11 Comments
May 2, 2023Liked by Dr Naomi Fisher

Hi Dr Fisher,

I discovered your work when studying EBSA best practice and am now reading your book. Fascinating, spot on stuff. Full disclosure, I’m a SENCo. I’m also an American who’s taught on five continents and has lived and taught in Britain the past 11 years. Moreover, as a missionary kid raised in Africa, the first time I stepped foot in a classroom, I was 10. We moved to Pennsylvania for the year and I will never forget my shock and dismay at what school entailed. My teachers thought I had no brain cells, I failed everything and by Christmas, I had internalized my failure pretty intensely for a time. This eventually changed and I figured it out, but I’ve always questioned the status quo on learning, schools and what education should entail.

I could, however, read and write. My mom always read to us, and when I was eight I decided I was ready to read. Within two months, I was reading books like Little Women. I’ve since always been a reader and love to learn and explore.

School didn’t manage to kill my curiosity, but perhaps this is partially because I was free from it in my early years. Or maybe this isn’t a strong correlation!

What happens when a child won’t/can’t attend school but they can’t read and write? If we don’t mandate school, how do we help children access language so they can communicate effectively? I am well aware that attendance won’t necessarily change this; I’m just asking the question. Many parents are equipped to help with emotional and linguistic literacy, but what about those who aren’t?

Another full disclosure: I teach secondary English. I believe in the power of story and the quintessential importance of learning to communicate in order to maneuver and master our world. We need to empower our children so they can challenge and change the world. This is what education should be about.

I’d be interested in your thoughts here. I speak up from inside the system.

Expand full comment
author

Hi, whereabouts in Africa did you live? I lived in Botswana and the DR Congo as a child. I moved schools many times.

Regarding reading/writing, my experience is that children out of school are motivated to learn to read and write but usually later than schooled children. Typically self-directed children learn to read some time between the age of 7 and 12. They learn by a range of methods, some pick it up from their environment and others ask for help from adults. Some follow reading schemes or use apps and programmes. The key thing is that this isn’t opposed upon them, and by waiting until they are ready we don’t have the problem of motivation. I haven’t found self-directed children who don’t see the need to read and write. If parents aren’t equipped to do this, then other adults need to be involved.

Expand full comment

Agreed. My experiences and observations support what you’ve said. Very, very different from school philosophy.

I grew up in Ethiopia and Kenya.

My own children, aged seven and four, have started school and I’m horrified by a lot. My son has already been put forward for an ehcp and diagnosed with adhd. I’m guessing this would have been my fate had I started at 4.

But what do I do if I can’t afford to quit work to homeschool? Choices time, I suppose.

Thanks for responding. I’m now closely following your work!

Expand full comment

This resonates so much with me and our family. Been through it with my son and, after deregistering him a year ago, he (and I) are still healing from the trauma it caused. Now my daughter is going through it and I will only be listening to her regardless of what the “professionals” say 💕

Expand full comment

after our 12 yr old was having panic attacks and couldn't attend school, the school counsellor called us and wanted to speak with her. she told my daughter that it was not legal to miss school and that they would send someone to pick her up if she didn't come! this was her solution. to force our daughter to have panic attacks at school. we promptly removed her from the institution and started a journey of healing. happy to say that it wasn't returning to school that healed anxiety. it was the absence of school that did. i only wish more parents were empowered to listen to their young people. but so often they are trapped by the confines of their jobs/employers and can not remove their kids. it's a terrible cycle.

Expand full comment

This article hits home for me as I went through this many, many times over the years with my 4 sons. What I would have liked to read is your clear opinion and solution to the problem. Are you suggesting home schooling? No schooling? A tutor? I really am interested in your solutions and wish I had read this years ago. Thank you for your insight.

Expand full comment
May 2, 2023·edited May 2, 2023

Yes! Solutions important here. This resonates with me too. Learning is not as linear as schools insist it is, and what’s scary is that many educators who don’t know better truly believe a child cannot make great leaps and strides in learning in short periods of time if inspired, or no

Learning if uninspired. Makes total sense to me!

Expand full comment

I was given the classic 'you can't let the child rule the roost' nonsense from experienced school staff despite very clear changes in behaviour and severe distress. My child is almost 17 so this trauma happened 13 years ago and their begging and pleading to not go to school still echoes in my ears. I wish I had been more confident to follow my instincts sooner, but I genuinely trusted that the sexperienced staff would let me know about my child's struggle at school. I kept raising it telling them something is wrong but kept getting the classic 'they're fine and having fun'. PTSD doesn't happen from nothing- if a child is continuously being sent to the Headteachers office for not working fast enough or missing their playtime to catch up on work because they were too slow then they're *not* 'fine. Almost 17yo and still having flashbacks of the crying while the HT stands over them shouting at them about doing better in class and to stop crying. It is abusive.

Phew! That just poured out. 😩

Expand full comment

We need to provide school teachers, staff and administrators more information and more support in working with children and families particularly around mental health. It is not necessarily a case of who is wrong and who is right. It is about making sure all sides have the information and support needed to best serve all children in this complicated world.

Expand full comment

I schooled my 4 children at home. I am SO thankful I was able to do this. It was tight financially, but worth every effort. They are now all well-adjusted adults who are working/studying full time and doing very well. They didn't miss out by never attending school. I write on Substack on Schooling at Home topics with tips and hints on things I learned along my journey. I found your article great. I am now back teaching instrumental music in the primary school system and a number of students who don't thrive in the classroom are well behaved and do well with one on one lessons. One size does not fit all.

Expand full comment

I've always known that the system doesn't suit my children's needs. I'm a working mom with overwhelm and burnout issues. So, school has always been a place to get my kids busy and not having to look each time for a babysitter. I've always repeated to them "I know school is not the best place to spend time" especially when my son started primary school and started to feel boredom and more requirements. But now, I'm seriously considering unschooling for the sanity of all my family.

Expand full comment