Parents Involved in Education

Research worldwide has shown that parental involvement in a child’s education is the single most important factor for success, in whatever way we measure success. If a child is in school, this means that parents talk and read to them in evenings and weekends, take them on outings, answer their questions, listen to their concerns, and ensure they take part in parental activities connected with the school.

Home educating takes this a stage further. Parents take full responsibility for their children’s education rather than sharing it with a school. In countries where it is legal, some universities and employers prefer home educated students to those who have been through school, because they are – on the whole – better motivated, and more able to think for themselves. Home educated students have the confidence and abilities to ask questions where necessary, without embarrassment,. When their choice of career or studies are related to their chosen interests, they enjoy the process of learning for its own sake.

Sadly, in a few countries of the world, including Cyprus, home education is not legal. Some families educate their children at home anyway, either in ignorance of the law, or because they believe it is more important to raise their children in this way than to follow the law. While they are often ignored by the authorities, they run the risk of being taken to court, and fined. Thus many families move abroad: to the UK, in some cases, where home education is legal and increasingly well known, and where there are support groups for home educators in almost every town.

Naturally, it is vital that a child be educated rather than sent to work in the fields, or closeted in the kitchen. This is why Cyprus introduced compulsory schooling laws in the middle of last century, rather than (as is the case in most of Europe) compulsory education laws.

But in the 21st century, with a mostly literate society, and the abolition of child labour, it makes no sense to forbid families to take responsibility for their children’s education, if they have the ability and desire to do so. We don’t require children to eat all their meals at restaurants; we don’t insist that they must be in hospital for every illness. So why should they learn all their lessons in schools?

Home education or School?

Home education is not for everyone. Some children love the structured style of classroom instruction, and more outgoing children can benefit from working alongside others, discussing their findings, brainstorming options. Some parents must be out at work in the daytime, whether single parents, or those who need two incomes to pay the bills. For these families, finding a good school is essential.

In addition, some parents cannot deal with being around their children all the time, or have no wish to take responsibility for educating them. And that’s okay too. Schools were introduced originally to give educational opportunities to children who would not otherwise have them, to ensure universal literacy and numeracy, and in this sense they are - on the whole - succeeding.

Moreover, a good school can provide great experiences for children with appropriate personalities and learning styles. Some home educated students decide to go to school when they are teenagers, if there is a well-regarded nearby school that offers excellence in science, or performing arts, or sports, if that is the child’s passion. Others decide to go to school to take exams, to gain qualifications that are easier to take in a school environment.

But not all children fit the pattern of a successful and contented school pupil. Not all teenagers want to take an academic route with exams and certificates. No doubt the media blows out of proportion the number of disenfranchised teenagers: those who are bullied, or coerced into sexual activities, or who start to take drugs. But truancy is a serious problem in many countries, and that only happens when students are not happy being in school.

For many children and teens, peer pressure is difficult to resist. Teenage pregnancies have reduced in the past decade with widespread education and the availability of contraception, but there are still children as young as eleven who become pregnant, giving in to the insistence of others in the school playground. Drugs, cigarettes and alcohol are used by some students at even the best of schools. Every year, tragically, there are suicides reported from teenagers who cannot deal with the stresses involved at school, including the teasing or bullying from their classmates.

It makes no sense to forbid parents to educate their children at home, if the parents are willing and able to do so. If problems are addressed in the early stages, they are much easier to solve. Forcing an unhappy student to spend time in a classroom every day does not help the student, nor the rest of the class. Alternative forms of education must be found.

Perceptions of Home Education

What is your mental image when you learn that a child or teenager is educated at home rather than at school? Do you imagine someone geeky, who is awkward and self-conscious in social settings? Or perhaps you think of a child prodigy, a genius in some areas, but not necessarily well-rounded. The classical composer Mozart was educated at home, for instance; so, more recently, were the tennis-playing Williams sisters. Or maybe you’ve read about families living ‘off the grid’, growing all their own produce, generating their own electricity, avoiding public life and educating their children through daily chores and activities.

Unfortunately, the media tends to focus on extreme lifestyles. While there are home educated families in all these categories, the majority are ordinary people who have decided to take full responsibility for their children’s education, rather than delegating part of it to schools. There are many reasons why families might make this decision. For some it’s a reaction against problems in schools: bullying, peer pressure, or difficulties with academics. But for the majority, home education is a lifestyle choice. Until a couple of hundred years ago it was the normal way in which most children were educated, after all, and it allows for far greater flexibility in the family’s schedule.

