Posted on March 16, 2017
Homeschooling in France, Part 1
I don’t know if I have mentioned it before or not, but Bean is doing her schoolwork by homeschooling this year. I have written about the many forms of education that are available to children. Some seem to conflict with mainstream ideas, some seem to be a great compliment. As with so many things that we choose of doing these days, there are groups of people advocating for and against the many different methods of learning. Homeschooling is right at the top.
Honestly, I am not a big fan of homeschooling because I have rarely seen it done well. I know your family probably does a great job at it, if you are homeschooling your child. What I mean is, I have read books about families who have homeschooled their children and enrolled them in universities at very young ages. I have read blogs by people selling their home school curriculum. In my life, have met less than a handful of families whose methods I would want to replicate in my family. They are the shining stars and examples many would do well to follow.
When I decided to go on the road with Bean, deciding to home school was a BIG deal. I researched the best method so that she could self teach. I did not want to be chained to her side showing her what to do. This is not what teachers (most) do in public schools and not something that I find beneficial as a teacher myself. I feel it is important that she learns to THINK and problem solve on her own. How will she learn what she needs to know if I am always there to give the answer and tell her how to find the solution. I was fortunate to find a method that I felt would work for us.
Coming to France with a homeschooler was another thing altogether. The first time that I visited France, there was no such thing as a homeschooler. Well, maybe, but not in the circles that I frequented. I asked about it. Many religious people in the United States often seemed to home school their children. At the time, everyone here in France told me that they thought it was illegal. No one they knew did it.
This year, with surprise and disappointment, I find homeschooling on the rise here in France. When I began to look for families in France with whom Bean and I could share time with, I wanted to find families with children. There were many to choose from that also homeschooled their children. “Great!,” I thought. Bean is such a social child. She could interact with other children and do her schoolwork as well. This way, I felt that she would not miss her school too much. She had been at her small private school for over two years, attending the summer camp program as well. She liked every social aspect of school. I knew she missed it, but we were happy for the opportunities she would have here in France.
The first family that we interacted with were not only homeschoolers, but unschoolers. I had spoken with the mother in advance and she said that the children did real lessons. I imagined Bean working at a table with other children who would urge her to do more challenging work. I was appalled to find that, no, in fact the children did not do lessons often. When given the directive to sit and actually do some work, the children yelled, cried and screamed. The mother eventually gave them the answers to all the work they should have done. Poor Bean looked amazed. She sat at the table and finished her work as I will not have that type of behavior in my family.
This wasn’t the only family. We have met many homeschooled children in France. I wish I could say that my mind has changed and homeschooling, and more specifically unschooling, is an amazing way to educate children. I am sorry to say that I have yet to find a great example here. I know this is a new thing in France. I know that there are not as many curriculums available as in the United States. There may be other challenges as well. In spite of it all, surely there is something better than what I have seen. These children are not educated at all. They run wild and may have great imaginary adventures. Often, they are sitting in front of screens wasting the day away. They not aware of the world outside of their home. Really. Some have never seen a map. It is a pity.
I understand that some parents feel that the school systems are not giving children adequate education. I understand that they want to give their children a childhood filled with joy and fun and hands on learning opportunities. These are all good ideas, but to me, they are just an idea. I have not seen this type of schooling executed successfully. These children are the same ages as my nephew and nieces. However, they can barely read. They can barely write. When they speak, their speech is full of grammatical errors. I am horrified. What will they become? What can they do when they are grown? At least they can count to one hundred.
My nephew and nieces go to school. They do schoolwork, but they are also some of the most free-spirited children that I know. They can literally bounce off the walls. They travel, they run around and play for hours at a time. They use electronics and interact well with other people from all walks of life. They read tons of books and have so many activities I get tired thinking about it. It is not that their parents make them do these things, they want to take part in these activities. They have fun and enjoy life as children.
As a single parent, I admit that I am also a strict parent. I feel that I must have rules and consequences as I am the sole disciplinarian. Giving Bean boundaries makes life simpler for both of us. From what I see, many parents who choose unschooling are lashing out at their upbringing and the authority that was in their life as young people. They often focus on making a living and neglect the education of their children. I have so much pity for their young children. Because their parents don’t want or choose not to tell them what to do, they don’t know the basics of so much of what is important in life. They haven’t been taught table manners. They jump on the chairs and lick their plates. At least they come to the table! They have trouble concentrating on a task, running from one thing to the next every few minutes. The way in which they interact with the outside world leaves much to be desired. I wish I were exaggerating, but I am telling the truth.
I feel a little sad to share this as I had such high hopes for homeschoolers here in France. In fact, this is the downside of wanting to know everything about a country. You are no longer enamored with the picture perfect idea that you have been given through memoirs and travel videos. You aren’t a tourist. You see the place as it is without the rose-colored glasses. In spite of it all, the land is beautiful. The people we meet are generous. Their choices are their own, as mine are my own. I can only hope that their children will receive what they need to mature and cope in the world as adults.
I know the right to educate our children as we see fit can be a volatile topic of discussion. However, I would like to know your thoughts about education for children. Next week I’ll tell you what Bean and I do to keep things simple and learn at the same time.