Having it on paper doesn’t guarantee learning, but…

It was a big dilemma when we were home educating. We knew our kids were learning. The kids were totally happy with their learning. And we knew they were progressing. But there was not an awful lot of paper proof.

Since most of our learning was experiential it took place without the children even knowing it through our everyday activities. We had discussions about everything, we observed and analysed and experimented, we had huge amounts of interaction with others and tons of outings and visits and field trips. We used websites.

But sometimes I thought it would be nice just to have some tangible proof of all these wonderful things our kids did; not only because there would be the Local Authority to satisfy, but just to give me a bit of reassurance (not to mention the doubters).

If you take a structured approach to your home learning it is fairly easy to demonstrate what you’ve been up to. If you take a more autonomous approach where your learning is incidental, or are like the majority of HEors and use a variety of approaches, there is not so much ready-made evidence. And, like for me at times, it becomes easy to panic and lose confidence in the fact you’ve achieved anything.

 I found several ways to help deal with this;

My last post showed how much paper you can accumulate for the sake of an education. Having it on paper doesn’t guarantee anything worthwhile has gone on but having some notebooks where the children can scribble all their bits and pieces is quite useful. Workbooks tell their own story (if you’ve used them of course) but otherwise an ‘Everyday’ book, where your child can do random things, stick bits in you’ve worked on, practise writing, whatever, is useful because it keeps everything in one place – and it builds up.

Your confidence and satisfaction in your achievements comes simply with remembering how much you’ve done, but that’s not easy as a busy HE parent, there’s so much to keep tabs on. I found little jottings of my own throughout the week about what we’d been up to really helped. It was a quick way to keep tabs on all the wonderful things we’d been doing for which there is no paper evidence, like a workshop with others, or a walk round a nature reserve, a conversation about nutrition when we were at the supermarket and especially activities on the computer – like the BBC Learning website – for which there is nothing to show but lots of learning going on. I couldn’t note it all, all of the time, but something on a list each day made me realise just how much we covered. It was also a very useful point of reference for conversations with the LA when needed, because then asking what we’d been up to nearly always made me go completely blank.

Photos – these were quick and easy way to record busy children and jog my memory. I’d often snap them mid activity. I also photographed the art/model work they did. These could be so big and cumbersome and the collection so increased that we couldn’t possibly keep it all. We kept a photographic record instead and now they have a lovely album of the things they made which they like to look back on. I’m sorry I didn’t do more really.

I also encouraged them to keep scrapbooks of our visits and outings where they could stick in their leaflets or pictures and other bits and pieces from a day out (we have feathers, paper bags, sweet wrappers and other nameless souvenirs in ours!). Sometimes they even wrote a bit or drew pictures. They had pop ups and fold outs in them too. It’s amazing how the volumes built up. And despite the throwing out session we recently had, these scrapbooks are something that they and I all treasure – happy memories, definitely not just for the LA!

Diaries – they work for some people – not for others. But they are a good way of recording if the kids like doing them. Perhaps the best thing about the diary concept now is that it can be an e-dairy or blog, image full, and maybe – dare I suggest – not even involve much writing. This overlooks the fact that you might want to keep diaries as an exercise in getting them practising language/writing skills though! A book diary/list is another option, of the things they read.

A big box file or folder is useful to have handy for all the random bits of paper, pictures included, that kids produce. Don’t throw anything away. Any scrappy bit of paper can be ‘filed’ in here to help remember what you’ve done. During our clear out we discovered a range of bits from chalk pictures, printouts off the internet, to leaflets from visits and scraps with mathematical calculations on them.

So, despite the fact that I don’t believe an education has to be on paper, there does seem to be an enormous amount of stuff gets collated over time and finding a way of noting your activities helps you to see just how much your kids are doing and what an exceptional education they’ll be receiving.

If you have a strategy do please leave a comment and tell others about it.

(You can find valuable advice on Home Education law and the role of Local Councils and what they may require from you on the Ed Yourself website here).

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