Research in several countries has shown that home educated children tend to excel academically, and in other areas too. While most are unlikely to become Wimbledon champions, home education allows for more focus on sports, or music, or art, or wherever the child’s passions lie. Home educated children, on the whole, bear little resemblance to the anti-social stereotype portrayed by the media. Indeed, most of them to take part in more general activities than those who are in school, because they have so much more time to do so.

As for academics: yes, it’s important that children learn to read and write, to study mathematics, and to develop a broad understanding of the sciences and humanities. But it doesn’t take a trained teacher to impart this knowledge. If you completed a high school education, or equivalent, you can easily introduce your children to anything that would normally be covered in the primary years. Modern technology and easy access to information allows for self-led learning where relevant. With the help of suitable textbooks or online resources, parents can enable teenagers to learn what they need to learn in the secondary years too.

Ήταν τα μαθητικά μας χρόνια τα πιο χαρούμενα της ζωής μας;

Συχνά λέμε ότι τα μαθητικά μας χρόνια ήταν τα πιο χαρούμενα της ζωής μας. Για μερικούς αυτό ίσως να είναι αλήθεια αλλά για κάποιους άλλους η σχολική ζωή ήταν μίζερη και τρομακτική. Τα πειράγματα και τα νταηλίκια είναι άφθονα, όπως και η αρνητική πίεση. Επιπρόσθετα, τα παιδιά δεν μαθαίνουν όλα με τον ίδιο τρόπο στην ίδια ηλικία. Όσο καλή κι αν είναι η διδακτέα ύλη, είναι αναπόφευκτο να υπάρχουν κάποια παιδιά σε κάθε τάξη που δυσκολεύονται να ακολουθήσουν, ενώ άλλα βαριούνται θέλοντας περισσότερα.

Αναγκάζοντας ένα παιδί να επαναλάβει την τάξη το ντροπιάζουμε - σίγουρα αυτό δεν είναι κίνητρο για να δουλέψει πιο σκληρά. Άλλα πιέζονται από γονείς και δασκάλους να κάνουν φροντιστήρια μετά το σχολείο ή κατά τις διακοπές., οδηγώντας τα στην εξάντληση.

Οι ομάδες για παιδιά διαφορετικών ικανοτήτων σε μια τάξη ίσως να είναι πιο εποικοδομητικές αλλά τα παιδιά γρήγορα αντιλαμβάνονται ότι κάποιοι είναι στη “δυνατή” ομάδα και κάποιοι στην ¨αδύνατη¨. Η αγάπη για μάθηση σύντομα αφανίζεται όταν το σχολείο καταντά καθημερινή αγγαρεία, με μόνους ακαδημαϊκούς στόχους να είναι οι τελειωμένες μελέτες και οι καλοί. βαθμοί Κάποια παιδιά είναι πολύ ανταγωνιστικά και μπορεί να καταφύγουν στην αντιγραφή ή σε άλλους τρόπους για να πετύχουν ψηλότερους βαθμούς.

Αλλά “τα παιδιά πρέπει να μορφωθούν¨ και ¨ο νόμος¨ μας υποχρεώνει. Αυτό είναι αλήθεια. Σκεφτήκατε όμως ότι είναι μόνο τα τελευταία εκατό περίπου χρόνια που άρχισε ο κόσμος να παραδίδει με ελαφρά τη καρδία τη μόρφωση των παιδιών του σε εκπαιδευτικά ιδρύματα; Αναρωτηθήκατε ποτέ γιατί τα περιμένουμε να μάθουν σε ένα ρυθμό που υπαγορεύεται από λειτουργούς που ούτε καν τα ξέρουν;

Γνωρίζουμε ότι τα μωρά και τα βρέφη αναπτύσσουν την κινητικότητα, τη γλώσσα και άλλες ικανότητες σε διαφορετικές ηλικίες το ένα από το άλλο. Ενθαρρύνουμε την περιέργεια τους, ανταποκρινόμαστε στις ανάγκες τους, και τους δίνουμε τη δυνατότητα να αναπτυχθούν με τρόπους ενσωματωμένους στο γενετικό τους κώδικα. Γιατί, τότε, εικάζεται ότι ένα παιδί πρέπει να μάθει να διαβάζει ή να κατανοήσει τις αρχές του πολλαπλασιασμού σε χρόνο καθορισμένο από την Πολιτεία αντί να το κάνει όταν θα είναι έτοιμο;

