Strong objections to the compulsory aspect of schooling provide another major motivation for choosing informal, home-based education. For some people, the mere fact that education is compulsory reflects an attitude of mistrust of children and their desire to make sense of the world.
Home-based educators value autonomy as the full development of a child's capacity for independent reflection, judgment, decision-making, and action. If autonomy is seen as the link between intellect and responsible action, how can it be fostered in an atmosphere of coercion? How can independence be fostered in an atmosphere of dependence?
While home-based educators who are also concerned with children's rights do not quarrel with the necessity for protection or advocacy on behalf of children, they also give to young people what seems to be missing from the protection definition: respect.
Trusting Children to Learn
Perhaps the main reason why most people put their children into formal learning situations at increasingly earlier ages is a lack of understanding and acceptance of the phenomenon of spontaneous learning. When children are small, much learning goes on that we don't notice; the early learning of a large number of complicated concepts and skills (including walking and talking) occurs somewhat spontaneously in response to curiosity and a strong, basic need to learn and grow. Home-based educators know that children continue to learn in the same way as they grow older-if they are allowed to continue to follow their curiosity within an environment that is as supportive and stimulating, relative to their age, as that which most parents provide for their infants.
And so, for some parents, the alternative home-based learning emerges as one that provides the best opportunity possible for nurturing the growth of their children into well rounded, confident, secure adults.
Wendy Priesnitz is a professional editor, writer and publisher who founded Canada's first support group for home-based educators in 1979. She and her husband facilitated the home-based education of their two daughters until each girl entered the public school system in grade nine. Information about home-based education is available from her do The Canadian Alliance of Home Schoolers, 195 Markville Road, Unionville, Ontario, L3R 4V8.