Tag Archive | Home Ed life

What happens after home education?

Author and home educator Susan Walklate and her son Simon

When Susan Walklate first came across home education she thought it was “an odd thing to do” believing that school was a natural course of events.

But when her son became introverted and stressed at school, and discovering that his needs were not going to be met, it became the right thing to do for them. Fast forward twenty odd years and she decided to write a book about their pathway, along with four other families doing the same, so people had a better understanding of this successful alternative to school and more importantly what followed.

I posted a blog about her book ‘Radical home Education’ a little while ago. Now I’ve asked Susan to talk about it personally and this is what she told me:

Tell us a little about you and your son.

My school experience was okay and I was reasonably successful. I went to teacher training college, then worked in chemistry laboratories. When I was 23 I decided to work with horses. This evolved over time to running a livery yard and riding school; I then bought my own land and set up Gable End Farm which developed into various businesses. Simon is my only child and was brought up with animals, at home and at the stables.

What drove you to home educate?

From being a happy baby and contented toddler, Simon became quiet and increasingly introverted after starting school. It wasn’t immediately obvious, as it happens over time and the changes are not noticeable on a daily basis. When he was 6 a friend commented on how clingy he had become. The school system was failing him as he wasn’t learning to read and write as quickly as they thought he should. He was on the special needs register, but the SENCO suggested that it wasn’t because he couldn’t do it, but that he couldn’t see the point; which ultimately proved to be the truth. By the time he was 8/9 he was stressy at home and quiet at school. He was being picked on by the class teacher and bullied by the other children. He had shut down and just got on with it as he didn’t think he had a choice. I spent about one year proactively trying to work with the school. Just before his 10th birthday we watched a programme on Channel 4 about home education. The next day Simon came to me and said that he didn’t want to go to school anymore. From the TV programme he had realised that he did have a choice. He never went to school again.

What kind of responses did you have from those around you?

While Simon was still at school I asked numerous people/friends about their school experience and, if it was bad, would they have preferred not to go to school, be home educated. The overwhelming answer was that children should go to school regardless. I think I might have home educated sooner if I’d had a more positive response. Once we decided to home educate and I told my parents, they were very supportive and offered help. Simon’s other grandparents thought that Simon would only end up on the dole. Simon’s father was concerned that Simon would not get any qualifications if he didn’t go to school. My response was that Simon would not get any qualifications if he did go to school.

How did you approach your education at home?

I knew that if I had sat Simon at a table with a piece of paper and a pencil he might have well been at school, as that was his stress. We took each day as it came and did child-led activities. I followed a child-centred autonomous learning process, which basically means that if he showed an interest in something we pursued it, if he didn’t we didn’t. I bought box games from charity shops that involved words and strategy. He helped with the animals and we discussed lots of things that involved language, arithmetic and lots of other things. We joined up with other home educating families for activities like swimming, ice skating, etc. Each family brought their interests to the group. The main activity that took over a lot of Simon’s time was the Robotics team that entered the First Lego League International competitions. He was part of this team for 3 years, from about 14 to 16. Simon did no formal work toward any qualifications while being home educated. He went to college at 16 and did all of his formal qualifications in the following 3 years. English and maths Skills for Life (GCSE equivalent); GCSE photography; A level fashion design and textiles; BTech in software development and web design (2 A Level equivalent); business studies course. Our home education life worked well for us. Each day was different. I think my self employed life enabled us to embrace the unstructured form of it.

What is your son is doing now?

Simon has helped with the animals all his life. He now takes a part share in the responsibility of running the farm. He has set up his own business as a freelance gardener and plans to expand it into employing others. He also aims to set up a portfolio of property.

What drove you to write the book?

I wrote ‘Radical Home Education’ because home education has a bad image and attracts bad press. Both Simon and I find it frustrating that no-one is telling the stories about the now-grown-up, successful home educated people. It was not something I had planned to do until we watched the Channel 4 programme in early 2019, which was very negative. I decided it was time to tell the true stories of home education through to successful adulthood, with four other families. My aim is to give encouragement and support to other would-be home educators.

What are you up to post-home educating?

My life has always been about taking each day as it comes and living the way I want to, which is how home education fitted into our lives and my life has just continued on.

Simon has always said that he would home educate his own children when he has some.

Since writing the book I have become more thoughtful about HE and I am considering being more proactive to promote HE.

What are your thoughts on the current education system?

It is broken, too prescriptive, too rigid. It does not allow for the differences in learning styles and development. I am increasingly concerned by the number of people asking for help and advice re school. I feel overwhelmed by the number of children being failed by the system; being bullied; demonstrating stress and depression; developing ADHD, etc. Parents appear to be very concerned about how their child will learn; be taught the ‘appropriate’ work; take exams; where can they find tutors; afford it. This I find sad, as society has been indoctrinated into believing that formal education is the only route to a successful education and a successful life. I do not know the answer, but I feel that the increase in knife crime, suicide, truancy, depression is in part due to the pressure our education system and society puts on children and families to succeed.

What would you say to other families wanting to home educate?

Do it! It is the best thing that we did. (Simon said don’t send them to school!)

I have a close relationship and understanding with my son. I believe that I, as his mother, am responsible for him and his well-being. I grew up with a good relationship with my parents and feel that it is important to support ones children as much as possible. I hope that I am his role model. I believe the best learning is through example.

How home education is changing my son

When I was starting out I always found that the most reassuring and inspiring words on home education came directly from those doing it.

So here’s just that; an interview with Debbie Wildi from Truerelax.co.uk about home educating her

Debbie Wildi and her son Roux

Debbie Wildi and her son Roux

son and how she fits life and work around it.

How did you come to home education?