Τα παιδιά γεννιούνται με έμφυτο το κίνητρο για μάθηση. Περάστε λίγο χρόνο με ένα τρίχρονο παιδί και θα σας βομβαρδίσει με ερωτήσεις. Γιατί πετάνε τα πουλιά; Γιατί δεν έχουμε φτερά; πόσο μεγάλος είναι ο κόσμος; Πως δουλεύει ο φούρνος μικροκυμάτων; Κάνουν ερωτήσεις όταν ενδιαφέρονται, και ένας σοφός γονιός θα ξοδέψει χρόνο για να εξηγήσει, όσο μπορεί, με τρόπο που να βοηθά το παιδί να κατανοήσει. Στην πλούσια από πληροφορίες εποχή μας μπορούμε να βρούμε βιβλία ή ιστοσελίδες για να απαντήσουμε σε σχεδόν κάθε ερώτηση, και κάνοντας το αυτό διδάσκουμε στα παιδιά μας πολύτιμες ικανότητες εξερεύνησης.

Η εγγενής περιέργεια δεν σταματά όταν το παιδί φτάσει στην “σχολική ηλικία”, αλλά συχνά καταστέλλεται σημαντικά από τις απαιτήσεις του σχολείου.


School days: the happiest of our lives?

It used to be said that our school days are the happiest in our lives. For some, that may still be true, but for many, school days are miserable, sometimes dreaded. Bullying, teasing and negative peer pressure are rife. Moreover, children do not all learn in the same way at the same age. No matter how good the curriculum, there are inevitably some children in every class who struggle to keep up, and others who are bored, wanting more.

Holding a child back to repeat a year creates shame - hardly a good motivation to work harder. Others are pushed by parents and teachers into advanced tutoring after school or during the holidays, leading to the risk of early burnout.

Ability groups within a class may seem more constructive, but children quickly realise who is in the ‘top’ group and who is in the ‘bottom’ one. Love of learning is soon extinguished when school becomes a daily grind, with the sole academic aims being completed assignments and good grades. Some children are highly competitive, and may then resort to copying, or cheating in other ways to achieve higher marks.
‘But it’s the law’, we sigh. ‘Children must be educated’. True. But have you paused to consider that it’s only in the last hundred or so years that we have routinely handed our offspring’s education over to institutions?

Have you ever wondered why we expect them to learn at a pace dictated by officials who don’t even know them?
We are aware that babies and toddlers develop mobility, language and other skills at widely varying ages. We encourage their curiosity, respond to their needs, and gently enable them to develop in the ways built into their genetic codes. Why, then, is it assumed that a child must learn to read or grasp the principles of multiplication at a time set by the State, rather than when he or she is ready to do so?

Children are born motivated to learn. Spend time with an average three year old, and you will be bombarded with questions. Why do birds fly? Why don’t we have wings? How big is the world? How does the microwave work? They ask questions when they are interested, and a wise parent will take the time to explain, as far as they are able, in a way that helps the child’s understanding. In our information-rich age we can find books, or websites, to answer just about any question, and in doing so teach our children valuable research skills.

This intrinsic curiosity does not stop when the child reaches ‘school age’, but, all too often, it is severely curbed by the demands of the school day.


Η κατ΄οίκον εκπαίδευση δεν ταιριάζει στον οποιονδήποτε

Η κατ΄οίκον εκπαίδευση δεν ταιριάζει στον οποιονδήποτε. Και δεν είναι πρακτική όταν και οι δύο γονείς πρέπει να δουλεύουν για οικονομικούς λόγους. Αλλά στις περισσότερες χώρες είναι ένας εφικτός τρόπος για να βεβαιωθεί κάποιος ότι τα παιδιά του μορφώνονται πραγματικά και σύμφωνα με την “ηλικία, ικανότητα και κλίση” τους, όπως ακριβώς απαιτεί ο εκπαιδευτικός νόμος στο Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο.

Πολλές έρευνες έχουν δείξει ότι τα περισσότερα παιδιά που μορφώνονται στο σπίτι, όχι μόνο μαθαίνουν πιο γρήγορα και πιο αποτελεσματικά αλλά είναι και πιο ικανά να κοινωνικοποιούνται με άτομα διαφορετικών ηλικιών και υποβάθρων απ΄ότι αυτά που περιορίζονται τεχνητά να συναναστρέφονται με παιδιά της ίδιας ηλικίας. Για παιδιά με μαθησιακές δυσκολίες ή με σωματικές αναπηρίες - και για αυτά που είναι ιδιαίτερα ταλαντούχα - η κατ΄οίκον εκπαίδευση έχει πολλά πλεονεκτήματα αντί της παραδοσιακής σχολικής εκπαίδευσης.

