Quentin and Agathe, brother and sister aged 29 and 35 from Canaveilles, in the Pyrenees-Orientales, hardly ever went to school. Only one year, part-time, in the middle section. “Our mother was a teacher and always gave us the choice”they explain.
The two children had five hours of lessons a week in elementary school, twenty in college for Quentin, specially designed by their mother. He gets his license and his diploma as a free candidate, an exam passed “out of respect for my mother” he said. As for Agathe, she has a CAP in stained glass and a double degree in plastic arts and art history, both remotely. Today, Quentin is a landscape pruner and Agathe a stained glass artist and show designer. She also works at children’s events and aims to become a yoga teacher.
Clément* is an arborist at the nursery in an ecovillage south of Toulouse, which he joined in 2012. He didn’t even go to school, his mother taught him until the end of his life. second class, where he wanted “To face the people of [ma] generation, in the real system”. Passionate about science, he got an average of 20 in mathematics and 19.5 in physics and chemistry. He tries to follow a scientific first with the National Center of Distance Education (Cned), but he doesn’t succeed and gets into classical music.
Fulfillment and trust
In France, the figures vary, but they would be between 50,000 and 60,000 pupils to follow instructions at home. People like Clément, Agathe and Quentin who have spent most of their schooling at home are “minorities”. “Usually homeschooling only lasts a year or two”specifies the lecturer of educational sciences Philippe Bongrand.
This practice, which dates back to the Ferry Act of 1882 and is included in the education code, is threatened more than ever by the executive. The draft law on religious separatism and secularism, presented this Wednesday, December 9, to the Council of Ministers, includes a section that provides for schooling to become compulsory from the age of 3, except for children with health problems. With this law, the government aims to “Save from the clutches of Islamists” over 2,500 children disappear from school radars, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin declared.
Homeschooling isn’t always about religious choice. For Quentin, it was impossible to imagine eight hours in a classroom, not counting transportation. “We are in a remote village. The nearest school was 7 kilometers away, and the college was in Prades, 30 kilometers away. In the mountains, it takes an hour to get there.” Unthinkable for the child of the time who defines himself as a little hyperactive.
“I’ve always had to climb trees, create, run… If at school we did lessons by walking, I could have gone there, he mocks. I needed to feel free, to have no schedule. Sometimes I would stare at the scenery for hours. I had the immense privilege of having time to think.”gloats Quentin.
The time made available through homeschooling is a key argument used by these three adults. “I learned to know myself, gain self-confidence and think about what I wanted to become. Agatha explains. I was walking, doing puzzles, drawing, dreaming… I was passionate about insects, I got a lot of them and observed them.”
For some, fulfillment is achieved through outings in nature. | Annie Spratt via Unsplash
Izïa, 22, grew up in what today would be called an ecovillage. “I was in charge of the chicken coop, I worked in the garden, I built sheds… I grew up in nature a lot.” She was home schooled until the age of 15. “Surrounded by many people”then decided to go to school in the third grade. “I joined the college in Marseille because I wanted to try a different way of learning. It was an important moment for me, I was wearing my best jersey!”she jokes, who just got her license in psychology and is starting her master’s specializing in childhood development.
During this schooling, Izïa takes pleasure in being involved. “I was in a lot of sororities in college and high school. I loved him.” This thirst for commitment continues today as Izïa is one of the youngest elected municipal officials in France. It belongs to the diverse left majority in Lodève, in Herault.
“Homeschooling is also a desire to live a little differently, breaking with the rhythm of the subway, work, sleep.” specifies for her part Ghislaine Compagnon, PhD student in educational sciences at the Lirtes laboratory at the University of Créteil (Upec). And to remember it “Home education is highly regulated as it is defined by law. Every year a check is made by the academic inspectorate. This ensures that the child’s progress is assessed and performs a skill check on parents.
Clément and Agathe realize, half-heartedly, that growing up without being surrounded by children their own age is perhaps the only downside. “I didn’t experience my teenage years with a group of friends my age. It was not possible to have any, they were all at school.Clement explains.
In her village of twenty-eight inhabitants, Agathe only had her brother to play with, but specifies “Not Really Missing”. She had contacts with children of her age during her ten years of theater, circus workshops and college where she completed her fourth and third years. “The other students had big prejudices about me. They were into fashion and music which I didn’t like.
Clément experienced the same difficulties when he went to practice for judo or basketball. “They came to blow off steam after school. Me, I had spent the whole day, so I got serious.
It is with the elderly that Clément, Izïa, Agathe and Quentin mainly associate. From 10 to 13 years old, Clément juggles and takes part in street performances, sometimes abroad. “I was around people aged 20 to 40.”
After these three years, he had forgotten some letters of the alphabet and could no longer write in conjunction. “At the time, I was really homeschooled. I didn’t want to be embarrassed when I had to write my name.”
Homeschooling has allowed some to adapt to all situations. | Jessica Lewis via Unsplash
“We have become very agile”
Looking back, growing up in this environment was an advantage according to these adults. “At the faculty, I started the conversation with the teachers normally, it surprised the students. Today I am a real chameleon, wherever I go I fit in»welcome Agathe.
In the professional world, Quentin claims that he has never had difficulty integrating into a company. “I showed what I was able to do in practice and they never asked me for a degree. I ended up in charge of a tree climbing park. He then went to work in Germany, “Where I learned to work safely, because before I used to climb trees without a rope. This is the advantage of homeschooling in my opinion: I have manual knowledge and I’m very curious to learn things I don’t know.”
“We have become very agile”, comments Agathe for her part. Clément works independently and makes a living selling fruit trees to the residents of the eco-village where he lives and in a radius of several tens of kilometers. “I do what excites me and I don’t need a degree for that.”
Like Quentin, Agathe, Clément and Izïa, Philippe Bongrand specifies that it would be “Failure to create a long-term social reality about these homeschooled adults.” So far, research has focused mainly on parents’ motivations. Not yet marked all social profiles that use homeschooling.
*Name has been changed