of Cambrose Farm near Redruth, who decided to teach her eldest daughter Leah at home when she encountered problems in school because of hearing difficulties. Leah is now 13, and she and her 11-year-old sister Emma and brothers Benjamin, nine, and Ross, six, are all taught at home.
     “You don’t have to be a teacher, as long as you are capable of teaching your children basic literacy and numeracy skills,” she said. “I chose home education because I felt it was a choice between having my child distressed at school or teaching her myself at home. . . .”
     Under the 1996 Education Act all children over five must have a “full-time and efficient” education, but this can be achieved in a home environment perfectly legally.
     An inspector of the local education authority usually makes a regular visit to see how the children are progressing, but parents do not have to teach the National Curriculum if they do not want to. Families who have opted for this way of life speak of the freedom it brings them—particularly if their child had been experiencing bullying at school. Because their children have undivided attention rather than having to compete with 30 others in a classroom they also feel that there is more of a threat of overloading them with knowledge than not giving them enough. And the youngsters themselves speak only with delight of what education at home has meant for them.