It was during a family camping trip several years ago that the idea hit me that downshifting might be a positive and beneficial thing to do. I realised, when preparing for our holiday, that the questions I was repeatedly asking myself were: “What’s the absolute minimum we need to take with us?” “What can we live without?” “What can I definitely not live without?” And this was not preparation for some kind of endurance test but rather for a holiday - a time of relaxation, enjoyment, simple family pleasures.
Last week, my youngest son and I spent another camping holiday at HESFES, having fun, learning lots and reminiscing with some old home educating friends. Having home educated my two sons for about 10 years, they are now both well past the rather inappropriately named “compulsory school age” and I am officially retired as a home educating mum (although I accept that home educating grandparenthood might be a possibility in years to come!). Last week was an uplifting reminder of the many simple, sustainable, humane reasons we had for quitting the system, of pursuing educational heresy, of entering the realms of the non-conformist.
On our return from HESFES, I found the latest issue of Permaculture Magazine waiting for me on the doormat. When I picked it up for a quick glance through , it fell open at page 56 and the star letter: “Our Abstract Education” by Elizabeth Perkins of Wiltshire. In her letter, 16 year old Elizabeth states “My first concern is that much of what I have been taught at school seems irrelevant when I consider the issues our planet is facing right now. The environment and climate change are like side issues, mildly interesting topics that make nice assemblies now and then, but not to be taken too seriously. I am taught abstract ideas which I know will not serve me in later life, despite what I am told.”
Whether we choose to home educate our children or send them to school, what will a suitable education look like that can help prepare the next generation for a more sustainable way of living and working?
Some ideas might be:
1. Smaller, local schools and family learning centres.
2. Prioritising sustainable skills such as growing and preparation of organic food, handicrafts and manual skills such as sewing, knitting, weaving, carpentry, metalwork.
3. Including small, local business management and basic organisation and administration skills.
4. More cycle and pedestrian routes to schools and learning centres.
5. Prioritising interpersonal skills that include non-violent communication, dialogue rather than debate, cooperation rather than competition.
6. Prioritising personal skills such as self-care, preventive medicine, personal empowerment and self-motivation.
What else would you add to this?