Petition Letter 2014

The Hon Minister Evarist Bartolo,

Ministry for Education and Employment,

Great Siege Road,

FLORIANA

VLT 2000

 

14th February 2014

 

Dear Hon. Minister,

We are a group of Maltese parents and foreign parents living in Malta, who have been exploring the possibility of homeschooling our children instead of going along the route of traditional education.  A short while ago we started a Facebook Group Homeschool in Malta to discuss this subject and we have received positive feedback, both from people based on the Maltese Islands as well as others who have considered/are considering moving to Malta.

The parents involved in this group come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.   Each family gave a number of reasons for their inclination to pursue homeschooling rather than traditional schooling. As a result, we believe that the introduction of homeschooling in Malta would be advantageous and would further enhance the level of education in our country.

Below is a non exhaustive list of some of the advantages of Homeschool:

  • Homeschooled children receive individualized instruction tailored to fit their learning styles as well as their distinctive needs and gifts, or strengths and weaknesses.
  • Homeschooled children can move through their course work at their own pace and expectations can be set as high as possible for each individual child: a child who struggles can go more slowly, whereas a gifted child can cover the program as quickly as he or she can master the content.
  • Homeschooling allows more flexibility in a student’s schedule, in the teaching methods applied, in the time spent with individual courses, with the materials used for course work, and for students to be involved in real life activities.
  • Homeschooling give more time to explore other interests or pursue the development of special talents and skills.
  • Homeschooling is tailor made for the needs of the individual child; the educational experience is less stressful and will encourage the child to eventually pursue tertiary level of education.
  • Homeschooling strengthens family relationships because it gives parents more time with their children.
  • It provides the opportunity for parents to be more closely involved in their children’s learning.
  • Parents get to know their children on a level that is not typically possible without homeschooling. They also get the possibility to devote more quality time to their children individually.
  • Parents now have a greater prospect to work on the child’s character development encouraging the traits for a responsible future generation of citizens.
  • Homeschooling allows for community-based socialization, rather than a classroom-based socialization.
  • Homeschooling gives the students the possibility to be regularly involved in at least 2 outside activities, therefore contributing to healthier lifestyles.
  • Homeschooling tends to enhance the social experience of the students and enrich their overall understanding by giving them capacity to spend time with children and adults of all ages, rather than same-age peers.
  • Homeschooling protects the children from exposure to the harmful influences of peer pressure, deficient attitudes, inappropriate behaviour, etc. Homeschooling wisely gives the ability to learn about these things from afar instead of being personally involved in such behaviour or perhaps from being a victim.
  • Homeschooling encourages individuality; homeschoolers learn how to think for themselves, how to think critically, and how to be independent.
  • Homeschooling enables children to adjust more quickly to a University setting. This is due to the fact that they are already familiar with independent study techniques, and have a vast experience in managing their own time and interaction with adults. The latter renders them unafraid to ask questions and seek further explanation.
  • Homeschooling helps develop a stronger work ethic from a young age as they learn to be self-directed in their work rather than being spoon-fed, an attribute which is frequently looked for by employers.
  • Homeschooling advances the understanding of the practical applications of the things being learned, thus giving a more lifelong grasp to the importance of what is being learned.  Much of traditional teaching presents ‘theoretical’ uncoupled from the ‘practical’ examples.
  • Homeschooling promotes an integrated and consistent education. Since a homeschooled child’s education is managed by the same person over a long period of time,that education can be consistent with a long-term plan in which each topic taught and the experience gained benefits seamlessly with those that have come before. Because the parent is intimately involved with the student over that student’s life, the parent understands the child’s experiences and background and uses that knowledge to design future educational activities.

In countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, France, New Zealand and the UK, homeschooling has long been an option for parents, and studies show that contrary to popular belief, children are able to thrive in a homeschool environment and that creativity, which is at times, unfortunately stifled in the classroom setting, is able to flourish more readily.  Moreover, from an academic point of view, home-schooled children’s results are at par with their colleagues in regular schools, and most often than not, even superior.

