Some Thoughts On Home Education

I don’t often blog about the home education of my children, but I thought that today I would make an exception. I just read an article by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (recommended in a post over at Heroes Not Zombies) in which he claims:

“if educators invested a fraction of the energy on stimulating the students’ enjoyment of learning that they now spend in trying to transmit information we could achieve much better results. Literacy, numeracy, or indeed any other subject matter will be mastered more readily and more thoroughly when the student becomes able to derive intrinsic rewards from learning.”

He calls for a rethink on how we motivate children to learn within mass education, as he believes that “the current cognitive emphasis on teaching is missing out on an essential component of what learning is about”.

This really struck a chord with me as one of my prime reasons for choosing to home educate my children is that I believe in a child’s capacity to learn autonomously, and that it is this, in part, which facilitates their motivation. In other words, I think that the restrictions of a curriculum prevent children from developing a deep love for learning and stifle their innate curiosity. I believe that children are more than capable of deciding their own free-style curriculum which is independent of state or industry control. I don’t believe in education as a means to an end, rather as a way to live life.

Damien (a truly inspirational teacher), wrote recently about hands on learning and the benefits of integrating the teaching of grammar into a lesson on a subject that the child feels genuine enthusiasm for. This really resonates with the way that I teach my own children. We make the most of learning opportunities throughout our day by following whatever each child’s current passion is, whether that’s bar charts by investigating dinosaur weight and height, geography through wildlife documentaries, or measurement through the weighing up ingredients for dinner. Consequently my children can differentiate their nouns from their verbs, recite their times tables, and tell you the names of Henry VIII 6 wives without ever having attended school, or having followed a curriculum of someone else’s devising.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not criticising the choices anyone else has made for their own children’s education. What I am criticising is an administration that believes that education comes down to a strict programme of learning outcomes and years of incessant testing. Education is so much more than that, and we need to trust our teachers within mass education to follow their individual students’ interests and enthusiasms, thus allowing them to ensure that their students maintain that love for learning which all children are born with.

For a very small example of the kind of things we get up to, you can view a project that we completed yesterday, by checking out this voice thread that the kids and I put together. We set up photo shots for each of the colours of the rainbow, uploaded the photos, wrote poems with similes to accompany the images, before reading them out as voice comments. I have disabled comments on this particular thread, but if you would like to leave a comment concerning it here, you’re more than welcome. I’m sure the kids would appreciate any positive feedback!

NB: To find out more about home education in the UK, you can check out Home Education UK which has lots of articles, book suggestions, contacts etc.


January 9, 2008. Inspiration.


  1. Damien replied:

    I’ll check out the voice thread later since I’m running late. But this is an awesome post. It should be stumbled and delicious-ed and all that by educators or parents who read it! Kudos to you and your teaching 😉

  2. amypalko replied:

    Thanks, Damien! Please do feel free to submit it to Stumble, Delicious, Digg etc. That would be very much appreciated 🙂

  3. pjazzypar replied:

    I have enjoyed your blog. Good luck to you. Maybe you will return sometime in the future.

  4. amypalko replied:

    Thank you, Pjazzypar. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the blog, even though I won’t be TTing any more 🙂

  5. Kelly Jene replied:

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post. I have many of the same thoughts as you on home schooling, though I would struggle to put it so succinctly. My boys (7,11) watched your video and loved it. My guys loved blue and green the best. You have inspired them to do something similar. For so long, we’ve struggled to find peace between curriculum and our own learning styles. You have encouraged me to continue to let them explore their world. Thank you!

  6. Ornery's Wife replied:

    Great post, and from a home educator on the other side (both of the Atlantic and having reached the end of the job) I can tell you that you are right on track with your teaching style. Some have called it Delight Directed Learning, others have other names for it, but it all comes down to the fact that we train our children to be adults, and as adults, we learn what interests us. If we are wise, we will learn all the components of it, and that is what makes us expert on it. Those lessons often take us into seemingly unrelated areas, yet as we discover more, we find that all of life is intertwined. Without the connection, though, we don’t have the reason to learn about them.

    Wonderful post. Sorry you are leaving TT, that is where I discovered you (today!) Best wishes!

  7. amypalko replied:

    Oh, Kelly Jene, if they do decide to do one, please let us know! I’m sure my kids would love to see it 🙂
    Maybe we could organise some kind of joint project?

    I’ve never heard the term Delight Directed Learning, TM, but I really like it! We’ve always just gone with Autonomous Education. I think I would be fairly safe in saying that it’s the most popular way of educating at home in the UK. Thank you so much for your encouraging words. It is so good to hear such positive news from the ‘other side’. Glad you found me before I left TT!

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