The Organikal Education Philosophy

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Albert Einstein

We’ve been officially ‘home schooling’ for nearly two years now. It’s taken us nearly all of that time to figure out how to do it in a way that suits the three of us. There was no dramatic reason for making the decision to withdraw from the state school system. Rather, it was born out of many different beliefs, events and circumstance.

The primary ongoing reason is : to create and maintain freedom for our whole family.

unschooling in Marseilles

unschooling in Marseilles

Here’s a few statements in response to questions we’re asked all the time (there are plenty of support organisations to help you find out where you stand legally in your particular geographic location);

  • Home education is not legal in every country, but is legal in Scotland.
  • There is currently no legal requirement in Scotland to follow the school curriculum or take any exams.
  • You do not need a teaching qualification to home educate in Scotland.
  • We withdrew Ruaridh from school with the blessing of the teacher and no objection from the local Education Authority.
  • We followed the withdrawal procedure outlined by Schoolhouse – the Scottish home ed support organisation.

We accept for many people, to home educate is a radical decision: we might never have been brave enough to make it without a catalyst. The catalyst for us was the Grand Adventure itself – our 12 week long summer trip in 2008, with plans to repeat it throughout the year and into infinity! On a practical level that would be tricky to organise around the school year.

Our Education Style

After spending so long in the traditional education system ourselves, and after 2 years of nursery and 5 years of primary education with Ruaridh, it took us about eighteen months to finally feel like we knew what we were doing, and that what we are doing is working – for us all.

We’ve discovered that what works for us is probably loosely termed ‘unschooling’. Unschooling is about creating an individualised approach to education. What it means for us is that we try not to label anything as ‘education’. Kids can smell ‘education’ a mile off, and that’s not something that works for us.

We don’t recreate school at home. There’s no blackboard, there’s no time-table, there’s rarely any worksheets. There certainly aren’t any exams. There are some core activities: learning foreign languages, blogging, reading, karate, wargaming, film & new media and drama classes (I’m sure there’s more).

Science Home Ed Style
Science Home Ed Style

At the beginning, we all found it difficult to get out of the habit of feeling that if we’re not ‘studying’, then we can’t be learning. Of worrying that because we weren’t following the curriculum, then we’ll be missing out some vital educational building blocks.

Our everyday lifestyle brings with it a multitude of learning opportunities.  Sure, when we’re travelling, particularly house swapping, the opportunities are explicit – like learning a new language. When we’re at home, then we sometimes need to seek them out but we’ve discovered that we don’t need to try very hard.

We’re  seeing some pretty impressive results and the many wonderful moments are quite radically outnumbering any despairing, of which there are practically none these days.

Here’s an example of a project that Ruaridh embarked upon: he decided after listening to Brian Tracy (whilst painting his Warhammer 40k kit) talk about goal setting, that he’d set himself some goals to do with improving his game performance on a particular console game. He wrote these down on the Aqua Notepad in the shower, recording regular updates. He was primarily concerned with ratios (kill:death ratios to be exact). What he demonstrated was a range of skills, including self motivation, goal-setting, project-management, performance measurement and personal development skills. We weren’t involved in any part of that scenario other than providing him with access to the Brian Tracy tapes and talking about it over lunch and dinner and such. It probably horrifies a certain majority of people for all sorts of reasons (not least the enormous interest in war gaming) but to us it means just one thing: SUCCESS!


Ball Games in Montauban

Ball Games in Montauban

The question we get asked most about home schooling is “what about his socialisation?” We have learned to respond maturely to it, despite our temptation to guffaw and sneer…

You only need to meet Ruaridh to know he is the most confident and social 11 year old you are ever likely to meet. Have a look at his performance on live TV and tell me what 11 year old could do that so eloquently.

But he wasn’t always like that. As recently as our first Grand Adventure, he wouldn’t go and ask for the bill in a cafe. Last year he not only asked for the bill without fuss – he did it in French without embarassment or self consciousness, paid for it and organised the tip.

Since we took Ruaridh out of school he has become more social, not less. He has developed an incredible talent for making new friends, of all ages and backgrounds. At the local disco, he is the one that talks to kids from other schools, where most kids will not talk to anyone outside of their immediate classmates.

School is a very unnatural environment. It can be very intimidating and it is the last place you are going to develop socialisation skills in a child. If it worked, then we would not have many of the social problems we have today, including a huge amount of children requesting to leave school because they’re finding it not only disinteresting, but in a few cases, dangerous. (This wasn’t our experience – and we removed Ruaridh from school for only positive reasons).

If you want your kids to be more social or more confident then you could do no better than to take them out of school and give them a taste of socialising with a full range of people, including other kids. It’s been a hugely positive and empowering experiences for all of us.

Our Support Network

in Van Goghs Shoes

in Van Gogh's Shoes

It is worth noting that sometimes it is difficult to be in a minority group and for a pre-teen that brings its own challenges. In the beginning we started to reach out for locally based home education connections that would not only boost our confidence as parents, but which would also provide Ruaridh with contact with kids experiencing a similar situation. To be honest, that didn’t really work out. There just aren’t many people doing it locally, and most of the meet ups that are organised are for young kids. Perhaps at the end of the day, geographic location isn’t really that important to us.

What has worked best for us is building build up our network of contacts around our complete range of interests on networks like Twitter and Facebook, specialist hubs like Location Independent Parents and through house swapping. Those are the places we’re finding most support. And for Ruaridh, well he’s using some of those networks too, but in the main he’s creating his own. He has different kinds of networks to suit different purposes – both online and off.

Want to know more? There are loads of books to get you started. This is what we did when we were in the early stages of investigation. The ones we’ve read and recommend (with affiliate links which may one day earn me a cup of coffee) are:

Our Education Philosophy

  • Continual learning and development for all the family.
  • Freedom to undertake projects of our choosing – without ridicule.
  • No formal curriculum or testing.
  • Make a regular positive contribution (to the planet, the community, the family, the location – you get the picture).
  • Active and willing participation, with love.
  • Find the fun!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

soultravelers3 April 8, 2010 at 12:35 am

Love it!

“to create and maintain freedom for our whole family.”

Who could ask for more, eh?

As you know, we’re also a world traveling, now multi-lingual family and I couldn’t agree with you more! Funny that we should both write about unschooling at the same time! ;)

Maybe we will meet in person one of these days!


Julie Gibbons April 9, 2010 at 8:40 am

Thanks for stopping by Jeanne! Yes, the timing was exemplary :) We surely might cross paths… we’re heading down your way in a couple of months, but I expect you’ll be on your travels again by then?


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