Tag Archive | home educating

School-at-home, home schooling, home education – what’s in a label?

Whilst schools have been closed and everyone’s children learning at home during lockdown the term ‘home schooling’ has been commonly used to describe all children’s learning out of school.

But those who were ‘home schooling’ before ‘school-at-home’ came into being know that it is not the same thing. And most experienced home educating families prefer the title ‘home educating’ anyway.

But why are we getting up tight about labels?

The main reasons school-at-home, and home schooling or home education which parents were already doing, are different is that school-at-home parents have been thrust into it without choice, but generally with some guidance and practical lessons from schools.

With home schooling or home education, which families were already practising prior to lockdown, parents take full responsibility for their children’s education and deregister themselves from any school and consequently any support from them.

Many experienced home educating families prefer not to use the term home schooling because of the connotations of the words ‘schooling’ and ‘educating’.

Their use of the term ‘home education’ is based on the definition of education in its broadest sense as in bringing out, or developing of potential, rather than the drilling of facts and skills into the young as it has become through schooling. There is a very interesting article ‘What Is Education’ on the Infed.org site which gives a definition of education as ‘the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning’ which is how many home educating families interpret it and which you can’t help but feel is lacking in many school approaches.

Most definitions of schooling mean educating in school, which is why most experienced home educators like to shy away from using the term ‘schooling’. It suggests a training or drilling of children that can disregard their needs and learning preferences and is often the reason parents step away from mainstream school. Schooling tends to have the agenda of the school at its heart, rather than the needs of the individual.

Home educators generally see the education of their children as a much broader more balanced undertaking and use approaches in line with that, which put the interests, preferences and needs of the child at its heart.

So the difference in the terms is important to them.

However, ‘home education’ it’s more of a mouthful! And ‘home schooling’ has become the most popular term, especially in the media, used to refer to those families whose children do not go to school but do their learning independently of them. But it is not to be confused with school-at-home which no doubt will end.

As parents progress with home schooling, taking advantage of the choices and flexibility it offers, and see how children learn and become educated almost by themselves through the many diverse and varied approaches available, they begin to appreciate these subtle differences.

There are other labels and philosophies attached to home educating, like De-schooling and Un-schooling and World-schooling, which parents also use.

De-schooling usually refers to the time and process of recovery needed for those children who’ve been in school and switch to home educating. It takes a while for children and parents to adjust to learning in different ways, to release any damaging effects of school and get used to new routines, approaches and choices open to them.

Un-schooling is similar, except that it doesn’t necessarily refer to recovery from school, more an approach to learning and educating that doesn’t rely on familiar habits and traditions we associate with a school style approach to learning many of us have ingrained within us. As the saying goes; we can take the child (and ourselves) out of school but it’s more difficult to take the schooling out of us! (Excellent book on the subject which I blogged about recently here).

World-schooling generally refers to parents who facilitate their children’s learning out in the real world, often through travelling, away from the school world, or those who have alternative lifestyles different from the mainstream. They see the world outside of school as a way of making their educational provision.

But labels aside, what’s more important than what it’s called, is what parents do as home educators/home schoolers. That they are guided by the needs of their child within the context of them taking their place in the world, by finding approaches that work for their circumstances and that all are happy with it.

Many understand all the above as the same thing anyway – and that’s okay. It doesn’t matter to the kids what we call it. It’s what we do that counts. And there’s a huge diversity and flexibility in what you can do to make home educating a success!

Essential tips for being together

‘It’s not going to be easy’. That’s one of my partner’s favourite sayings. Doesn’t matter what we want to achieve, he trots it out; unhelpfully!

At this present time, I have to admit, that very saying has slipped into my mind. We are all facing challenges we never could have predicted. The least of which is being cloistered together most of the time, without the work, school, outings which are more the norm for family life and which affords necessary space from each other.

Irritations can escalate, tolerance lower.

We’ll have to learn to live round one another in harmony and respect if the family unit’s going to survive. Something it was very necessary to do whilst we were home educating, even though getting out and about was very much part of our routine.

There is much to be learnt from home educators’ way of living and learning. Not so much about education because this short period of parents doing school at home is not like home educating where you grow into learning together gradually and have time to work a completely different approach to it. Rather, we can learn a lot about how to develop a relationship that’s respectful and harmonious enough to work together.

Managing the continued close contact that we’re dealing with at the moment, and which might go on for a while yet, takes some working out and working at. It’s not going to be easy, says she!

