An Alternative Take on Education

It would be remiss of me not to give credit where credit is due.

Our two daughters have had a difficult time at school for the past few years. Both of them do very well with their grades, are diligent with their assignments, and garner regular praise from their teachers.

We have always stressed to them, from the beginning of their education, that we could not care less about their academic grades. However, we have emphasized time and again that we expect their marks in regard to both behaviour and effort to be exemplary.

Due to this policy, both of them have achieved remarkable success in regard to their academic achievements as well.

The reason is simple, they have grown to view their education as a privilege. We expect them to see it as such. It is a one time opportunity to shape themselves with the guidance of teachers and a curriculum supplied at very little cost to their families.

Even today, education is not a right, per se. True, it is something that people in western society expect their children to have, but the same is not the case in less privileged societies.

Countries wracked by war, poverty, disease and famine cannot supply such a luxury as a full twelve years of basic education.

Children in such countries who are fortunate to receive such an education make the most of it, in general.

My two girls have experienced trials at school. Due, in part, to their behaviour and effort.

Such children often do. They are seen as weaklings, weirdo’s, uncool, and other derogatory terms such as are unfit for general public consumption in a so-called civilized society.

Last year, our eldest attended the local high school. She had to receive counseling, due to the stress she placed upon herself by being unable to complete her assignments to her own satisfaction.

The psychologist who counseled her explained that she had a number of students from that school on her books. Many had similar problems.

The cause was the same in every case. Of the 30 odd students in their classes, perhaps half wished to receive a good education. The other half desired nothing more than to amuse themselves in ways both disruptive and intrusive.

The basic situation at many schools in this country is of classes in which a dedicated student is simply unable to learn, due to the presence of many youths who have no interest in learning.

They also enjoy disrupting the work of those students who do wish to learn.

This environment has proven nerve-wracking and unhealthy for both of our daughters.

This year, things are very different. Our two girls are not “Going To School” in the traditional sense.

They are attending an alternative school; The Brisbane School of Distance Education.

Originally established in the 1920’s and operating under many names and guises during the intervening years, what is now BSDE caters to a wide variety of students with all kinds of situations that preclude them from attending a state school.

However, if one parent is willing and able to take the role of home tutor, children can attend this school by choice.

Working from home as I  do now, we decided I would shift my writing around the girl’s school schedules and give BSDE a try.

Let me say straight off the bat, it is not for everyone. If the tutor has an issue with online communication, they will have some work to do.

Being a long time denizen of the internet, this has presented little in the way of a challenge to me. My girls are quite fly with the geeky side of things and tend to make their old man look slow, as with most teenagers these days.

Our two girls love their new school. The environment in their virtual classrooms is peaceful and focused.

The teacher has full moderator control of a class, in both verbal and typed chat formats. The students can be muted if unruly, though that is an occurrence we are yet to witness.

We have had two orientation days at the campus, where the kids have all met and worked together, doing integration and bonding activities.

The tutors have had classes at the same time, being taught by experienced tutors and brought up to speed with the day-to-day realities of their student’s virtual environment.

The students have found a natural kinship, and this is not surprising, given an interesting metric discussed by their tutors.

Nearly every tutor gave the same reasons for having their children in distance education; their kids wanted to learn. The environment at their previous schools made this anywhere from difficult to downright impossible.

Some have behavioral issues, low spectrum autism, ADHD, ADD, etc. Most, though, were simply bright enough to attract some unwanted attention from students who didn’t wish to learn and would rather other students didn’t either.

There is another thing that has proven quite different at this school. For many students, the shift from high school to university or college requires a shift from a teacher driven workload to one of self-discipline and assignment management.

My understanding is that high schools these days assist and educate the students in regard to this during the senior years, something they never did when I attended school.

However, BSDE have their curriculum centered around this system earlier.

This means the tutor must monitor their student’s work, assignment progress and exam preparation carefully in the early stages.

The school, however, expects students to acclimatize quickly and become their own masters, and to a greater degree than in the state school system.

The school also has a full tutor support system, tech assistance, work rate calendars and schedules to keep us up to date.

All lessons are recorded, so if students are off-line for whatever reason, they simply download the lesson and work through it when it suits them.

Of course, being at home while at school does present an absence of social interaction, to a degree.

In our case, we have a regular and steady routine of social activities. We also get out of the house most days to go for a drive or a walk in the beautiful area in which we live, to make sure there is no lack of fresh air in our routines.

For our two girls, the BSDE has been a Godsend. They are vibrant and happy, exuding confidence and working quietly every day.

In the United States, I am told by some American online buddies of mine (one of whom is a teacher), that some states now subsidize home schooling.

I’m beginning to understand why.



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