From school to home education…

There are new families removing children from school and beginning to home educate every day. This extract from my first book is especially for you!

It’s here to help you with your home education

 Making the adjustment from school to Home Education.

 Most families require a ‘settling in’ period whilst they adjust to Home Educating. The majority of LAs are sympathetic to this requirement.

This time for ‘settling in’ will vary between families and will depend on how you came to Home Educate. For example, if your child has only just reached school age but is continuing to stay at home full time, you may only need to continue what you already do. If your child has been in school it is more of an adjustment. This is particularly true of children who are unwell or who have had bad experiences associated with their education. They will need special care and time to heal.

Apart from the needs of the children, the whole family will need some adjustment time. It is unrealistic to expect too much too soon, both in terms of education and personal management. It is no small change to switch from a school life to Home Educating. The worry about education, your children’s friends, leaving mainstream, and taking responsibility can be stressful. Most Home Educators experience this. Most adjust. Most go on to successfully Home Educate.

Here are some tips to get you through this adjustment period:

  • Relax! This is the most important one. Education doesn’t have to be stressful.
  • Give yourself time to explore Home Education, find out what others do, and learn what you can.
  • Allow your child time. Work doesn’t have to begin immediately or last from nine till four with concentrated focus. This is not how it realistically works in school.
  • Get in contact with other Home Educators.
  • Some children may need considerable time to get over their school experiences and to become wholly well and wholly themselves.
  • If your child is used to going to school and a scheduled approach, to continue with this approach is often a good starting point. Be aware though, that something that may take a whole period in school in a class of thirty with disruptions, may only take ten minutes to achieve at home. Your child will have much more ‘free’ time that is as valuable as ‘work’ time. Relax about this!
  • Remain flexible. Don’t worry if your first approach is not working. Just change it. Home Education is a process of trial and error, with constant changes.
  • Keep your child’s needs foremost and remind yourself why you’re doing this.
  • Discuss a way of Home Educating together with your child. Talk about what you think they should do. Talk about what they think they should do. And why.
  • Explore some of the educational resource books and workbooks in the major bookshops. Don’t be afraid to let your child choose.
  • Progress gently rather than intently
  • Enjoy yourself! Education is enjoyable. It is as valuable to visit a museum and chat about the exhibits, as it is to study a history book.
  • Pay as much attention to your own personal organisation and well being as to that of your child.
  • Plan time for yourself, when your child is busy with something, as well as planning your child’s time. Ask that your child respects this personal time, as you respect theirs, and does not disturb you. This is a good habit to develop from the outset.
  • Remember; there’s no rush to do it all straight away.

Education is a rich, stimulating, enjoyable experience. Did you know that? Does your child know that from their experiences in school?

We tend to have developed an attitude that activities have to be gruelling to be educational. Or that if it is enjoyable then it can’t be educational. This is not true at all, as many Home Educators discover. But it takes time to adopt a different attitude and to find a different way to make it so. This won’t happen over night so keep it light until you find your way. An afternoon in the park observing and discussing what you see can be as educational as studying species in a textbook.

Some Home Educators may have a laid back approach, that they’ve developed through experience, which you may find too unstructured for you. Others may have a rigid structure that you find too restrictive. Stick to the ways you are comfortable working with for now and remain flexible.

The most important thing is your relationship with your child. So make sure you have fun. Schools can sometimes steal fun not only from education but also from the parent/child relationship and create conflict; e.g. ‘Do your homework or no telly tonight’! To Home Educate successfully there needs to be a different type of negotiation, always from a positive perspective; e.g. ‘Let’s get this written work done now then we can go swimming this afternoon’. Keep your relationship sweet and be prepared to compromise. Allow the child to take the lead sometimes.

Remember: progress never happens overnight.

It is the result of a series of steady and gradual steps made over a period of time.

Dealing with objections from others.

Most people respond to the choice to Home Educate with interest and admiration. However, to many, Home Educating is still a fairly unrecognised and alien way of educating your child. And how do people usually respond to aliens? Shock, horror and fear! People who are fearful can sometimes be quite unpleasant.

Home Educators are exercising a choice that is open to all parents. And quite often they make that choice because they are extremely dissatisfied with schools. Many, many, many parents moan about schools. But most are unprepared to instigate change. When they come into contact with people who do, like Home Educators, it threatens their position and this is what causes some people to be both objectionable and unpleasant.

Sadly, some parents experience this from other family members which can make their decision to Home Educate really difficult. This is where becoming involved with the Home Educating community and learning from other Home Educating families can help enormously. It will help you keep faith with what you’re doing and strengthen your position. It will give you support.

Most objections are made out of ignorance. This is why it is important that you have your ideas clearly thought out. This will enable you to answer people who may object to your decision to Home Educate.

