by Ombretta Bertoldo – Canavese in the centre

I recently read an interesting article in the “International” which told of how the British actress Tilda Swinton (seen in “The Chronicles of Narnia”, “Avengers”…) had founded a school in the North of Scotland so that her twins could attend a special reality, a school where everyday life is taught. You have chosen a wonderful context from a landscape point of view, a precise educational mold and you have decided to “make it yourself”. It was 2013. Probably, in those years, the experiment was labeled a whim by the rich and famous and the “special school” was attended by just as many rich and eccentric friends.

After about a decade, we realize that many people, even if they don’t come from Hollywood, are trying to build a different environment in which to educate their children. Not only in the Highlands, but also in Italy and in our closest places.

Rummaging on the net, I found that Istat data speak of unchanged percentages over the years of both children attending public and private schools in Italy. On the other hand, the number of students who do not attend any school is growing slightly. They are the so-called homeschoolers or who attend parental or non-equal schools.

Homeschooling is the Anglo-Saxon term that indicates all forms of learning and education outside the public curricular school system or equivalent to it, what in Italy is recognized by law as “parental education”. In fact, according to our Constitution, education, not school, is compulsory and there is a control mechanism to evaluate that education is imparted according to acceptable criteria, the results of which are then measured through annual fitness exams for homeschoolers . It is not easy to find precise statistical data regarding parental education, but there is a clear trend towards an increase in the number of pupils who leave traditional schools to be educated “at home” and the phenomenon has amplified in the three-year period 2019-2021 , it seems to have at least tripled. The leader of Italian homeschooling is Northern Italy, with Lombardy in the lead.

Studying at home does not mean being students left to themselves or being students of wealthy families with tutors in tow.

Nor does it mean that parents must be teachers or, in any case, have a high level of schooling in order for their children to be successful in their studies.

Indeed, some British research shows that the parent’s level of education makes it possible to predict student results only in public school, not in homeschooling. Test scores of homeschooled students remain high whether the parents have college degrees or have not finished high school.

In many cases, there is a degree of delegation on the operational responsibility and learning management by the family towards special structures, the parental schools, which can support the families throughout the process. The panorama is very varied in terms of educational choices, models followed, amount of delegation.

Beyond the differences of each, the common factors are represented by the active participation of the student’s family members, who activate time, resources and energy for education and by the conscious choice to experiment with new study models. An important factor is the desire to learn about history, geography, science and mathematics by making greater use of museums, libraries, knowing the territory, inhabiting nature, its forms and its numbers. As Galileo already stated: “the book of nature is written in mathematical characters”. Often, however, as Maria Montessori quoted more than a century ago: “nature, in truth, scares most people. The air and the sun are feared as mortal enemies. The nocturnal frost is feared like a snake hidden in the vegetation. We fear the rain almost as much as a fire… the child, on the other hand, needs to live naturally and not just to get to know nature”.

In Canavese there are already various interesting parental realities, even very different from each other. Some have been known for some time, others are newborn, but I think they will have great development potential. I’d like to get to know them better and talk about them in future articles, with a view to strengthening the link with the territory and going to find the excellences. I am convinced that, as always, people make the difference: where there are competent, enthusiastic individuals eager to bring new life, projects can overcome mistrust, be successful and outline new lifestyles that are more aware and devoted to well-being.

CANAVESE AT THE CENTER – The territory as a school