It’s always fascinating to read how other home educators do it! And this one is particularly close to my heart because he’s the illustrator of my new picture book for children; ‘Who’s Not In School?’.
James Robinson’s delightful pictures have received much praise and I couldn’t have been happier with the way in which he interpreted my story. What is particularly incredible is that he achieved this work at eighteen years of age, yet maintains the standard and dedication of a much older professional.
So I asked him about his experience as a home learner and his art work. This is what he told me:
How long have you been Home Educated and how did it come about?
I have always been Home Educated. I am the fourth in our family and my older brother and sister came out of school when I was ever so young, the rest of us never went to school.
What kind of things did you do whilst HEing and with whom?
We live in the country, so most of our days were spent working round the kitchen table in the morning and playing outside all the rest of the time, and meeting up with other families a couple of times a week.
We spent a lot of time on History, Literature, making things and of course drawing.
I seem to remember my parents read aloud to us a lot in the evenings whilst we all drew.
What are your personal feelings about it – or school?
I have never been to school, but live on the site of one, my Father being a teacher,
I consider it a beautiful place and I think most of the students are happy, so I don’t object to schools, but I think I would have done awfully badly at one. I am a dyslexic and reading and writing seem arduous and never ending, I like to spend time when planning my work. I suppose I am a perfectionist…never reaching perfection. I think that at school you are always rushing.
I do rather love the freedom one gets from being at home.
Tell me about the social side of your HE days?
I do not feel a lack of friends, I am somewhat of a recluse (artists often are) but I do go and see people and places.
When I was little and all of us were at home there was always someone to play with, also we were friends with several other large, home educating families, where there was someone for everyone to play with.
We would get together with a couple of other families to share lessons, during the week and once or twice a month we would have a big get together with lots of families.
The three oldest in our family have left home now, and there are just the three youngest left, so things are much quieter, we mainly meet just with half a dozen particular friends rather than whole families, these days.
What about qualifications – are they part of your HE?
I did do exams for Art, but opted out of taking any other exams to spend my days drawing instead.
To take responsibility for one’s own edification and pursue the subjects of one’s interest is where education really begins.
When I made Art my main subject was when I started reading and studying literature and the like for pleasure.
Now I am studying for a degree in Painting with the Open College of the Arts, I also go up to London once a week (during term time) to the Royal Drawing School for Life-Drawing Classes, (very helpful when illustrating ) and I have started a diploma in Traditional methods of Painting at the School of Traditional Arts.
Tell me about your art work, how it developed and maybe where you want to take it.
Telling stories with pictures is, for me, inherently satisfying.
We have all always done a lot of drawing in our family, but I did not think of it as a career until I was about thirteen or fourteen, and then, when about sixteen, a friend asked me to draw some illustrations which I really loved.
Each day coming to my desk to draw was a pleasure, pitching my intellect against the problems laid before me in translating words into line, form, tone and colour; it is so interesting and such fun. I decided that it was something I really wanted to have a stab at job wise.
What was it like illustrating a book?
It was really enormous fun illustrating the ‘Harry’ book. I really enjoyed it. I loved being able to put in details of all the Home Educating homes I know, and lots of friends and family as the characters.
The ideas for some of the pictures came really quickly and the finished illustrations were done in three or four days. Others took several weeks to do and had to be drawn and redrawn until I was happy.
I tried to spend three whole days a week working for my degree and the rest of the time working on the book. It was difficult to stop working on the book once an idea had come and to make myself do the work for my course. Perhaps people who have been to school are better at working on several things at once. Home Educating has meant I have always had the freedom to finish my projects in my own time.
Any future plans?
At the moment my plans are to complete the distance learning degree, at the same time as working on several paid commissions which help to pay the fees as well as being really interesting and exciting. I would very much like to become a fully fledged illustrator, so to speak, but who knows, things might turn out differently.
(You can meet James at the Stanmore Home Education group in London on Thursday this week where we’ll be coming along for a chat and to sign some of the books. Contact the group for details. There’ll hopefully be further opportunities later in the year. Visit the publisher’s website for updates)