Δυστυχώς, ο νόμος για την υποχρεωτική φοίτηση στην Κύπρο έχει γίνει πιο αυστηρός ακόμα και για τους ξένους Το Υπουργείο Παιδείας είναι διστακτικό στο να εξαιρέσει από το σχολείο, ακόμα και σε περιπτώσεις παιδιών που θα ήταν καλύτερο να μορφώνονταν στο σπίτι. Όμως, όλο και περισσότερος κόσμος είναι δυσαρεστημένος με την μάθηση στην τάξη και την αρνητική “κοινωνικοποίηση¨ που υπάρχει σε πολλά σχολεία.

Το επίπεδο της εκπαίδευσης στην Κύπρο είναι πολύ χαμηλό σε σχέση με την πλειοψηφία των υπολοίπων Ευρωπαϊκών χωρών. Η υποχρεωτική φοίτηση δεν φαίνεται να είναι επιτυχημένη. Όμως, ο κόσμος στέλνει τα παιδιά του στο σχολείο σε όλο και πιο μικρή ηλικία. Φαίνεται να υπάρχει μια διάσπαρτη πεποίθηση ότι τα παιδιά πρέπει να αποχωρίζονται από τους γονείς τους όσο πιο γρήγορα ΄γίνεται, και ότι η εκπαίδευση μπορεί να γίνει μόνο στην τάξη. Αλλά σε χώρες με πιο επιτυχημένα εκπαιδευτικά συστήματα τα παιδιά αρχίζουν την επίσημη μόρφωση στην ηλικία των επτά, με τους γονείς να θεωρούνται οι πιο σημαντικοί εκπαιδευτές στα πρώτα τουλάχιστον χρόνια της ζωής τους.  

Θα επιτρέψουν ποτέ οι αρχές στην Κύπρο στους γονείς να πάρουν πίσω την πλήρη ευθύνη της μόρφωσης των παιδιών τους κατά τα πρώτα 5-6 χρόνια της ζωής τους, και ακόμα παραπέρα αν οι ίδιοι το επιλέξουν, ή θα συνεχίσουν με τη νοοτροπία της γραμμής παραγωγής, απορρίπτοντας όποιον επιθυμεί να σκέφτεται έξω από το κουτί; Ως μέλη της Ευρωπαϊκής κοινότητας, είστε προετοιμασμένοι να διεκδικήσετε τα δικαιώματα των παιδιών και των εγγονιών σας ώστε να λάβουν τη μόρφωση που είναι πραγματικά κατάλληλη γι΄αυτά σε κάθε στάδιο, ή θα συνεχίσετε να τα παραδίδεται με υπακοή σε ιδρύματα από τη βρεφική τους ηλικία;


Full-time home education does not suit everyone...

Full-time home education does not suit everyone; and where both parents must work for financial reasons, it’s not always practical. But in most countries it’s an increasingly viable way of ensuring that children are truly educated according to ‘age, ability and aptitude’, as the UK education law requires.

Research has long established that most children educated at home not only learn faster and more effectively, but are better able to socialise with people of all ages and backgrounds than those artificially limited, day by day, to mixing only with children born in the same year. For children with learning difficulties, or who have some kind of physical disability - and, indeed, for those who are highly gifted in any respect - education at home has every advantage over mainstream schooling.

Sadly, the law about compulsory schooling in Cyprus appears to be tightening even for ex-pats. The Ministry of Education seems reluctant to give exemption from school, even in cases where children are clearly at an advantage learning at home. Yet more and more people are becoming dissatisfied with classroom learning and the negative ‘socialisation’ that takes place in so many schools.

Cyprus is near the bottom of the European educational leagues. Compulsory schooling is not proving successful; yet people are sending their children not only to kindergarten at four or five, but now to pre-school at three, or even younger. There seems to be a widespread belief that children should separate from their parents as early as possible, and that education can only take place in the classroom. Yet in countries with the most successful educational systems, children do not start any kind of formal education until they are about seven, with parents seen as the most important educators for at least the first several years of life.

Will the authorities in Cyprus ever allow parents to take back the full responsibility for their children’s education in the first five or six years of life, and beyond that if they choose, or will they continue in the production-line mentality, condemning anyone who prefers to think outside the box? As part of the European community, are you prepared to fight for the rights of your children and grandchildren to receive education which is truly appropriate to them at each stage, or will you continue to hand them over, dutifully, to institutions from the time they are potty-trained?