***NOTE: This article is based on law and guideline in the United Kingdom as of May 2021. It does NOT necessarily apply to your country and is under review and subject to change even in the UK.***
Having said that, the points that I wish to make apply regardless to where you live or the laws in your area. Unless you are in a restrictive environment that requires monitoring and testing, it is often an issue of intrepretation of how your child learns and documenting that adequately to meet the guidelines in your area.
In the UK, as of 2021, the following is the law:
The courts have provided guidance on what is considered ‘suitable’ and ‘efficient’ education. Education is ‘efficient’ if it is ‘achieving that which it sets out to achieve’ and it is ‘suitable’ if it ‘prepares the child for life in a modern civilised society andWelsh Draft Handbook for Home Educators
enables the child to achieve their full potential.’ This means that education should aim at enabling the child, when grown up, to function as an independent citizen
beyond the community in which they were brought up, if that is the choice made in later life by the child. Education must be suitable to the age, ability and aptitudes of the child, and any special educational needs they may have.
But surely that means English & Maths, right? Science? History? Computing?
While all of those are good things to know in this world, there are other factors to consider as well. Like those abilities and aptitudes.
Next to this guidance, my favorite is the United Nations goals of education:
Article 29 (goals of education)UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Education must develop every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for human rights, as well as respect
for their parents, their own and other cultures, and the environment.
That is the defination of education against which I measure our home education. Then I tweak it to fit the UK and Welsh guidelines, taking her special educational needs into account.
So, let’s look at English, i.e. reading/literacy, as an example of how our educational provision and self-directed learning meet those standards.
First of all, @PanKwake is autistic, specifically she is demand avoidant (PDA-typology). She is also dyslexic and possibly dyscalculic as well. In a school, she would have been shunted to special classes. Yet, she is highly intelligent. She merely cannot learn via accepted/traditional ways.
The PDA personality dictated our self-directed learning, before I even heard that term or read Free to Learn by Peter Gray or any of a number of books of John Holt. You cannot ‘force’ or ‘teach’ her anything. I don’t know what she would have become had I left her in school. Likely more broken and damaged than her one year there left her. Perhaps angry and defiant. But I know that by following her personality and ‘enabling the child,’ she has become a kick-ass human being with the capacity for critical thinking, communication, advocacy, and interpersonal skills.
She also has a passion for learning…and storytelling. One of the things I always find ironic and sad is the difference between how dyslexics are taught and treated in primary school and at the college/university level. In primary and somewhat in secondary school, reading is seen as the only to learn. There are few if any accommodations, certainly not screen readers and voice to text. The most students are allocated is more time and teaching in a subject that makes them feel like a failure to begin with.
Yet, if somehow you survived that trauma and retain a passion for learning, when you get to the college or university level, those things are supplied to you. Imagine how many young people would go to college, not end up dropping out of school, feeling like a failure and on drugs and alcohol if they had been given those opportunities to learn in a way that fit their needs earlier? They might all go on to become @PanKwakes! Even those schoolers.
But what if someone ‘demand’ to know how much time @PanKwake spent on literacy every day? How could I possibly respond or document that? How do I prove she is learning?
@PanKwake taught herself to ‘read’ during lockdown. By ‘read’ I mean the use of screen readers and voice to text. She was fascinated with Five Nights of Freddy and wanted to ‘read’ fan fiction. But obviously between the dyslexia and PDA that was not viable. Until she remembered that Alan had told her about the screen reader on her iPad. She tried it out. And the world opened for her every bit as much as when my dyslexia gave way to reading at age ten. She devours stories on WattPad. She is an active member of the community there, leaving feedback on most of the stories she reads (using voice to text). So, I would merely document those.
She also writes her own stories, though we have not yet found a software that she is comfortable enough using to publish them. She creates Gotcha characters with complete storylines and backstories. She has begun to animate those – which is the first step. But that PDA keeps her from releasing them with confidence. But she’ll get there.
If you question the value or content of Gotcha and fan fiction, she is ‘reading’ Harry Potter on Audible, and has an extensive understanding of ancient Egyptian and Greek mythology, primarily from animated YouTube videos. She learns history and science the same way. The other day, she asked where the vinegar was kept. I showed her and while I slept she performed a science experiment cleaning a penny with it.
Her YouTube and WattPad histories can be accessed and documented. We keep photographs of many of her activities. But @PanKwake herself is the best record. When she gets started with the things she had learned and how/why home education works, it is phenomenal.
She learns what interests her in ways that she can understand. This whole idea of well-rounded education is a relatively new idea. Until public schools began to rise in the nineteenth century and still in many parts of the world, education is about learning the specific skills that you will need to survive and do a job that you are fit for. The biggest boy was often apprenticed to the blacksmith. He learned blacksmithing and enough math to not be cheated.
In a world where there are more people than jobs, we are going to be forced to re-evaluate things like work, education, and identity. Self-directed education has just put @PanKwake ahead of the curve on that one. It definitely meets her social and emotional needs which are essential for ‘developing the full potential’ of the person in keeping with both UK law & the UNCRC goals of education.