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Home Schooling and Permaculture

by Jackie Crosby

Permaculture is about design, observing nature and working with it. When we built our home we faced it north (southern hemisphere), learnt about various building mediums and settled on recycled double brick for the heat transfer. We looked at our energy flows and have the vegetables growing near the kitchen and where the children play as that’s where I travel most frequently. The chook shed, well that’s adjoining the orchard so the chooks can forage through out the day and clean up insect pests.

So when it came to school and our children we observed them also and considered what natural behaviour is for them. Children are naturally curious, learn through play and do not want to be separated from their families at a young age. Placing them into a school situation is far from natural. Children learn about maths because maths is a part of our world. They learn about reading and writing because they get to the stage where they see a point in it and want to be about to decode it. They learn about their world because they have time to explore it, have their parents at hand to answer questions, help them find out and guide their progress.

We also considered the saying “Children learn what they live.” Unit studies where a topic is focused on for a few weeks then moved on from whether on health, the environment, gardening and recycing introduces but does not instill those values.

We go shopping together. My girls know we go to the local greengrocer as they stock largely local and organic produce. They know our local cheese maker by name and understand that if you’re choosing to eat meat you need to find suppliers who have free range/organic for our health and to ensure respect for the lives of the animals. Food is real, it is for sharing and enjoying together. It is also about making ethical choices for the nature and our health and it is learning how to grow and provide it for ourselves. For us these values are not instilled to this level in schools.

Children are naturally a part of a community. When homeschooled they are out in their community. They are comfortable mixing with all ages within the community and understand all the jobs that make it up as they are seeing them in action. The main question posed to homeschoolers is “What about socialisation?” when we really should be asking that of those whose children are institutionalised 5 days a week in a 7square metre room with only people their own age. Perhaps we have free range children.

Schools through the nature of the beast have evolved to include a lot of time wasting and busy work, mixed with a little learning. When learning one on one at home it isn’t busy work, too easy or too hard, it is at just the right level at just the right time for the child. We combine natural learning and formalised bookwork at our place and find the bookwork doesn’t take 5 days of 5 hours each to accomplish as is required in schools. This opens up the day for plenty of play. Imaginative play, creative play, quiet play, social play and physical play.

Children are naturally curious. Permaculture is about designing with nature. Homeschooling allows for children to learn naturally.

Further Reading:


  1. Education is perhaps what Schumacher would call a “divergent problem”: a problem where it’s just impossible to come up with a great solution which then is adopted by everybody and soon outcompetes all other ideas.

    There are many problems with state-run education programs, such as that they almost by definition teach people to become citizens that are easy to rule. Another problem, which Illich spotted very well, is that education – like etiquette – often is about establishing barriers and closing doors, and about giving graduates an illusion of deserving a bigger slice of the resource share than everybody else (no matter whether the effort they invested really amounts to something or not). And so on – there is a long long list of problems. In my eyes, one of the biggest actually is that most teachers are not aware of these deeper issues. (One cynically might add: by design, as this makes them more effective perpetrators.)

    If this is “state schooling gone wrong”, let us then next also take a look at “homeschooling gone wrong”.

    Some might have come across Andy Schlafli – famous US proponent of homeschooling and founder of the “conservapedia”. Now, let us take a look at one specific science related conservapedia article:

    “Counterexamples to [the theory of special] Relativity”:

    According to the article’s history, this was started by Schlafly himself, about a year ago, and from then on only has expanded, retaining the general style. Let’s see what objections there were in his original list – I’ll just select a few, they are all still in the recent list as well (Schlafly is still actively updating the list):

    – The discontinuity as velocity approaches “c” for infinitesimal mass

    – The action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46-54

    – The failure to discover gravitons, despite wasting hundreds of millions in taxpayer money in searching

    – The inability of the theory to produce anything of value, contrary to every other theory of physics

    – The change in mass over time of standard kilograms preserved under ideal conditions

    This more recent expansion of one of the points above also is noteworthy:

    – The lack of useful devices developed based on any insights provided by the theory; no lives have been saved or helped, and the theory has not led to other useful theories and may have interfered with scientific progress.[12] This stands in stark contrast with every verified theory of science.

    Yeah, nothing useful. How about Positron emission tomography, GPS receivers, and the new meter standard then? But even if it were like that: in what sense would that be a counterexample?

    The problem with homeschooling is that it very easily goes very wrong and one ends up in a situation where children do not ultimately believe fewer, but way more bizarre ideas.

  2. Thank you for writing this article, Ms. Crosby!

    I know exactly what you are talking about . . . I am a student at a public school myself (Grade 12, Toronto Catholic District Schoolboard) and boy, do I never EVER want to go back. Thank God I am graduating this year. When I have my own kids, I would never want them to go through the same mindless crap I had to wallow through.

    Here’s one example that illustrates the twisted priorities of the current education system:
    In my school they hire teachers . . . not to teach, but to monitor student’s compliance with school uniform policy. They check to make sure that the kids have the CORRECT BRAND. (aka. why are they allowing only ONE company to have a monopoly on all school uniforms?) We are forced to buy grey pants that cost $50 from that specific brand the school board specifies when you can get a decent pair for $25 at a department store. Honestly, public school is all just one big economic/business scheme.