The usual objections are things like:

–          Kids have to go to school in order to learn anything,

–          Kids have to go to school to mix,

–          You’re depriving your child of a normal life,

–          Kids need to get used to the hurly-burly of school in order to survive in real life,

–          Kids need teachers to get an education,

–          Kids need school discipline,

–          Your kid will end up as a freak.

–          They won’ get any qualifications.

None of these objections are accurate or based in truth. Hopefully you will learn why throughout the rest of the book. You will see why from the examples of other Home Educators. Understanding why will help you answer any questions you may have to deal with about your decision to Home Educate and cope with any opposition you may experience about that decision.

Meanwhile it may help you if you also understand that Home Education challenges much of what people always thought was true about children’s learning. It challenges a huge, traditional institution. It makes parents look more closely at the education of their own children. So it is no small thing that you do when you Home Educate. It’s a brave step that can make others feel threatened. But if no one ever made any brave steps there would be no progress. Thousands of families have already taken that brave step, made the decision to Home Educate and do so successfully.

There’s no reason why you can’t if you’re committed to your child’s education, prepared to do the research and put the time in, so have confidence in your convictions about the education of your child – trust your intuition.

You will no doubt be making the decision to Home Educate your child because you care for their education and well being above everything else – never forget that.

Or that school is not the answer to every child’s needs. Home Education is not necessarily the answer to every child’s needs either. So each one of us needs to remain flexible and accepting, rather than confrontational, towards other people’s choices whatever they are. Each one of us has the right to make individual choices.

From a Home Educator.

Once, one of my friends at drama club asked me, “aren’t you intelligent enough to go to school, then?” when she found out I was Home Educated. I said, “It depends on your definition of intelligence”. “Cor” she said, “you are intelligent!”

Sixteen-year-old student, Home Educated for eight years, now at college.

Finally:

You are likely to be the one that knows your child best.

That’s what you need to have confidence in over and above everything else.

 

Having confidence in your knowledge of your child.

As parents we do know a lot about our children. Although many of us fail to give ourselves credit for that.

Many of us spend the first five years of our children’s lives exclusively with them. After they start school we still spend about fifty percent of their waking hours in charge of them. In doing so we learn a lot about them. We learn to understand them. And we are in a better position than anyone else to recognise what their needs are.

Teachers have learnt how to teach. They’ve learnt some child psychology. They’ve learnt about institutionalised education.

They have not learnt about your individual child.

A personal story.

There is no doubt in my mind that most parents know their child best. I doubted it at first, when I was a young arrogant teacher who thought she knew everything. But it didn’t take me long to realise that there was far more to children’s learning than just teaching classes of them. When you are teaching classes of them you can conveniently lose individuals. When you are answering the external demands that all teachers have put upon them you cannot possibly fulfil each specific need, even if you had time to recognise them. It wasn’t until I was a parent that I realised that no teacher can hope to understand each child’s specific need like a parent does.

Parents know best.

Unfortunately there are many professionals that don’t acknowledge this. After all, we all like to think that we are the best at our own subject. And many parents have been made to feel that their expertise with their own child counts for nothing. Many of us tend to think; ‘what do I know? I’m only a parent’.

Parents know lots. Parents who are interested in their children, who have been involved with their children, who have given their time to raising their children, have a far better insight into those children’s needs than anyone. Even educational professionals.

Educational professionals, parenting gurus, child psychologists all know their field. They know more about their subject than others. This doesn’t mean they automatically know what’s best for your child. Neither do family, friends, other parents, or other professionals. Parents know best. Have confidence in what you see to be happening. Don’t underestimate your judgement.

Most particularly, don’t underestimate:

  • The understanding you have developed through time with your child.
  • What your experience of living with them has told you.
  • What you’ve observed.
  • What your child is telling you.
  • Your intuition about your child’s needs.
  • Your skill and insight into your child’s needs as a parent.
  • Your gut feeling.

Obviously other people and other professionals have good advice. They will know about things you don’t. Their opinions are valid.

So are yours.

Talk to others. Listen to their advice. Get a broader overview. Then, put that advice within the context of what you know about your child.

Education is not an exact science. And every child is an individual with individual needs. Have confidence in what you know about your child’s needs and what you think is right for their education. You do not have to make your child fit into what may be appropriate for other children and their education. The best way to fulfil your child’s needs is to make an education to fit them – not the other way round.

You’re the parent.

You have an understanding that no one else can possibly have.

Trust your judgement.

 You can find out more on how children learn, friends, social interaction and learning social skills, timetables, curriculum, tests and exams, and everything else you worry about when home educating in my guide to Home Education ‘Learning Without School’. Check out the My Books page for contents list.

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