MCW: Your books on home-education have helped many parents through this sometimes challenging decision. What made you decide to write about home education?
Ross: When we started home educating there were very few books on the subject in the UK to guide parents through the pros and cons and starting out. In fact it was in the early stages of the web therefore there was little accessible support. So I wanted to produce a guide for parents to have to hand as issues arose. Next, I thought about producing an entertaining read about the home educating life to introduce ideas about education to parents, when they would not normally read educational text books (let’s face it – who does?). So A Funny Kind of Education was published. It seems to be the most popular so far.
MCW: What made you decide to home educate?
Ross: Our children were very unhappy and unwell in school and even worse, were beginning to ‘hate learning’ as one of mine said after being in school a while! I found this really shocking as they’d been so keen to find out about their world before they went and learn about anything and everything as most little kids do. We felt we wanted to reinstate that love of learning, so decided to bring them out – for a while. Or so we thought. They didn’t go back and their health and happiness returned along with that love of learning. They’ve carried that on into adult life.
MCW: How has home education changed your life and view of education?
Ross: I already had my doubts about the systemised prescriptive approach to learning in schools – I’d worked there and seen how it failed so many. As I saw our children grow and blossom during our home educating days, it confirmed my suspicions that a narrow regimented approach is not really necessary and is more for politics than for kids! Children are born wanting to learn and can do so on their own through guidance and encouragement. And we as parents are already teachers who can be part of that process (although ‘teachers’ is perhaps not the best word – facilitators better describes it). However, before I became a parent I was unaware of the true depth and power of parenting over this process. Home educating – or simply raising our kids in an engaged and educative way - became a lifestyle rather than an element that was ‘added on’ to our family life. Education is part of the raising of children and not simply for academic outcomes or league tables! I believe now that many fail to make that important distinction!
"We all need to understand that education is part of caring for oneself... It must be for the intrinsic good of the individual first and foremost and in order for that individual to have an impact worldwide." - From 'Learning Without School' by Ross Mountney
MCW: Tell us about your new book.
Ross: Despite the joy of our home educating days, there are obviously many challenges – like with all aspects of parenting. And I think some of the challenges parents face are to do with managing their doubts and worries and wobbly days when the huge institution of mainstream thinking can overwhelm us. Much of my writing over the years has been to help parents overcome those days, but these pieces are dotted about the web and magazines etc. So I thought it would be useful to collate them in one place, with added new material, for quick reference when people needed a supportive fix. As well as ideas and tips, it’s for parental comfort more than anything – I remember needing it myself! It’s called A Home Education Notebook – to encourage and inspire’, published by Bird’s Nest Books, available from them or Amazon or major booksellers – see my website for details.
MCW: What are your hopes for the future of home education?
Ross: I would like to see home education recognised for the successful and valid approach to learning that it is. Most of the work I do is to try and open people’s minds, raise awareness and help them see beyond narrow misconceptions that we so often read about in the media. I am a realist though; home educating is not for all. But equally it should be recognised that school is not for all either, for a variety of different reasons, and home schooling offers a necessary and workable alternative.
MCW: Where can we find you?
Ross: You can find more about me and all my books at http://rossmountney.wordpress.com
A Home Education Notebook is published on 27th June 2016.
Ross Mountney is a former teacher turned home educator, who writes books supporting parents through their home education journey.