Mainstream education is education where a child goes to school, starting at around 4 or 5 and continues going to school until he or she is around 16 to 18. During this time, the child studies a curriculum decided by an authority and the child is assessed in exams according to how well he or she is able to reproduce the curriculum correctly.
Alternative education at this point in time is anything which is not that, anything which is not mainstream education in schools.
By its nature, any education alternative will be individual and unique - so there are no rules about what it should be. That is the point - it is the freedom to educate your own children or yourself in the way you want to.
Humans are advanced and complicated beings. In order to make this possible, we need to learn an enormous amount of stuff from when we are born to when we become mature and independent adults.
Estimates claim that Homo sapiens has been around for 100,000 years or more - the current school-based curriulum-based education system has been around for two hundred years.
In our natural state, children learn naturally from the adults in their family and community. Children are natural learners and adults are natural teachers.
There is practically nobody alive today over the age of 5 who hasn't had at least some experience of sitting at a desk in a classroom and of taking exams.
Many, but in fact relatively few, parents educate their own children, so very few people have experience or even knowledge of other possibilities.
The media - even the alternative media - and politicians universally see the solutions to education problems as lying exclusively in the school system.
So it is not surprising that the vast majority of humans go along unquestioning with the status quo. But, as Gandhi said:
"An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it."
A modern philosopher said:
"There is no such thing as an expert; there is only the integrity of doing and having done."
I am not an expert, but I am doing and I have done - when it comes to offering educational alternatives to people. I have seen first hand the harm done in schools and the wonderful alternatives. I could point to experience and qualifications...
But the reason I believe strongly that I am right is that my view is based on some very basic self-evident truths. For more about this please visit the Orientation section.
Also, my view is based on the principle that the main goal of education should be liberty and the pursuit of happiness - and that it is self-evident that this has to be done individually and in communities and cannot possibly be achieved via a system and curriculum that is imposed by authorities. It cannot!
Also, I feel secure in my position because my message is that there are alternatives and I am not trying to impose anything on anyone else. My message is: Think for yourself and find your own path.
If you have made the decision or come to the realisation that you don't want your chldren to be in a mainstream school, then you have made the first step already.
Step 2 is getting your children on board the idea. I cannot stress enough how it is key that you enter this adventure as parents and children together. If the children are not keen on the idea and want to stay in school then it is not advisable to remove them against their will. It must be done with parents and children working together and in agreement.
Step 3 is having the confidence and the courage to make the bold move of taking your children out of school.
Step 3 takes courage because as a parent you are stepping into the unknown and you are taking a path which will leave you marginalised from mainstream society. But actually you will be embarking on a project which is the most natural thing for parents and children to do together, a project which will open up infinite posibility and opportunity and a project which will enrich and inspire you.
Yes, we need teachers. Children need supportive, caring, intelligent and skillful adults in order to learn. In a society of no formal schooling, children will learn most from the adults who know most and who have the most advanced skills and abilities. These people will be revered as teachers. People from the past such as Socrates, the Buddha, Jesus and Gandhi were considered great teachers, but it's hard to imagine any of those men following a government curriculum.
An alternative education is a blank sheet - children and adults can decide what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. Some people create their own curriculum, some adapt a curriculum, some follow a formal curriculum, some mix and match. Children are natural learners and the world and the universe we are in is the learning environment.
This question assumes that society is currently functioning well.
This question assumes that it is better if everyone is assessed according to an external standard.
Also, there is an assumption that there are not enough good jobs and not enough wealth to go around so children must compete with each other to be successful.
The truth is that there is plenty for everyone and everyone can be successful in their own way and on their own terms.
My educational view is not mainstream and many people will find my views extreme, strange, dangerous or ridiculous. People who think that I am wrong also believe that sending children to schools and taking exams is normal and necessary.
These people are disoriented. Their own experiences of school and education, those of their parents, and the overwhelming media and political consensus about education have left them thinking that the status quo is normality and anything different such as education without schools would be impossible.
To understand my educational perspective, I have created seven coordinates of self-evident truths which I hope will change your mind.
Completely free - quick and easy to prepare literacy lessons.
This is an excellent resource for teaching intermediate literacy.
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl is broken down chapter by chapter- each of 18 chapters can be printed along with a list of spelling words and a page of images matching the new vocabulary.
Read the chapter to the kids, find the words in the text, match word with picture, practice the spellings, then have the kids read it to you!