    If the education board was truly, sincerely concerned about what students actually learn in school, they wouldn’t spend taxpayers money on teachers that monitor uniform conformity. Uniform has no connection with real education.

    In my province of Ontario in Canada, the provincial government is introducing MANDATORY FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN FOR KIDS AGES 4-5. Even I know that at that age it is crucial for a child to bond with their parents as much as possible. But no, the government’s reasoning is that if you if you make it MANDATORY for them to learn for a whole day (AWAY FROM THEIR FAMILY), then they will benefit the ECONOMY in the long term. On the news they actually stated that they consulted “experts” to determine that more so-called schooling at an early will benefit the economy in the future. What’s wrong with that?

    CHILDREN SHOULD NEVER BE VIEWED AS MERE TOOLS OF THE ECONOMY! Learning math and reading is important, but life is short, and in the end, family is more important . . . especially for a 4-5 year old.

    This illustrates the problem with public education in general. The human element of it all (child-like discovery, awe for the wonders of the world) is subtly replaced by the haze of numbers (aka. grades), conformity, money, and the overarching notion of the benefit of mere disposable human resources to the economy.

  3. There is no perfect education system. Home schooling may – just may – address some of the problems with institutionalised systems but it introduces a whole range of other problems. The biggest argument for traditional schooling is not socialisation, rather it is exposure to a wide range of ideas and thinking about the world. Children who attend school, meet other children and teachers with different world views, different beliefs and different values. This provides, over time, a broad frame of reference against which children can evaluate what they are being taught and make up their own minds. The sad truth about home schooling is that it is often motivated by a desire to limit children’s exposure to values and beliefs that are different from their parent’s. Ultimately, this is not in the best interests of any child.

  4. Actually, at Findhorn Ecovillage in Scotland they have established what I think is the beginning of a perfect educational system, TRIBE SCHOOL: (partly in English).

    Here we are on the trace of a two star cultural pattern, a pattern in harmony with the genetically patterns of our children. Home schooling contains too much of social atomism, while the public school contains too much of a modernistic segregation ideal away from nature, agriculture, work, family and generations. A tribe school is the perfect mix of all this!

  5. Thanks for all the comments on my article.

    One thing I have learnt as a parent is that everyone has their own ideas on bringing up their children and we all strive to do the best for them. We all want our children to grow up to be happy, healthy and well rounded individuals. Every family, situation and child is unique and as such we all make various educational choices. For our family homeschooling works and works wonderfully.

    I write a homeschool blog called Home School Learning here in Australia. It has a primary, early childhood and permauculture focus.

    Permaculture is about taking responsibility for our actions and working with nature. Taking control our education is part of this process.

  6. i agree with cate that homeschooling has its own shortcomings and can not be a solution on a wide range. i think permaculturists who live in one region should consider starting a community schooling initiatives where children receive the official corriculum side by side with permaculture training. by this we make sure that our children are no less informed than their peers, but actually can make more use of the knowledge they have, and also this will ensure smooth transition of permaculture knowledge to the next generation …

  7. In response to Cate and nadia, I respect your polite views but such thinking is sadly flawed…the world largely offers values and beliefs that are contradictory and destructive to not just caring parents, but to the foundation of a healthy society-not the other way around. Unfortunately, public school is necesary for children whose families cannot provide support, but the majority of homeschooling parents are contributing to the best thing that could happen to any society: putting top priority on strong, healthy families.

  8. Anna,

    “the world largely offers values and beliefs that are contradictory and destructive to not just caring parents, but to the foundation of a healthy society” – yes, you have a point here. Still, consider what would happen if homeschooling were widely implemented as an antidote.

    Quite likely, you know lots of people who hold views you don’t agree with at all. How would you feel about them indoctrinating their children?

    Of course, there also is highly questionable indoctrination in schools run by the state – in particular via secondary channels, i.e. not lesson content. Some very interesting points were raised by John Taylor Gatto – see:; but apart from that, there’s things such as group pressure about how to dress, what to watch on TV, etc. etc. But here, problems can be addressed via active participation of parents in the education process. What could you do about your homeschooling whacky neighbours?

    To me, “getting education right” seems to require two elements: (1) groups of learners, and (2) some forms of quality control. I don’t think it ever could work if one of these elements is absent – but there might be some other required elements in addition to these two.

    Incidentally, concerning “quality control”, I must say I have serious doubts about the British secondary and higher education system in particular.

  9. Thomas,

    I agree-I don’t believe at all in homeschooling being “widely implemented as an antidote”. In fact, that’s my point, it’s the “anti-antidote”. I live in the U.S. (in California) where a lot of people have similar views to the women who formerly commented and it is very destructive to a free society where parents have the freedom (thank goodness!) to raise and educate their children the way they think is best..whether that be homeschool, public school, private, etc.

    But, supporting and encouraging families and homeschooling (esp. homeschool combined with permaculture!) can only help nurture a healthy society.

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