New Issue: Year 2014 -- Volume 8 -- Issue 16
Our decision to homeschool began with hesitation and uncertainty. Our initial concerns included the socialization of our children, the delivery of curriculum, as well as the contemplation of our aspirations for our children. Through research, and the observation of our children, it has become clear that allowing our children to follow a willed curriculum is the chosen path for our family. This narrative explores the issues that were initially concerns and how they have become our motivation for homeschooling.
The 20th Century saw the beginning of the evolution of the public school from an institution, devoted primarily to academic skills, to a multi-functional service facility. Such American visionaries as John Dewey (1915) and Edward Olsen 91945) saw the role of the school as reflecting the social, economic and political realities of life experience or “the school as an extension of the community it serves”. This theory of community education and development spawned the concept of the “community school”. One of the first Canadian examples of community education and development in action was the Flemington Road Community School project serving the Lawrence Heights Ontario Housing Community in the Toronto suburb of North York. Beginning in 1966, this junior kindergarten to grade six facility extended the school day to serve the educational, recreational, health and social development needs of this impoverished community of 5,000. As a result, a full range of services and activities was established both during the day and in the evening for area children, youth and adults. Governance for the project was the responsibility of the Community School Advisory Council consisting of area residents and service providers. The Flemington Road experience has much to inform the current discourse on the potential of the school as a “Multiservice Hub”.
The extent, to which broadband technologies are being considered, when accessing the curriculum, is increasingly evident in traditional learning environments such as schools and colleges. This article explores the impact that these technologies are having on the home schooling community by offering enhanced access and opportunities. It suggests that they have generated improved choices and greater freedoms for learning communities. They have shone a light on the curriculum and removed it from the shadows. The curriculum is no longer the preserve of the educational establishment. The “secret garden” has been breached by technologies such as broadband and the democratisation of the curriculum is progressively evident as more diverse learning communities are given increased access and control over the curriculum. The author asks how this is being reflected in policy and translated into practice by the home schooling community whilst acknowledging the contemporary nature of broadband technologies and how they are influencing the decision making process of potential home schoolers. Looking to the future, the author suggests that the political agenda is not providing clear direction and that this is being determined by social reform outside the political sphere and largely driven by the consumer. In this case the learner. The relatively current nature of this debate is in itself justification for further research if we are to develop a clearer understanding of how new technologies such as broadband are influencing policy and practice in the home schooling community.
While schools have been assigned the role of introducing students to our current democratic systems, many have highlighted the paradox of teaching democracy in an undemocratic context (e.g. Biesta, 2007). Alternative models of schools that operate democratically such as free schools (democratic schools in which students and teachers largely have similar rights and obligations) can offer a great deal in terms of democratic education. In this paper, I will talk about the ethnographic study that I conducted about the experiences of Canadian free school students during school meetings (democratic activity during which students with teachers decide on the activities, operations and rules of the school). During this project, I attended 4 school meetings, spent a period of five weeks making observations in a free school and completed 17 interviews about these experiences. Based on this, I maintain that these meetings arose in a school that operated according to a consensus-based model and that students, while attending these meetings, experienced a combination of feelings that mostly included appreciation and concerns while being involved in decision-making processes. As well, I will contend that students, after having taken part in several school meetings, developed skills and attitudes associated to citizenship such as critical thinking and self-confidence. For conventional schools, this means that providing students with opportunities to take decisions democratically could help to foster such skills and attitudes.