Camping and the Future of Education

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?


6 Responses to Camping and the Future of Education

  1. Beverley July 26, 2009 at 2:05 am #

    Hello Sally,

    Can I quote the last half of your blog for my editorial in the next issue of the Home Education Association Inc ( online members’ magazine Stepping Stones for Home Educators. We’re doing a feature on simply living, decluttering, etc for our Spring issue due in October.

    editor [at] hea [dot] asn [dot] au

  2. Sally July 26, 2009 at 3:03 pm #

    Hello Beverley,

    Good to hear from you and I’d be delighted if you’d use it.


  3. Alana July 29, 2009 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi Sally,

    Lovely site – you came up because Google brings me things marked future of education.

    I think you might like what New Zealand is doing. After years of rigorous research, and focused on the question the groups in our project focus on, “what do our children need for the world they will inherit?” they developed competencies. In the next years their content oriented teachers will be working through how to mix the old and new ideals. You can find them (soon on a blog on my site) or through a Google search on New Zealand school competencies.

    Hope you love it – thanks for a wonderful post,

  4. Sally July 30, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    Hi Alana,

    That looks fascinating and it’s great to see those kinds of forward thinking ideas being used proactively in schools. Are there home educating families in NZ taking part too? And maybe those from small schools (Steiner, Montessori etc)? I’m not aware of similar projects going on in schools here in the UK, but there’s been a lot of research into the future of education by some of the Universities over the last 30 years, looking at methods used by home educators (because they generally get much better results than their school educated peers.) You could look up the work of Roland Meighan, Alan Thomas (University of London) and Paula Rothermel if you wanted to follow this up.

    Hope that’s useful.


  5. Derek Sheppard, Booroobin Qld AUS August 10, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    I think you have some good recommended foundations for education that would stand young people in good stead, in their preparation for their lives.

    I suggest that the following are also worthy inclusions in a desirable education:
    – enabling young people to have the time and space they need to discover who they are, and come to understand the world around them through asking questions, researching and discovery, doing things they like doing, whilst respecting the rights of others to do the same, without interference, and resolving how they will find out enough through these processes to work out what they like doing best;
    – Students realising the benefits of choosing the people they want to work with;
    – building effective communication and listening skills through dialogue and by regularly debating, discussing and deciding a range of issues with a broad range of people of all ages;
    – ensuring the design, appearance and resourcing of chemical free, sustainable learning environments also represent and reflect the expressed needs of the people who use those environments;
    – constructing learning around the expressed needs of each individual learner, free of coercion, manipulation and direction;
    – creating a foundation for a learning environment that reflects values for a democratic way of life, in which values of freedom, responsibility, trust, equality, respect, fairness and justice are available to all.

  6. Sally August 21, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    Derek, what wonderful suggestions! Oh, if only…! Sad too that our current approach is so far removed from that. I think my aim with home educating my two children was to facilitate all of those things, although I’m sure that I didn’t actually achieve a lot of it, through my own conditioning and unconscious behaviour probably.

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