Of course, home educating families don’t manage it all the time. There is just as much conflict and discord as in any home. There certainly was in ours, some of which I describe in my book ‘A Funny Kind of Education’. I think I had a complete meltdown at times. But we got over it – I was supposed to be the adult I reckoned; I had to find ways to mend, rebuild, and help us all learn.

You’ll find lots of giggles about our home educating days in here, along with the mishaps

Learning about relationships and living together is an essential skill to be passing on to the kids, one that’ll be useful for the whole of their lives.

Some of the ways we nurtured this were:

  • By finding ways to be apart, discussing the fact we all needed it regularly and that is okay; everyone needs it for their sanity, it’s not to do with love
  • By discussing how this might be achieved especially in small living spaces
  • By being ingenious with spaces to be apart, using the rooms/spaces we had, corners, hallway, outside, wherever
  • By making it okay to say; ‘I need some head space right now, so am going to switch off for a bit’ and everyone understanding that this means not to intrude, even verbally, if they’re in the same room
  • By building reciprocal respect and empathy for everyone’s need for these times, whoever it might be, child or adult
  • By getting creative with den making. A den is a perfect private space for kids, even if it’s just a blanket over a clothes horse or corner of the bathroom. They’ll occupy it for hours, especially if you keep creating new ones, giving you some space too
  • By having a regular time scheduled into your day which becomes a habit, when you ask for your lone time to be respected as you respect others’ needs for time to themselves too
  • By not being afraid to use the word ‘sorry’ when it goes wrong, thus showing the youngsters how to do the same, and that no one is perfect.

Building respectful relationships is an essential part of learning to live together, and education. But it does take consistent practise, ongoing respect, reviewing regularly especially what’s not working, and maybe a bit of teeth gritting!

I don’t know how long we’ll be shut up together. But I do know that it’ll be far better if we find ways to be so with harmony and respect.

Home Educating – a few simple tips

Their ideas about how they want to learn are valid. This happened naturally on a history visit to a ruin!

Whether you’re new to home education or you’re doing it already it can seem overwhelming. But that might be because you’re making it more complicated than it has to be!

Children learning is quite a simple process – and very natural – they’re primed to investigate their world. But the schooling and education system we’re familiar with, and sometimes compare ourselves to (deadly), can interfere with that; it can put them off and dull their enthusiasm down. Home educators can avoid that by keeping it as natural and simple as possible and a mind on how you’re doing it.

So I thought I’d post a few tips that might help you keep it simple, keep it going, and keep it enjoyable – it will still succeed that way!

  1. Keep an open mind and don’t do comparisons! Learning through home educating is very different to learning in the system so the same bench marks don’t apply.
  2. Keep connected with others. Learn from them, try out ideas, be brave enough to adopt or abandon them, adapt ideas to suit your child and family.
  3. Do what works for you, changing often – and keep flexible – kids grow and change.
  4. It sometimes helps to find a routine in your household that works for you. But that will also need to be open to updates depending on the fit, as I said – kids change!
  5. Be bold enough to keep it informal and light – informal learning works far better than rigidity.
  6. Keep it in the here and now and don’t always be educating for a future (like grades for example). You don’t know what your youngsters will need for their future yet. You’ll do what’s right at the time when you get there.
  7. Don’t ‘do’ education all the time! In a school setting there’s is probably only about half an hour’s worthwhile learning time in a whole day, and a whole lot less teacher time. Your child achieves far more than that at home with you. But you have to back off and encourage them to be independent about their own activities too – and be independent about yours!
  8. If you’re getting strong resistance to your suggestions you’ll need to review and reconsider. I used to spend hours thinking up a wonderful activity (or so I thought) then they weren’t a least bit interested and I had to abandon it. Frustrating! But just because you think it up doesn’t mean it’s going to work for them. If there’s resistance you’re the one on the wrong track. It feels hard to let go sometimes but believe me it’s necessary. Start from what they’re interested in.
  9. So, allow and encourage your youngsters to discover and pursue their own interests. All activities educate in small ways. Listen to and engage with theirs.
  10. It’s not the case that the more money you spend the better education you’re providing. In fact, the more resourceful you are with ideas, activities, improvisation, the more inventive, entrepreneurial, creative and intelligent the youngsters become. Great life skills to have.
  11. Children love learning and discovering. And can do it very effectively for themselves. Trust them, and be careful not to ruin that by too much structure and control. Youngsters have their own ideas about what they want to learn, which are valid. Respect their ideas.
  12. Enjoy yourselves. It’s allowed. There’s no law against learning being a happy experience. The more the youngsters enjoy their education the more they’ll continue it lifelong – a skill that will be useful to them for ever after!