Homeschooling in Italy


Scuola familiare in Italia Italy



Homeschooling is the independent overseeing of a childís education by its parents or guardians, in harmony with the familyís ethical and cultural values, and with particular attention paid to the interests and development of the individual child. It is completely legal under Italian law, but unfortunately it is often given little consideration.

Our childrens' education is a responsibility that we can take into our own hands, without having to accept that our only options are either school or total isolation, as is often believed to be the case. In reality, there are many sources of ability and knowledge, both within our family environment and in the environment surrounding us. These resources can be identified, encouraged, integrated and employed to the full in the education of our children.

Parents are understandably worried when obliged to make an either/or choice between the unquestioning delegation of their childrens' education to the scholastic industry, or what appears to be total isolation. Contact and interaction between families is very important and makes this choice less threatening, and a relationship of mutual solidariety between homeschooling families is vital.

The first question is:

Will I be able to homeschool my child?

Yes, and probably with results that are superior to those obtained through the scholastic industry. In addition to academic and vocational results, the reasons you wanted to independently oversee your children's education in the first place will be satisfied; less abrupt separation of the child from the family, respect for the child's and the family's individuality and inclinations etc.

Is the total delegation of my child's education to the scholastic industry really such a safe choice?

More than anything it is a reassuring one, in the sense that it lightens the conscience of the parents, temporarily. Usually the mere consideration of homeschooling as an educational alternative is viewed as a strange and dangerous unknown territory, while the glaring failures of the scholastic industry are given little or no attention; it would seem that nobody takes responsibility for these inadequacies, and the necessary countermeasures are vague and inconsistent. It is worth citing, among the timid attempts to verify the results of the scholastic industry, the results of one very recent study: the OCSE-Pisa 2010 survey, which revealed that ďone fifteen-year-old in five, in Italy, is semiliterate. That is, 'lacking the fundamental abilities in reading and writing'. These are the findings of the European Commission.Ē A truly disturbing picture of youngsters who have 9 years of schooling behind them, yet once again this news was relegated to a few sporadic articles in the back pages of the newspapers, as the results are not conducive to obtaining more funding for the education industry.

Does school really resolve all the problems that are sources of concern for parents who are considering the independent overseeing of their children's education?

A considerable number of people do not think it does. In fact, many are positively convinced to the contrary. One of them is John Taylor Gatto, a witness who highlights the chronic and global nature of the problem. Taylor Gatto, who taught for 26 years in public schools in New York, was voted New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991, and in the same year wrote the folllowing letter of resignation to the Wall Street Times...

ďGovernment schooling kills the family by monopolising the best times of childhood. An exaggeration? Hardly. Parents arenít meant to participate in our form of schooling. My orders as schoolteacher are to make children fit an animal training system, not to help each find his or her personal path. I canít train children to wait to be told what to do; I canít train people to drop what they are doing when a bell sounds; I canít persuade children to feel some justice in their class placement when there isnít any, and I canít persuade children to believe teachers have valuable secrets they can acquire by becoming our disciples. Iíve come slowly to understand what it is I really teach: a curriculum of confusion, class position, arbitrary justice, vulgarity, rudeness, disrespect for privacy, indifference to quality, and utter dependency. I teach how to fit into a world I donít want to live in. I just canít do it anymore


Here are some frequently asked questions and answers:

 What is homeschooling?

It is worth repeating: Homeschooling is the independent overseeing of a childís education by its parents or guardians, in harmony with the familyís ethical and cultural values, and with particular attention paid to the interests and development of the individual child.

 Is it legal?
Yes, your right to homeschool your children is protected by the Italian Constitution, articles 30, 33, 34. Usually the local education authority will ask you to prepare a study programme and submit it. The educators do not have to be qualified teachers. Local homeschooling groups are usually the best source of information. In general it is not a good idea to start by asking your local education authority about the legalities; often they do not know the details of the law on this subject, and could give you incorrect or incomplete information.

