There’s a little known fact about home education; it doesn’t have to be on paper to make it valuable.
But the way home educating parents can worry about providing evidence for the Local Authority – or even proof we’ve actually done something – it soon becomes a bit of a mad rush to collate bits of paper with ‘proper’ educational activities on them just to have something tangible to ‘show’ what’s been done.
But having something to show doesn’t prove the learner has learnt. And what’s a ‘proper’ educational activity anyway?
I fought against falling into this trap of thinking that education isn’t happening if it’s not written down, although I didn’t always succeed. I sometimes fell for a nice little record sheet I found on the Internet, suggesting the kids used it and often thereby ruining what had been an exciting learning activity. Sometimes the kids were seduced by the glossy workbooks in W H Smiths but didn’t use them for long. Some kids really like doing these sorts of academic exercises. Mine weren’t any of those!
So we rarely used worksheets/books of any kind – used them more in terms of reference for me to see what other kids were covering, and sometimes for maths when it just became too challenging to continually think up interesting mathematical activities to cover concepts the kids needed to learn. But I firmly believe that becoming educated does not necessarily involve writing about what we’d learnt all the time.
The writing bit is nearly always about recording (not counting creative writing here) – which was more for my benefit than for the learner. The children learnt mostly through their everyday activities, our conversations, through reading and discussion, observation and questioning, programmes on TV and computer. Always having our learning on paper just wasn’t relevant and we didn’t do it much.
The other day my teen was having a clear out. We were going through the old bookcase where we’d shoved all our ‘home school stuff’, now needing to sort and throw some of it away. And suddenly we found ourselves under a paper mountain.
“Did we really do all this?” I exclaimed as I surveyed the damage. It seemed we did.
What a waste, for if I’d known at the time I wouldn’t have worried, like I gather many of you newer home schooling families are worrying, that we ‘weren’t doing anything’.
But, actually, just like us I bet you will be doing plenty. And I bet one day you’ll have to sort it all out as we have – or move to a bigger house!
But please don’t be hoodwinked into thinking that a paper mountain is necessary for learning to be taking place. Some of our most engaged learning days – maybe like visits to museums or practical activities – had no paper involved at all. And sometimes we can be so busy trying to make sure we have these bits of paper as proof, we can totally neglect or trash the really enjoyable learning experience.
And it’s the experience that counts to the child. Not the bit of paper to prove you did it!
(I’m going to write a bit more on collating evidence for your peace of mind – or the LA – next time).