Times to leave the kids alone

Back in the dark ages of teaching I had a class of 41 at one stage! As you can imagine it was difficult to see that every child got their needs met.

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It may have been a very old fashioned set-up but there was time for one to one teaching – just like home ed!

I switched from there to a small village school with only three classes and about sixty kids in the entire school. I had 14 in my class and it was an absolute delight. I could properly teach instead of manage crowds. Every child read to me just about every day and I got to know each of them individually which gave me a better chance of meeting their particular needs. Sadly, such days are just a distant bliss. The system has changed so much that real teaching on this scale is impossible. We misguidedly think big is better – it isn’t, always.

There was a down side to these tiny classes however; it could be a bit intense – the poor kids couldn’t get away with anything! A little natter. A little mischief. A little bit of relief when Hawk-eye wasn’t watching them.

I realised that this wasn’t always healthy. They needed a bit of time to swap notes, share concerns with their desk mate, just let off steam and skive a bit which is human after all. So I decided sometimes I had to turn a blind eye and just concentrate on the important misdemeanors. Not that there were many of those because we’d built a relationships of respect and trust in each other. You can do that with small numbers; build relationships.

It also taught me a valuable lesson for home educating.

Home educating one-to-one can be very intense. It would be easy for it to become overbearing. You have to learn to not watch the kids all the time. And certainly not ‘EDUCATE’ all the time.

This is beneficial for all sorts of reasons, as well as to save you from insanity and education overkill. If your kids are constantly directed and monitored and dare-I-say controlled they never learn to be independent. To think for themselves. To decide for themselves. To imagine and invent and create their own activities and consequently their own education. To be in charge. This is a set of skills lacking in young people when they get to Uni; they don’t know how to take charge, of themselves even, let alone their workload.

I know some home educating parents worry that if they’re not directing, instructing or ‘educating’ their kids all the time they will be considered neglectful.

This is rubbish. It may be the mentality of those who don’t understand the true nature of home education or self-directed learning, which is on the increase (think online courses), but it doesn’t have to be your mentality.

Leaving the kids alone is an essential part of their self development. Learning things together doesn’t take much time really. There will be plenty of time for their own activities – which they have to think up, even if they need some starters as to where to look or some stuff strewing around to tempt them. Each of you in the home ed household needs to learn to respect others’ space and time and to leave each other alone to achieve it, to develop in their own individual ways. They’re bound to be learning all the time through doing so.

So, for education’s sake, for self-development’s sake, make sure there are times you leave the kids alone!

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7 thoughts on “Times to leave the kids alone

  1. I often feel a little guilty when I feel I’m not ‘teaching’ my two. But Gradually over time I have come to realise that although it is important for them to have time where we learn together and concentrate on a particular topic. It is also beneficial and vitally important to allow them to get on with things themselves and have that time to really think for themselves and to be able to process those thoughts. It helps their independance bit also allows them to really process what is going on around them in this big wide world! x

  2. Mmm, well Ben certainly had a lot of lone time in the early years. As I said on another comment, he had a lot of his own problems so I left him in his room a lot. He had his computer, which we built together, and would sometimes come out with amazing stuff he had found on his own. He even told me something about laminar/turbulent flow which went against all my fluid dynamic engineering knowledge. So I looked it up and found out he was right! He also had a few tutors in the first years and his Biology teacher was discussing something with him, and it did not matter, he said to me later, whatever he was saying to Ben – Ben was not going to change his mind, and he was quite fixed in his view.

  3. This is great & so important. I similarly taught larger classes of 32 initially, then classes of 15 in a small village school – & noticed the same benefits in terms of relationship. It’s so true that in home educating we need to give breathing room, perhaps especially for those of us with a teaching background! A good reminder; thank you x

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