What do you need to start home schooling?

   I was thinking hard about this after someone asked me the other day. He was obviously thinking along the lines of having to go out and buy masses of books and materials. But you don’t really.

You see, much of what you already have round the house can be valuable educational material when home educating young children, although we perhaps don’t see it like that.

Let’s look at Reading and Language. The best way to prepare your child to read is to read to them. To instil in them a pleasure in books, fiction and non-fiction. To enjoy books together. If you don’t have many, libraries are free! Talking about the books, making up stories, playing at ‘phone calls’, reading anything around the house, supermarket, waiting rooms, all develops the skills children need in order to be able to read and use language. This approach is far more effective than forcing laborious reading exercises on them. When they enjoy books they’re going to want to read them.

It’s the same with maths. Mathematical opportunities are all round the house. You can count and sort with all kinds of items from pasta to Lego to socks. (Pairing is a great introduction to times tables!) You can weigh and measure everything. You can keep all your change and get them counting, grouping, adding up, taking away, dividing…it’s endless. You can get them playing with water, using measuring jugs, bottles, looking at quantities on food and drinks packets. It’s fun making coloured bar graphs to record findings. If you use your imagination and integrate maths with everyday life it becomes real and second nature.

And as for science; well, science is there in our lives all the time if we just notice it. If you look in a Key Stage One Science workbook it talks about lots of scientific concepts which you can explore just by living your life; e.g. properties of materials (water’s runny and changes shape, wood is hard, etc); changing states, (freezing, cooking – what happens to an egg? Melting, etc); it talks about nature (so many things to spot and identify just going out for a walk or in the park). Your own bodies are a good starting point, especially the bits inside! By being observant of the world around, by asking why, what or how, you begin to involve the child in the scientific world that is part of our everyday existence. Playing around with stuff teaches children far more, increases their understanding and skills far more, than any workbook.

Then there’s creativity. People tend to think creative activities are not educational. But in fact, they develop many skills valuable for learning. Important hand eye co-ordination needed for writing for example, thinking and problem solving skills needed for maths, construction and manipulative skills, selection and properties of materials, all relevant to science. The more creative activities your child does the more stimulated they are. The more stimulated they are the more their brains are working. And don’t forget exercise; that stimulates brain too!

The beauty of this broad learning approach is that everything is linked to real life therefore making it relevant to the child, rather than being some disassociated subject they don’t understand. Schools are stuck with a rigid curriculum delivered in a rigid and divisive way which neglects to keep kids engaged. With home educating it can be as broad and enjoyable an approach as you like. Conversation can be the most effective teaching tool of all.

So what do you need to start home educating? More than any expensive materials you need a positive and encouraging attitude, a good relationship with your children, and a mind open and willing to see education for what it is; a pleasurable, inspiring and life enhancing, everyday experience.

(More info in my book Learning Without School)

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8 thoughts on “What do you need to start home schooling?

  1. My 2 year old nephew loves having books read to him before he goes to bed and I have often found myself seeing it as a tedious activity but perhaps that is a more reflection of myself (am 31) as I seldom allocate time to read books myself despite constantly buying books from car boot sales and Amazon. I remember reading Tolkiens Lord of The Rings when I was 13, but nowadays I find it difficult to sit down and properly read a book due to computers and the internet.

    I work with children in both a creche environment and older children aged 5 years and upwards as well as my colleagues who are in their late teens/early twenties. The young adults are almost completely transfixed to their blackberry phones or i-phones which I find odd and disturbing. Are tomorrows children destined to become semi-organic robots? It might sound outrageous but the way things are going it seems possible.

    I am doubtful my sister will take the homeschooling route. All I hope for is that I learn from home educators such as yourself and the hidden history of education such characters as John Taylor Gatto expose in order that I might at least counteract the inevitable social engineered programming that school will impose on his mind. It amazes me how so many parents have complete faith in their governments to educate their child to be a good citizen. The Early Years Foundation Stage instills this expectation that children are supposed to reach these plateaus of learning certain skills at a specific age which is completely irrelevant as I believe children develop in different ways. It probably puts pressure and anxiety (at such a young age?!) on the ‘underachieving’ child with their teachers and parents expecting them to progress at the same pace as their class at school. And possibly, the achieving child begins to see themselves as above other children in their class, thus increasing the idea of ‘class’ in the child throughout their school years.

    I’m glad I came across your website via my searching homeschooling in Amazon and I plan to purchase your book. Thank you.

    • Many thanks for your comment Stephen. I think you’re right, children are conditioned to fit a place all through school and many talents go wasted as kids are forced to fit a system. Keep reading to your nephew though won’t you. Reading to them is the foundation of the skill of reading for themselves later in life! It’s so invaluable.

  2. We are so use to thinking that we need to be ‘told’ what to do in order to educate our children, that we forget that as parents, we are our child’s first teacher.

    There is no reason not to continue to share with our children all our skills, experiences and knowledge. We understand and know our children better than anyone else, surely this must be the best advantage any teacher can possibly have?

  3. ‘Guilty’ of the same things that Big Mamma Frog mentioned in her comment — how weird is that? Or is it something most new home-edders do?

    Looking at all the stuff/books I bought & all the plans I made over the years — not many used/came to fruition — I started to think of wasted opportunities … but I guess they weren’t wasted, the boys just came up with and made new opportunities that were important to them … they still do.

    We’re at the stage where we’re about to find out just how well home-ed has worked for us — oldest (16) is due to start college in 2 weeks; an agricultural college, as he wants to work with animals and at his interview on Friday, he was offered an unconditional place, having taken absolutely NO exams at all!!! Exciting yet scary …

  4. I’ll never forget the day when, early on in my home ed journey, I bought plastic coins for my kids to practice ‘using money’. A week later it suddenly dawned on me how ridiculous this was: every week they went shopping with me, they handled money most days, they had their own moneyboxes and would often count piles of coins.

    Now when I look at educational catalogues I remember that many of these items are simply attempts at replicating the objects and activities of day-to-day life and that if you home educate there is little need for these replicas.

    I still have a shelf-full of untouched workbooks and textbooks that I enthusiastically bought in the early days…lesson learnt I think!

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