Friday marks a milestone in my eldest son's life. It's his last day of school. I've been invited to leavers assembly and I have mixed feelings. Sadness that his education in a fantastic location in the lakes is about to end but excitement that he is about to embark on another different adventure at college.
Although school is at an end with it's teaching to test and prescribed curriculum, learning isn't. My son will continue to live life to the full grasping it by the scruff of the neck. He will still be an Explorer Scout, will continue to play the drums and go to the gym with his friends,but he will also be looking for new opportunities to learn. He has already indicated that he would like to take his theory test during the holidays in preparation for learning to drive. He will also be busy with work experience in a local garage and is going camping in Austria with the Explorers. He has even said he will help his dad decorate- all vital life skills which will stand him in good stead when he leaves home. Whilst this son was only home educated for a year it showed him how to be self motivated and to think outside the box and, even when he returned to school,he was able to recognise the failing of the system, the dumbing down of the curriculum and give himself an all round education outside and inside school.
I wondered what it will be like when my Autistic son is old enough to leave 'school'. I doubt he will want to celebrate with a Prom or go sailing on The Gondola on Coniston Lake like his brother.In fact I think it is likely that he will want his normal KFC sitting in the car park or that, at best, we will throw the boat out and have a meal at Frankie and Benny's! But that's a good thing - we can tailor the celebration to suit him.If he had been at school he would probably have been unable to participate in either of the activities that most children would regard as treats because of the noise and social difficulties..
You see, the end of school isn't the same as the end of learning, not if you've really been educated. School wasn't even preparation for a life that starts at 16 - far from it in fact. School is an experience, an opportunity to learn new things. You may not have wanted to learn all they taught you. In fact you may not have seen the relevance of much of it but it provided opportunities. It was up to you whether you took them or not. The next step is about choices, choosing what you are interested in . Your choices may change as you get older but nothing is wasted. You can take with you what you learned and build on it. Education is lifelong learning- taking something from everything you see and do and it doesn't stop when you are 16 or 18 or even 21.It's exciting and vibrant and has nothing to do with tests or textbooks. So whilst my son may be leaving school he isn't starting out in life.(He's been doing that for the last 16 years) and hopefully the most important lesson he learned was nothing to do with school- namely that you never stop learning and that with the right attitude you can do anything you want to..