Alternative Schooling

By: Sigrid Frederikdottir



As an article on this subject has just been published and the issue of home schooling has recently focused educational professionals’ attention on the quality and standards of this method of instruction, it is perhaps pertinent to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of home schooling, and the possible improvements that certain technology is providing to help increase the value of “opting out”.


A useful BBC article can be found outlining the basic problems and giving reasons why some parents want to take their children out of mainstream education and either place them elsewhere or school them at home.


I can personally vouch for alternative establishments as I attended both government schools and a Catholic Convent as well as correspondence schooling and received my tertiary education from a non-residential university as well as a residential one and am well aware of the need for some people with handicaps or other problems (distance, illness, family obligations, etc) to seek education from institutions that allow for a different environment or special environment. However, although I used to uphold the idea of home schooling, I now have serious doubts about the quality of teaching, the subject choices and the degree of excellence that can be expected from teachers who do not have the qualifications, or range of capability, that is automatic in a public or private school. Special schools are not the same as home schooling. Special schools, private schools and cultural schools have their being within a curriculum that is approved by the educational authorities and students write exams that are equivalent to any passed by those attending mainstream colleges or educational intuitions. The schools themselves set a standard and are staffed by qualified teachers ranging from language, through science to sport.


Not so in the home schooling situation. And that is where problems are raising their heads and questions are being asked concerning the educational qualifications of helpers and teachers. If the teacher is just “Mom” or someone who is paid to educate a child every day as a private tutor, is the child obtaining the level of exposure to knowledge and the opportunity to attain excellence in any subject, or are these finer aspects of the educator’s craft being lost on a small number of children who are being taken out of the mainstream and also out of the private school system and placed at the mercy of well-meaning but often unqualified tutors who often comprise a parent without the necessary degree in teaching a range of subjects. “Mom” cannot be your language and your science and your mathematics tutor. She cannot get one of her friends in to teach you Geography unless that friend has a degree in which geography is a major subject, etc. Besides which, teaching is a profession and parenting is a full time job, so how do children in home schooling environments (unless they are handicapped and so wouldn’t fit into ordinary school life anyway) cope with the great divide that will of necessity open between them and their peers who went into society and learned from qualified personnel?


As inner city schooling breaks down into disorder and chaos, the standard of education in these establishments follows a likewise downturn and as political correctness makes children the victims of moral imperatives that originate in state ideology, the lure of home schooling becomes a viable alternative for parents living in decaying areas on the fringes of more affluent and socially mobile communities. The problem of bullying has become endemic and the danger of drugs, sex and physical harm loom large and terrifying on the horizons of many children who have no choice but to attend schools that will do nothing for them in the long run except harden them against education itself and cause them to become proponents of functional illiteracy as a kind of badge of honour, a way of saying “I don’t care and I’m proud that I don’t care”.


Fortunately, the internet has stepped in to create varieties of online education that will possibly make home schooling less problematic and certainly improve the standards of all children who are able to obtain extra tuition this way from qualified, dedicated staff, hand picked for the job and brilliant at what they know and do. In this respect, out of evil in the decaying system comes a measure of good in an evolving alternative system.


However, the needs of today’s technologically savvy youngsters are dependent on computers, maths and a range of capabilities that were never part of the simple “three Rs” that comprised “a good grounding” some fifty years ago. Now, to be able to read, write and do simple calculations is so elementary as to be taken for granted in the face of all the complex operations and calculations necessary to operate certain machinery, work anywhere from a hospital to an engineering project site and take the quantum leap imminent on our horizon as we begin our arduous and painstaking journey into the cosmos, down into the biological components of life and way out beyond the frontiers of the known world of comfortable beliefs and preconceived ideas.


The old world is dwindling as the new world is born and if children are to be able to cope with a new world in a new century and a new millennium then they will most definitely need formal schooling of the highest calibre with equipment of the latest kind or they will be left behind with all the hapless children from so-called “developing” countries, whose fate will be servitude in the machinery of survival and a life stunted by an inability to compete. Pity these for they have nothing to look forward to and everything to fear. If we, of the “developed” countries, are to help them and help to stem the flow of immigrants desperate to leave their homelands and live in the west, then our own children need to be qualified to do so and most certainly do not need to be placed, inadvertently by concerned parents, into similar situations of despair and inequality by education that proved unable to withstand the powerful surge to mathematics and science that is the hallmark of twenty-first century education and capability. Not necessarily for every single individual, obviously, but certainly for those who will be working in any kind of employment that utilizes technology and that presupposes a knowledge and a facility with high-end methodology and technique.


