Aarón is 8 years old and has never been to school. He loves reading and he learns following his interests. Recently he has been watching documentaries with his father a lot of the time. He is a lively and curious child who likes exploring nature and studies the ants carefully. Aarón is one of the 6,000 children who are homeschooled in Spain, according to non-official estimates. “Homeschooling means assuming responsibility for our children’s education, taking into account academic issues as well as emotional and moral aspects,” writes Azucena Caballero, former president of the ‘Asociación para la Libre Educación’ (ALE – Free Education Association), in the book ‘Educar en casa día a día’.
There are many reasons why parents choose not to send their children to school. Madalen Goiria, Law Professor at the Basque Country University, has been researching homeschooling for four years and she thinks that there are three main reasons which lead parents to choose this educative option. There are those who want to preserve family values, those who don’t trust the education system and those who choose homeschooling as the last resort.
In Málaga there are several families who have decided to educate their children at home and some of them have joined together to form the association ‘Kaidara’ (www.kaidara-ecoeducacion.es). They meet weekly to hold play and cultural activities. Montse, Aarón’s mother, is one of them. She has never taken her son to school because she believes that schools are “very strict” and that they “limit the learning process”. Mavi Marín, who has two homeschooled children, thinks that it is essential to respect “children’s right to be interested in what they want,” and not just what the education system wants them to learn. Mayka Ruiz is another mother who homeschools her two sons because when her elder son began going to school, she realized that “intellectual knowledge and memorizing information were given too much importance”. Therefore she took her son out of school and is not planning to take her other son either. Mayka thinks that, as Khrisnamurti said, “it is not healthy to adapt to an ill system.”
Each family who decides to homeschool their children is unique, so it is difficult to establish common patterns in this kind of education. There are families who bring the school to home, using the same materials as schools; other families use materials from alternative pedagogies, like Montessori; and others work on projects where they take a look to all subjects in a holistic way, say studying Spain and including maths, geography, history and science in that one project. Other parents, like Monste, Mavi and Mayka, guide their children following their children’s interests and their natural learning tendencies. They are families who ‘unschool’, that is “families who trust in the children’s freedom and capacity to learn more than in the adult’s capacity to teach”, as Madalen Goiria defines them.
Montse remarks that one of the myths is that children who don’t go to school don’t socialize. She points out that they don’t live isolated in a cave, but that Homeschooled children play with other kids, go out, go to the park and to the library. Homeschooling doesn’t mean that children are at home all day long.
Madalen Goiria concludes that “the main disadvantage for Spanish homeschoolers is the lack of legal recognition of this education option”. Azucena Caballero, former president of ALE, states in the aforementioned book that “homeschooling is recognized and regulated both in countries of our geographical and cultural environment* and in others such as the USA, Australia, Canada and Japan.” However, in Spain there is no specific regulation regarding this kind of education. It is not legal, but it is not illegal either. Therefore, Azucena goes on, “since it is not recognized, they can be considered ‘absentee scholars’ and this is a criminal offense. In the eyes of the law parents are not carrying out the educative duty they have towards their children, since the ‘absentee’ parent doesn’t bring their child to school and doesn’t offer them an alternative education either.” Parents who homeschool in Spain seek protection from this legal situation in the Spanish Constitution, which recognizes the right to Freedom of Education. In the end Homeschooling is just another kind of education, one that takes into account each child’s pace and interests, so that learning doesn’t become an obligation but a natural process that never ends.
*France, Great Britain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland.
This post is also available in: Spanish