“I home educate my son Roux who is 8. He has been out of school for nearly a year now, originally due to the fact that he has a bowel condition which meant he missed a lot of school. Roux was never a lover of school anyway, and would much prefer to work with me at home and come out and about to our local beach on the days that he was off due to his tummy troubles.

Roux also has sensory issues and couldn’t cope well with the ‘busy-ness’ of a classroom – the noise, the hectic schedules and the constant close proximity to others. He is on the Autistic spectrum, and after working in schools for many years as a classroom assistant working with children on the spectrum, I could totally understand how the school environment just does not work for so many of them.

I also had first hand experience of just how overworked these teachers are, and how busy schools can be, meaning that many classrooms are overcrowded and children ‘overlooked’ due to the teacher literally not having the time to pay attention to individual learning needs.

School isn’t necessarily a relaxing calm environment which can hinder learning and more importantly – wellbeing.

Now, my son has many home ed friends who we meet up with several times a week, he is happy, he is calm, and his bowel condition is getting better and better as the months go on. He is stress-less .

Roux is also now doing maths that is set for year 6 children, (he would be in year 4 if he were still at school) so he has come on leaps and bounds academically, as well as emotionally.”

What are your days like?

“Roux and I normally get up at about 9.30/10am after having a lovely snuggle in bed and a cuppa together most mornings.

He will do some maths followed by literacy, normally about half an hour of each. I take my rough guidelines from websites (see below).

Then we take our Labrador for a walk to the beach or local park. More often than not we are meeting with our home ed community (of which there are about 20 children and 6 or 7 parents). We are all great friends and go to different places each week. Either a museum, pottery workshops, castles, historical walks, or just a fun indoor trampoline park. When the weather is nice we are ALWAYS out and about, and we have great beaches and woodland nearby.

However, if we are not meeting up with the group, then Roux will help me make lunch and we will fill our afternoons with project work. Roux’s projects have varied from geography topics, research projects on famous people, healthy eating, world wars, and fun science experiments.

When we go on holiday Roux researches the history of the country, the language and writes a little diary when we are there. The LA lady who visited us last week was very impressed with Roux’s Tunisia project from our holiday last year and his vast knowledge of Ramadan and other cultural differences.

Sometimes we simply snuggle on the sofa and watch documentaries on whatever takes our fancy, then write a little about it afterwards, or draw pictures that relate to the subject. Afternoons are much more relaxed than mornings.

During project work we always sneak some maths and literacy in there; for example recently Roux did a ‘computer programming project’ and collected data from all his friends and family about which computer they use etc and put all the info into bar charts and graphs. We also include art in projects and of course literacy or IT as Roux will either write or type his work.”

How do you manage round your work/business?

“I run a part time business called True Relax. I am a meditation and stress management coach so I hold workshops occasionally in schools teaching children and young adults how to calm themselves during times of stress or anger. These daytime workshops have lessened since I’ve been home educating Roux, however, when I do hold them I take him with me. It’s great for him to see how I run my business, booking workshops in, how I conduct myself in front of clients and how the payment works. Roux has his own bank account now and has started saving also.

In the evenings I teach meditation classes for adults and work as a youth worker in the local youth club for teenagers also.

I also write. I have written several books on stress management for adults and some for children also. My latest book for adults is called ‘Create a Calmer You’ and my latest for children is called ‘Can’t Sleep Won’t Sleep!’ about a little girl who cannot sleep so her Pillow (Puff Pillow) comes to life and teaches her the ‘Red Balloon’ technique; one of my relaxation exercises for little ones. The book is proving very popular so I’m really proud of this one and have started to make Puff Pillows that accompany the book.

Other books that I have written in the last few years are ‘Mini Relax’ and ‘Teen Relax’ (Details on my site)

I’m not sure whether it’s due to his mummy being a writer or not, or whether it’s just his love for reading, but Roux has just started writing his own book – a Minecraft style adventure. He’s designing his own cover on Photoshop and we will be promoting it and selling it on Amazon. I can’t wait to see it finished!

It’s tiring, as any home edder will tell you, especially as myself and hubby have no family locally that we can call on. But my part time jobs all fit in around Roux and it just goes to show that really anyone can try this, if you shuffle things about and see if it works. We made it work for us, we had to, and we’ve never regretted it since.” 

I there anything you would you say to families considering this option?

“I’d say…please give it a try, not just for your little one’s sake, but for your own also. The joy and bond that it creates is incredible.

There is probably a larger home ed community near you than you think. There are many Facebook groups that you can put you in touch with others in your area. My son’s social life is amazing now, he mixes with all ages of children and his experiences have always been positive at home ed groups.

It’s the most natural thing in the world. However, many people think that it is illegal and therefore don’t take the plunge to do it. But it is legal – and possible. I cannot imagine my boy being with someone else 7 hours a day now. I feel so blessed that I do this. I didn’t do it with my elder son who is 18 and is in college, he was always fine with school and enjoyed it. However, it seemed the obvious choice to do it with Roux when I realised just how much he was suffering within the system.

I’m not anti-school, far from it, I still work in schools sometimes holding my mini relax and teen relax workshops, but I am one hundred percent PRO HOME ED, and love to dispel the myths that children who learn other than at school are just stuck indoors, on their own, with mum, having no social contact, and a poor education.

I also like to dispel the myth that you need to be a teacher to home educate; you don’t! You simply need to have a passion for your child’s wellbeing. There are so many helpful websites. I use the same websites that many of the local schools here use; URBrainy.com, BBCBitesize, HamiltonTrust, Twinkl, and IXL. The worksheets on these sites are the exact same worksheets that my son was using in school anyway, the only difference is now that he has one to one tuition with them.

Home education has changed our lives for the better; I recommend it as the best thing that I’ve ever done for my child and would hope that anyone considering it would give it a go and never look back.”