Humans are constantly evolving and our evolution is intellectual and our goals and aspirations are no longer simplistic and we are no longer “religious” in the sense that we expect some deific power or powers to look after us and “watch over us” or reward or punish us for what we may or may not do. We are entering the realm of secular self-responsibility and in many ways this is a realm where no one has really ever been before. For Heathens, this is the entry to what would be, metaphorically, the library of Mimir, the depths of the great well of wisdom into which Odin looked for guidance and whose depths are so immense that not even Yggdrasil’s root can penetrate the extremity. A metaphorical well of knowledge whose prize is the attainment of wisdom and whose price is the collateral of Odin’s eye. You lose something to win something else. In life, all achievement and desire is capped with a sacrifice. Nothing comes cheap. The best things in life are hard won and expensive.


What many well-meaning Heathens fail to grasp is that our folk have always wandered into places and among people who are foreign and taken their place among new systems and learned new ideas to apply to established wisdom. This has caused us to grow in wisdom and knowledge and to be capable of many things today that would have been considered to be magic in the old world where we lived in small cottages and worked hard all day and did not live long nor in comfort and fought tooth and nail to keep hold on territory or to gain a homeland where no homeland was. Our forebears fought the Romans as well as collaborated with them and through this liaison learned a great deal, including the runic alphabet which was adapted to make a people with no writing system become a people to whom writing was a major aspect of their civilization and from whom giants like Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Goethe and Ibsen emerged in time to tower among the figures of world history. We won our fame through endeavour and a willingness to adapt ourselves where necessary and utilize what we learned to make what we already knew work for us and, ultimately, affect in myriads of ways, the entire earth. Say the name “Tolkien” and people as far away as Japan will know who this is and have gained pleasure and inspiration from knowing his work. Tolkien’s fan base is spread across the entire internet and so Germanic and Celtic mythology has become known to millions and the father of the fantasy genre has unwittingly made us famous and gifted us with a new and exciting category of writing and literary endeavour that evolves with every decade and has moved into the realm of film.


Home schooling could not make another Tolkien, unless the tutors were of the same calibre as his own and for this to happen children need formal schooling, or a system whereby they may be touched by the genius of teachers who know what they are doing and whose job it is to impart their knowledge to young minds. Internet schooling is the only way this will become possible and if it can be integrated into approved curricula and examinations then home schooled children may even be at an advantage in certain instances. But it is essential that the system is controlled by standards and that the children receive instruction from specially qualified tutors or home schooling will remain the province of quirky folk who want to exclude their children from intercourse with the world “out there”. Cultural education can be easily taught at home with no need to interrupt a child’s formal education. And most children desire to experience the world and others as this is the only time in their lives where they are able to absorb information and synthesise it on a basis of generality, before the critical phases of adulthood impart a specificity to their inclinations and they begin, toward their late twenties, to make decisions based on subjective values and they look for life partners with whom to start families and they place their loyalty within certain demarcated areas of allegiance – and, in short, finally grow up and assert themselves both as individuals and group members. This time based not on what they have been instructed to believe and do, but on what they want to believe and do. If education takes this final, inalienable right away from them in any way, then education itself fails and if governments are responsible for removing any free citizen’s choice to do and be then governments are failing the people who elect them into power, failing democratic ideology and acting not as vehicles of the people’s will and consent but as draconian machinery of socio-political oppression.


If increasing numbers of people are removing their children from state schooling and because they cannot afford private schooling are attempting to educate their children themselves then the powers that be should be asking themselves some pertinent questions on the subject of discipline in schools and in society, on free choice of individuals and on the thorny subject of introducing, by means of political correctness training, a plethora of moral imperatives that are unnecessary and that are literally chasing decent folk away from their own destinies and forcing them to become part of gated communities and “alternative” activities because the law has become not only an ass but also the enemy of liberty itself. If individuals feel they must begin starting up special schools and institutions all over the place because the government gives them no alternative then the system that upholds civilization is failing its citizens in ways that will result in alienation and the formation of a kind of separatism that is the enemy of progress. And if integration, whether of people or ideas, is made mandatory and the needs of people are made secondary to that imperative then societies as organic entities will break up into disparate groups that float aimlessly about the perimeters of the establishment and finally either become extinct through suffocation or dangerous through alienation.


Quo Vadis human civilization? should be on the agenda of every educational department in very country practising “multicultural” politics. If the answer is that we are heading for some future blissful concourse in some future domain of Shangi-la, then it might be a good time to do something to stop this wanton fantasy from gaining popular appeal as it is a mad and unworkable theory backed up by a congregation of fervent acolytes who will enforce its ethos whether they understand its implications or not. Humanity was not designed, it evolved. Humans, to all intents and purposes, are part of animal life on a small planet in a sea of indifferent stars. To believe otherwise is to court disaster and to entertain religious explanations for scientific reality.


