I met with my friend, former home educator, and now publisher, the other day for a catch up, to talk a little bit about books, the publishing business, and a lot more about our children – well adults now really as most of them either approach – or are – twenty somethings!
She has four children. Her first started at school as she knew little about home education and like many of us at the outset, just thought it was school-at-home. By accident she stumbled across it again on the Net, the diversity of approaches, and realised immediately that this was what she wanted to do as by then her two schoolers weren’t thriving there at all. And she herself was becoming increasingly unhappy with the teaching to the test, the box ticking, and no chance for the kids to learn through a pace or style suited to them.
When she started, she told me, she had a wonderfully idyllic idea of all the fab activities they’d do, across all their ages. But all they seemed to want to do was watch telly, and then they’d get bored. She tried several ways to inspire them and discovered that what worked best was a more project-based approach, mostly starting from their own interests, into which she could incorporate basic skills as and when needed.
“I never forced them to do stuff they didn’t want to, or to do it in a particular way” she told me. “The projects evolved as we got into them, we researched and did related stuff like watching films, relevant visits, cooking, and met others for activities and social events. If their enthusiasm waned – we stopped.”
“As time went on and the children grew up I realised that home education is less something you do, and more something you are,” she told me. “It became less planned. Themes emerged, they learned naturally through their own interest and motivation, and they started to join all the random things they’d learned into a coherent form.”
“Although we were quite rural, we travelled to meet other home educating families, but were also lucky in having a lot of youngsters in the village, and clubs and classes they joined in with so social isolation was never an issue.”
I asked if it got harder with teens:
“The hardest thing was for me to let go! Especially my expectations. And to properly listen to them. My two girls were academically minded so they opted to go down the GCSE route, knowing where they wanted to go later on. One is now at Uni, the other about to start A levels at college. The boys rejected the idea of GCSEs, were more sports orientated, and that was harder for me to let go of. However, my eldest decided to advance his interest in sport through college, gained qualifications that way which showed he had a standard and has gone into work. My youngest boy is looking to go straight into work, deciding he is happy starting on the bottom rung and working his way up. His attitude towards learning is very much that it is a lifelong activity; he has interests in video production, media and science and knows that these areas of study are always available to him, should he want to follow them.
“As I come to the end of my home educating years now, I’m really happy how it all worked out and am proud of my motivated, engaged young people who’ve basically done it for themselves! Along the way they learned that they could have control of their learning, it didn’t have to be done in certain time frames, they can learn whatever they want, when they want. It’s more the case that they are educating me now. We help each other. We talk together about what we’re all doing now – I share my business stuff with them.”
“I started Bird’s Nest Books aware of the lack of books featuring home school characters, but it’s broadened now into looking at books featuring communities whose lives are often under represented. As well as the desire to support new and local authors. And my children have been so supportive in encouraging me – almost as if the home educating has come full circle!”
Thanks so much to Jane for sharing her story!