 How do homeschoolers study?
As most homeschooling families will tell you, there is no typical day. Children who are homeschooled (outside or inside the home) learn with books but also through talking, playing, outdoor lessons, field trips, voluntary work and apprenticeships. Time is spent reading, drawing, writing, doing scientific experiments, singing or playing instruments etc. and there is also time with parents for help with study and projects together. They also have time to spend with people outside the home and school Ė friends, sports, music lessons etc.
Think about the resources available in your community: libraries, museums, historic sites, municipal buildings, farms, shops, nature parks. Think about the adults you know who can demonstrate an art, craft or skill, answer questions and allow your children to watch or help them in their work. Think about some of the activities in an average day at home: perhaps managing money, shopping, cooking, talking to an elderly family member or neighbour; these are just a few examples of the ways in which a homeschooled child can be shown maths, science and history in practice. Talking to other people who already homeschool will open up many other ideas.
Some families want to know what is expected of children who go to traditional schools as they progress through the years. Get a copy of your local schoolís academic curriculum, use it as a map but donít follow it rigidly. One of the greatest advantages of autonomous study is that you do not have to follow school timetables or systems. The internet is full of resources for home-study, and teaching programmes of every possible type.

 Are home-study materials very expensive?
No more costly than what you would normally spend on your childís interests and activities. Homeschoolers use the library and other community resources which are free or very cheap, sharing and exchanging materials and knowledge with each other and the community. Older children find that voluntary work and apprenticeships are excellent ways to learn from adults outside the family, and less costly than having private tuition.

 Will I have time to homeschool? How can I teach my child when he/she never listens to me at home? Do the parents have to teach?
Parents facilitate learning and help their children to find information and contact with other people. To homeschool your child means to be able to choose his/her educators and path of learning. It does not mean you have to undertake the whole scholastic education yourself; it means participating, choosing together, making the best decisions. For this reason in many cities parents are homeschooling in groups, with several families organising together the educational programme, also using external educators chosen by the families.
As far as time is concerned, it is estimated that of every 6 hours spent in a traditional school, the average child spends just 3 hours on study, of which only 20 minutes of every hour can be considered as possibly dedicated to something vaguely close to Ďreal learningí. Equally important is the fact that the individual attention received in the small group of a homeschool environment means that the learning process, the verification of what has been learned and any necessary adaptations in the programme according to the needs and development of the child are all faster and much more time-efficient.

 Donít children educated in this way remain behind, limited or disadvantaged in any way with respect to their traditionally-schooled peers?
NO, on the contrary. Here are some recent statistics from the USA and the UK where homeschooling has been practiced for many years:
USA: Homeschoolers consistently outperform their schooled peers on standardised tests. The most recent report (from the U.S. Department of Education) stated that homeschoolers are, on average, one year ahead of their schooled peers on the elementary school level. By the time homeschooled students are in the eighth grade, they are four years ahead of their schooled peers.
UK: A comparative study carried out by the University of Durham found that children taught at home significantly outperform their contemporaries who go to school. The average national score for school-educated pupils in a general mathematics and literacy test was 45 per cent, while that of the home-educated children was 81 per cent. Society assumes that school is best, but the assumption has no concrete foundation.

 If my children have to take State exams, or university-entrance exams in the future, will they be ready for this?
First of all find out for sure which exams really are obligatory where you live in Italy. In some cases the annual exams are optional, while the exam to pass from 5th grade Elementare to 1st grade Media may be obligatory. If your child has to take an exam, you can prepare him/her with mock exam papers (just as children do at traditional school) and by teaching strategies for exam success.

 What about homeschooled children and their social life?
As a homeschooler, you draw up a programme that respects the natural inclinations of your children and explores the subjects that interest them. This type of education above all enables the parents to build a different type of rapport with their children. When we think of children, we would like to think of a playground, where children laugh and play together; not a classroom packed with children who are scared of exams, marks and grades, who only do physical activity once a week, who do not dance or sing or playÖ
There are many ways in which children can meet and socialise with other children. Studies have demonstrated that homeschoolers have a more positive self-image and higher self-esteem than their schooled peers. They are able to form friendships with others of different ages, and are free of the exclusive behavioural tendencies and cliquey relationships that are so common in schools. Homeschooled children meet and socialise with other children in their own neighbourhoods, at sports, theatre, music, dance, gymnastics and art clubs, scout and guide groups, through church and clubs, and support groups for homeschoolers.

 Does homeschooling work for adolescents? Is it possibile to go to university afterwards?
Yes and yes. More and more adolescents are leaving school to study at home, and also the number of adolescents who have studied at home all their lives is growing. These youngsters study their subjects in depth, learning from apprenticeships, work experience and travel. They love the independence that studying at home gives them, and the time they have available to discover what they really enjoy doing. Many private students are enrolled at universities and others are working or doing apprenticeships instead.

John Taylor Gatto, John Holt, Alfie Kohn, A.S.Neill, Ivan Illich, Francesco Codello, Irene Stella

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