We are aware that one of the main concerns to be expressed when the subject of homeschooling is raised is the social aspect.  Many educators fear that the home-schooled child would lack interaction with other children and be deprived of the social aspect of education. But surely, this is not the case in our country for one of Malta’s main strengths is our strong social lifestyle; this is a problem that need not be feared here.  Unlike so many other countries, outdoor activities are possible all year round, providing ample venues for home-schooled children to interact with others, whether in the many playgrounds, the beaches or at the numerous extra-curricular activities readily available to children locally: football, athletics, swimming, ballet, music, singing, theatre etc.

The study quoted below is one of several that have been conducted, all reach the same conclusion, i.e. the average homeschooler excels in the society and is far from being isolated.

“Public school children are confined to a classroom for at least 180 days each year with little opportunity to be exposed to the workplace or to go on field trips. The children are trapped with a group of children their own age with little chance to relate to children of other ages or adults. They learn in a vacuum where there are no absolute standards. They are given little to no responsibility, and everything is provided for them. The opportunity to pursue their interests and to apply their unique talents is stifled. Actions by public students rarely have consequences, as discipline is lax and passing from grade to grade is automatic. The students are not really prepared to operate in the home (family) or the workplace, which comprise a major part of the “real world” after graduation.

Homeschoolers, on the other hand, do not have the above problems. They are completely prepared for the “real world” of the workplace and the home. They relate regularly with adults and follow their examples rather than the examples of peers. They learn based on “hands on” experiences and early apprenticeship training. In fact, the only “socialization” or aspect of the “real world” which they miss out on by not attending the public school is unhealthy peer pressure, crime, and immorality. Of course, the average homeschooler wisely learns about these things from afar instead of being personally involved in crime or immorality or perhaps from being a victim.

Practically, homeschoolers generally overcome the potential for “isolation” through heavy involvement in church youth groups, 4H clubs, music and art lessons, Little League sports participation, YMCA, Scouts, singing groups, activities with neighborhood children, academic contests (spelling bees, orations, creative and research papers), and regular involvement in field trips. In fact, one researcher stated, “The investigator was not prepared for the level of commitment exhibited by the parents in getting the child to various activities … It appeared that these students are involved in more social activities, whether by design or being with the parent in various situations, than the average middle school-aged child.”[1]

Furthermore, as shown by the studies enclosed, the percentage of homeschoolers attending University is far superior to students from public schools and homeschool graduates are engaged in a wide variety of occupations from homemakers to business owners.

 

There are also a large number of foreign families that would like to homeschool and it has come to our attention that some have actually been put off from moving to Malta simply due to the fact that homeschooling was not permitted. In other words, when these families became aware that Maltese Legislation still prohibits homeschooling, they were forced to consider other countries instead of Malta. I was surprised to learn that Maltese families, willing to educate their children in the home, believe in homeschooling so much, that they have been considering moving away from Malta.

It is our belief that Malta’s best interest would be to adjust legislation to allow homeschooling for the benefit of future generation. It should be a matter of ‘freedom of choice’ in order for parents to be allowed to make their own decisions as to their preferred method of education for their own children.  This step would also enhance Malta’s image by fulfilling two clauses, Article 6 of the Education Act (Ch. 327) which states that “It is the right of every parent of a minor to give his decision with regard to any matter concerning the education which the minor is to receive.” and Article 26 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

It is for the reasons listed above that we wish to submit our petition for the Maltese Legislation to be amended in the new Education Act, and therefore introduce homeschooling as an option for Maltese parents, as well as for others living in Malta.

We thank you for your kind attention to this matter and look forward to hearing from you.

 

[1] “Socialization Practices of Christian Home School Educators in the State of Virginia,” a study of ten Virginia home school families, performed by Dr. Kathie Carwile, appeared in the Home School Researcher, Vol. 7, No. 1, December 1991.

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