Yesterday evening I hosted a meeting with a group of mum's from Hull who home educate their children. I met this group when I signed up to do my PhD at Hull and discovered that one of the lecturers home educated his children.

Mock Law Court at Hull Uni. [ source]

This group of home educators and their children participated in my experiments. We did workshops in the mock law court in the business school at Hull University. It was very interesting for me as the kids were very different ages (11-17 yrs old) and at least one adult attended with each child.

I learnt so much from these experiences. I was blown away by the capacity of some of the children (particularly the younger ones) to think systemically. I had come across this capacity in my consulting: Mainly in engineers. I wanted to know how home education nurtures this capacity?

Home educators reflect

It has been a long time since I've seen these Hull mum's. I wanted to explore the concept of home education with them. I asked them to reflect on the following questions:

There were some interesting commonalities in the responses of these 4 mothers:-

There were other common factors I observed in these mothers. They are all well educated with one or two degrees each. They had followed various careers. They were self directed and empowered themselves. I asked where this came from? The answer; from their own parents...their own home situation!

Inspirational adults

One lady told us she grew up surrounded by books and inspirational people as her parents were artists and scientists and had their friends and colleagues at the home regularly. So much stimulation! She didn't know what to become so she became an actress so she could experience playing all these roles!

For sure our kids need inpirational adults in their lives, but do they have to be in school? Are such adults found in schools? Many are not, as teaching is regarded as a second rate career. There is the oft quoted saying "those who can do, those who can't teach and those who can't teach, teach PE!"

There have been attempts to correct this in the UK with the STEM ambassador scheme and also schemes like Hull & East Yorkshire Children's University. The question which remains for me is whether an hour's talk or 1 day out of school at a business make a sufficient difference?

Also what about the kids for whom school is an escape from a difficult home situation? It is not a one size fits all. A head teacher in Lancashire told me that the kids at his school were given beds to sleep as they didn't have any at home. It begs the question what is the role of our schools when the home situation is broken? He told me that the key thing that would make a difference for these children is [[Meaningful Fulfilling Employment]] for their parents.

But lets not get too hard on the teachers. After all we are all teachers in that we all influence each person and thing we come into contact with. Some people know that and take that responsibility seriously. They consider the consequences of their choices carefully. Others don't. They simply react.

I asked what were the challenges of home education? We talked about the cost, and the difficulty of accessing facilities (eg labs). I guess I expected these answers, but some of the other answers were surprising. They told stories of how their so-called adult friends had ostracized them. The policemen of our culture!

Fear and complacency

Fear of being excluded and not wanting to spend lots of time with their kids are barriers which prevent others considering home educating. That is in addition to the effort. Remember the "controllers" of this system know that we like an easy and complacent life with little change.

One big common factor amongst these ladies is that they took motherhood seriously. I chose not to be a mother as I felt it was too serious an undertaking. Which begs the question why do so many women have children and then not want to spend time with them?

Could it be the hidden negative impact of school on our children? One of my home educating mums thinks so. I captured her response to this question here. See [[Negative School Impact]].

What do I have in common with these ladies given that I don't have children myself? The answer is the common understanding that children are our future. They are all our children, not mine or yours.

I realised this at PwC and tried to convince others to help me. I remember this conversation with a fellow systems thinking colleague at PwC: Why did he work such long hours when he had children? He said he worked long hours because of the children: To buy them an outstanding education. I said what about the other children who didn't have parents able to pay for education. And he said well that isn't my problem! And I said no but might it be a problem for your children. What do you think? Suddenly the penny dropped. He said what can I do? I said you can join me. You can work part time and help me teaching what we know to all kids. It didn't happen...

Adults making a difference

Over the last few years I've met adults who are taking this undertaking seriously. From the home educators in this group, to Steve Whitla, Marc Pierson and Thompson Morrison.

Steve Whitla runs "Visual Meaning", a consultancy in Oxford, UK. I met Steve at a SCiO event in London. I gave a workshop on causal loop diagramming and then asked for people to help with my project with children. Steve came forward. He was already head of the board of governors at the school his 3 children attend. He wanted all the kids at this school to have access to a systemic education. It is an "ordinary" state primary school. Steve and his headteacher, Tina Farr, have made it extraordinary!

I met Marc Pierson at a conference on Systemic Education in Bogota last year. He and Noah Williams, a very capable young man, presented on their work together with a group of Noah's friends who had been on a special program for children who didn't fit in school. Marc used a systems approach he calls iPBSM (Integrated Perspective Based Systems Modelling) to get the children to design their own education system. He asked the question: What did they want to learn before they became had their own household? The findings are remarkable. See [[About iPBSM]].

I asked a similar question of my friends but retrospectively when I started my PhD. I asked whether they felt their school education had set them up for life as an adult? 80% said no. I asked whether they felt able to influence the world? 80% said no. We are taught compliance and control, not creativity and encouragement.

Thompson Morrison teaches a program he calls "Designed Ingenuity" (DiG) to teachers. His aim is to inspire wonder, curiosity and the courage to explore and share our own meaning. The process is highly systemic, creating deep connection between the participants and a level of disclosure and trust that enables deep discoveries. The connections between the people and the subject matter creates "surprises"; emergent properties as we systems thinkers would call them! The whole becomes more than the sum of the parts. It creates inspiration and high energy.

Thompson got involved in this work at his local school. His daughter was struggling there and he decided to get involved. The rest, as they say, is history. Read more at [[The Dayton Experiment: Index]].

A way forward?

I've been busy making connections between all these people. I introduced Thompson to Tina at Steve's school in Oxford. The DIG that resulted was very, very powerful!

I see the power of combining all these systemic approaches. But systems insight is a powerful concoction. It can be used for great good or for evil. In other words, this is a double edged sword. In the hands of an evil selfish mind we just help people to be manipulative and achieve their own selfish ends. It is systems thinking used to optimise parts in the short term. Note that it is not true holistic systems thinking.

How do we deal with that?

Can we help others to discover the consequences? The point is well made by a simple illustration of the consequences for an individual of choosing to learn and respect vs choosing to blame and use. (See [[Learning vs Blaming]].) It is our choice to make. What will you choose?

I'm choosing "See the Systems". (See [[See the Systems Partners]].)It is the only way I can see to help the numbers of children we need to reach. before it is too late. It is my great hope that this will be enough.