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Scotland – A Small Country with a Surprising Impact

  • Terri Johnson The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
  • 2008 18 Jun
Scotland – A Small Country with a Surprising Impact


What do the Loch Ness monster, a six-day-old infant queen named Mary, and the inventor of the television have in common? They all hail from the enchanting land of Scotland! Known for its breathtaking beauty, perhaps best left for artists and poets to describe, this small, almost hidden country on England’s northern border is a place we ought to explore. Let us take a few moments to envision living, and even home educating, in the land of the Scots.

Scotland is about half the size of England, or just over 30,000 square miles in size. Its coastland is so jagged that its total length is estimated at nearly 6,200 miles. Besides the mainland, there are about 790 islands belonging to Scotland, of which only 130 are inhabited. The best known are the Orkney and Shetland Isles, as well as the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

Roughly two-thirds of the country consists of mountains and moorland, but only 10% of its population dwells in these highland areas situated to the north. Most of the population lives further south, in and around the cities of Glasgow, Dundee, and Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital.

The natural beauty of Scotland’s landscape is said to be spectacular. And yet how can the pen paint an accurate picture of its gentle coastal pastures, quaint fishing villages, rolling farmland, mighty mountain peaks, tranquil trossachs, sparkling blue lochs, and islands jutting up from the sea? The place sounds almost magical, but Scotland is, of course, more than just a beautiful country. It has a rich and varied history and has made its mark strongly upon the rest of the world.

Winston Churchill once said, “Of all the small nations on earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.” This writer believes that his words could not be truer. Although a land of only 5 million inhabitants (while 40 million people around the globe claim Scottish descent), its people have unmistakably changed the world by spreading abroad their values of higher education, invention, and technology. (See below for a list of Scottish contributions to society.)

Scotland’s history dates back 5,000 years to when Neolithic peoples built astronomical observatories or temples in the Orkney isles. Its long and colorful history boasts such well known figures as King Macbeth, William Wallace (more popularly known as Braveheart), Mary Queen of Scots, King James I (for whom Jamestown, Virginia, was named), Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and let us not forget Nessie, the mysterious monster-like creature whom many witnesses adamantly claim to have seen gliding though the waters of Loch Ness. Perhaps Dolly, the cloned sheep, is its most famous personality of recent years, but this “contribution” to society is a controversial and heated topic at best and may be worth some further investigation on your own.

Perhaps a less known fact of Scottish history is that Scotland was the very first country to introduce compulsory education back in the year 1496. This early resolution must certainly account for the fact that Scotland is known throughout the world for its superior universities and highly educated citizens, resulting in the many innovations that Scots have provided to our society at large. Education continues to be highly valued in Scotland, and its people take it very seriously. And although education is compulsory, school is not. Home education is indeed legal in Scotland.

The Education Act of 1980 (Section 30) states, It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of school age to provide sufficient education for him suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by causing him to attend public school regularly or by other means.

Thousands of parents all over the UK, and specifically Scotland, are choosing to take full responsibility for their children’s education and are schooling them “by other means” at home. Approximately 1% of all school-aged children are learning from home under the guidance of their parents. Parents do not need to have any teacher training and may even receive support from the authorities, who are not obligated to, but may provide access to learning resource centers, discounted rates for educational materials, sports facilities, and/or other public school resources. Home educators, however, are not entitled to any financial support from the government.

Parents whose children have previously attended public school must seek consent from the authorities before withdrawing them from the classroom. This is not a prerequisite if the child has never attended public school. Moreover, home educated children are not required to take exams, although may choose to. In fact, the local education authorities are willing to arrange exams for home educated students.

James Haram, member and volunteer for Home Service, a national homeschool association in Scotland, reports that homeschooling in Scotland is still largely a secular movement but is gaining some popularity among Christians as well. Home Service, an organization founded in 1992 by a group of Christian home educators, exists to provide help and advice for those who are treading the same road of Christian home education or thinking of doing so. Since that year, the number of families educating their children at home in the UK has grown considerably, including many Christians who want their children to be brought up in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Many others are considering such a move but are uncertain as to its legality and practicality, and that is where Home Service comes in. This organization provides information on legal issues and other information that would be of interest to home educators.

Predictions are that homeschooling will continue to gain momentum in Scotland as it has in the rest of the UK. Our Scottish homeschooling brothers and sisters do have freedom to choose their means of education; nevertheless, they do not have a vast amount of support or companionship at this point in time. Keep them in your thoughts as you do your schoolwork today and during the days to come.

You now have a small taste of living and schooling in Scotland. Want to learn more? For a fun unit study on life and learning in the land of the Scots, including lots of fun hands-on activities, visit our website at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com and click on “How to Homeschool,” then “Study Hall Unit Studies,” and then “Geography.”

A Few of the Things the Scots Have Given the World

The decimal point
The compass
Street lighting
The pedal bicycle
The locomotive
The bus
The telegraph
The thermos flask
The telephone
Color photographs
The lawnmower
The fax machine
The photocopier
The kaleidoscope
The hypodermic syringe
The thermometer
Tennis courts
The bowling green
The fountain pen
Encyclopedia Britannica
Documentary films
The traffic cone
Sherlock Holmes

Terri Johnson is the creator of Knowledge Quest maps and timelines.  Her mission for the company is to help make the teaching and learning of history and geography enjoyable for both teacher and students.  Her Blackline Maps of World History have been widely recommended in the homeschooling community and beyond.  Terri is married to Todd, and they have five children.

Copyright 2007. Originally appeared in Spring 2007. Used with permission. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Right now, 19 free gifts when you subscribe. www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com

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