Homeschooling in Italy
Scuola familiare in Italia
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
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
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 "
one 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." 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...
Government 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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
homeschooling work for adolescents? Is it possibile to go to university
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
John Taylor Gatto, John Holt, Alfie Kohn, A.S.Neill, Ivan Illich,
Francesco Codello, Irene Stella
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