Education, knowledge, skill, understanding – these are all concepts that have been vital to the operation of groups and the functioning of communities since the dawn of time. To neglect the finer points of that operation now is to neglect the facts of human history and the ever-expanding insight into why we are the way we are and not some other way, and whether there is any point in forcing us to be “good” when we can only hope to be “good” if we are free to decide what “good” means and we all know that the definition of concepts is part and parcel of cultural and biological reality, both in the human and in the animal worlds. A thing is deemed “good” when it doesn’t kill us and has a positive effect that is decided upon by the group. If education is having the opposite effect on children and parents, if children are being bullied to death and taught politically correct state imposed ideology in order to make them adhere to a certain opinion of what is “good” then it is understandable that parents will begin to baulk at the system and want their children out of it. People are becoming afraid of the system. The system is becoming something that will be deemed “bad”. If enough people deem it negative the system cannot expect to continue under threats of litigation or oppressive social punishments like shunning. To be made an outcast when you are simply different makes the system whereby you have been judged both ineffectual and dictatorial. We all know what these systems can be like and many of us have experienced some of them first hand. They affect everyone from all over the world and no race or group is immune to the “final solution syndrome” of state empowered aspiration to make all one and to enforce ideology upon every single individual at no matter what cost to the elusive concept of “liberty”.


Unless the state can provide a decent standard of education for those who cannot afford private schooling, or who are being denied their cultural educational needs, then the state (not the citizen) needs to reassess its policies and work to serve the people who elect it into power. But then, democracy is merely a function of election to power and with so many people now coming to represent differing ideology as immigrants stream into western democracies and demand their own kinds of cultural and educational rights it is no wonder that there is trouble in the erstwhile paradise of educational priorities and uniform conceptions of value and discipline.


The solution will not be easy and in many places it will not be possible to go on as before. The internet, therefore, offers hope for children from dwindling cultures and backgrounds to obtain education befitting their standards and belief systems and ways of life. Whether this will be able to keep pace with technology and science or capable of imparting the kind of depth previously entrusted to educational professionals controlled by the rule of law, is yet to be established. From what I’ve seen of the home schooling scene, I find it too risky at present to allow any intelligent child to be taken out of the formal system. The need for advanced technology, digital equipment and science laboratories, libraries and qualified staff in a range of subjects is definitely almost totally absent on a day-to-day basis. There is no way of ascertaining whether any specific child’s intellectual developmental needs are being adequately met. “Moms” are not qualified to do this. No matter how well meaning they are and no matter how qualified some are in specific subjects. They are not qualified in all subjects and they are not qualified to teach them at all levels.


The most likely outcome is more private educational facilities and enormously expensive tuition fees for attending these as equipment and facilities are not cheap and the range of equipment and facilities necessary to run a fully fledged school is way beyond the reach of the average earner. Home schooling has worked quite well for some students, but will go badly against anyone trying to teach science, mathematics or technology by this method. And the teaching of language is essential for writing essays and properly understanding what is being read. Only a language teacher can do this at all school levels over a period of some twelve years. And each teacher specialises in a single year of development. This alone proves the inadequacy of present home schooling.


On the other hand, the growth of TV classes and internet schools has enabled the work of excellent teachers to be broadcast to millions of students round the world at a single moment and so in many ways, this kind of education will actually serve to improve where state education may have failed in specific areas. The internet is now being used as a resource for medical and other diagnoses worldwide, for on the spot help with surgical procedure and for information freely available to those who cannot pay for it or who need to belong to certain establishments in order to gain access to it. So the news is most certainly not all bad. In fact, the news is mainly good and gives many more people an opportunity to learn and interact with one another and share knowledge and forge alliances where before life was mostly a closed shop to the village or town where you grew up.


We must embrace this new opportunity and make use of it. Take this great invention of the internet and use it for the greater good of enlightenment and knowledge and the gaining of wisdom that comes from the slow percolation of all that is gathered and digested and worked out in both a single life and through the lives of many who are affected by this wave of influence. Turn a potentially bad news story into a good news story and travel on, journeying with all our fellows and friends into the future, leaving sorrow and neglect behind and building the road as we go. There is so much to do both on a local and on an international scale that there is little time to whinge about a few things that may be annoying us. Governments will come and go, systems will rise and fall, but people must go on and people must go on learning so that they may survive and so that they may understand how to some day leave everything they and their ancestors have ever known and go literally where no one has gone before.


Are we up to this task? Of course we are. Not everyone needs to become a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon. There is work for every kind of individual and there should be freely available help for people in trouble. There is. It’s sitting out there in cyberspace and it is going to change our world and direct the future. So don’t hesitate and move back into some sequestered space, but instead embrace it. Our people are famous for their ability to forge ahead into the unknown and then to make the best of what they discover there. Like Odin, we are inveterate travellers in the realms of knowledge. And, like this enigmatic God, we take risks and take the consequences in order to progress. Even though the roots of Yggdrasil lie too deep to fathom, we still want to follow where they lead. Sometimes we die in this quest and other times we discover treasure. Either way, we are what we must continue to be – adventurers.




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